A piece of furniture (especially wooden) can be made by hand or produced in many thousands on a factory production line. Wood is a natural material and consequently offers certain problems for mass production. It is non-homogeneous with no consistent colour, density or pattern (indeed, this variation is its aesthetic attraction). It is hydroscopic (i.e., absorbs and releases moisture depending on the ambient atmospheric conditions) causing the wood to swell and shrink with obvious implications for fabrication. Oakland makes extensive use of wood, and therefore needs to maintain an adequate skills base for handling and processing wood. Fewer problems are offered by the manufactured items such as blockboard and chipboard. These are faced with veneer and finished with suitable edgings, to make surfaces and panels.
Departments and production layout in Oakland's
There are a number of distinct departments and areas in the Oakland's factory. These include: the raw material stores; the design shop (Rowan Gregory's domain); the machining shop floor which comprises a veneer line, a panel line, a solid wood line, and a craft/ repair/ rework area; the machined parts stores; a sanding section; an assembly shop; a finishing and polishing shop; and finally a despatch and finished goods store.
The manufacturing process follows fairly logically through the above departments. (See the production processes schematic and layout plan.) First a range of furniture is designed, and drawings, dimensions, and the appropriate fabrication processes specified. Prototypes are made up in the craft area with visits to the appropriate machine lines, to prove the design. This information is then made available on standard paper forms to the machine shop and assembly processes when the production schedule so requires.
The required raw materials (solids, panels, veneers and chipboards) are selected and passed onto the machining shop floor where they are processed as specified. Parts are usually machined in batches as large as possible, maybe 1000 or so and certainly not less than 200. This minimizes set-up and change-over costs. The resulting completed piece parts then pass into the machined parts store. Kits of all the parts needed for assembling particular items of furniture are selected according to customer orders received or the requirements for making to stock (derived from forecast orders). These are then released to the assembly shop, together with appropriate hardware (hinges and the like) again in batches. For assembly the minimum batch size is 25. After assembly they pass to finishing, checking for quality, whatever remedial work might be necessary, and finally to despatch. There, if they form part of a customer order, they are carefully packed and sent off in lorries to the retailers. Otherwise they are labeled, packed in protective wrapping, and placed in the finished goods store until a further customer order calls them off.