As Indiana’s stay-at-home orders begin to ease, Fusion Designs has resumed manufacturing of its solid wood furniture styles with a one-month backlog due to the shutdown.
“This was the first time our office was operated remotely, but it worked,” said Marcus Bontrager, president, in a news release. “The COVID-19 crisis forced us to look hard at the future and develop a formal strategy for handling common disaster scenarios should the need arise.”
According to Bontrager, Fusion Designs also used the time to complete the final stages of its lean manufacturing initiative. “We moved 100% to a one-piece flow system in our Plant One facility, which means production time has been reduced by as much as two to three days,” he said. “This means that lead times will be significantly shortened on new product once we are caught back up later this month.”
Fusion Designs had already implemented the system in its finishing and packaging facility when its second plant was built three years ago. “At that time, we installed an automated finishing line to more efficiently finish products and also installed our own box-making machines that allow us to build custom boxes on demand and ensure damage-free delivery of our goods. Now, thanks to the break the shut-down afforded, we have moved completely away from batch manufacturing and greatly improved operations.”
His goal is to be able to offer dealers shorter lead times, while expanding product offerings in all categories. “The problem with a batch manufacturing approach with a wide, custom offering like ours is that ‘batching’ necessarily slows down production,” Bontrager said. “We’re very excited about the new functionality and speed we will now be able to maintain.”
Fusion Designs, which also owns and operates the better-end Borkholder Furniture division, is doing everything possible to support dealers during, what is for many, a difficult time. “Business is tough for many of our retailers and we’re doing everything we can to be true partners, working with them on finances, terms and adjusting shipping schedules or staggering shipping of products if need be,” Bontrager said.
Many of the company’s retailers are located in some of the country’s hardest-hit areas, with West Coast states in particular grappling with quarantine measures. Though many stores are temporarily shuttered, Bontrager is optimistic about the future.
“I believe it’s going to be a few months before business will be back to normal, but I’ve been encouraged by the amount of orders that we’re getting, a number that continues to increase every week. We’re certainly not where we were before the crisis, but we had very few cancellations even during the first week of the shutdown, a time when many in our industry were panicking as they tried to prepare for the coming financial burden. Then, the cancellations stopped completely, which has pleasantly surprised me. It tells me that consumers are very aware of the need for everyone to pull together and to support local stores in their area. While I am sure many of them considered cancelling their orders, they chose not to, and that tells me that we can all grow stronger during this crisis in ways we never have experienced before.”