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5 Ways to Perfect Millwork Drawings for Furniture Manufacturing

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5 Ways to Perfect Millwork Drawings for Furniture Manufacturing
Millwork drawings are a critical component in the furniture manufacturing process which can potentially impact operational efficiencies. How you develop complete, accurate, and buildable millwork drawings is crucial to winning customers and achieving bottom-lines.

Furniture manufacturing, especially in the millwork space, has always remained sensitive to price fluctuations, customer demands, and a fiercely competitive environment. Amidst this competition and instability, furniture manufacturers need to even deal with skill gaps without compromising on efficiency. According to the Houzz State of the Industry report, more than 30% of design-build manufacturers find it difficult to manage customer expectations.

While investing in the augmentation of fabrication and woodworking capabilities might sound a right step forward, millwork furniture manufacturers need to give a fresh look to their existing design processes and technologies. They need to strengthen the process of developing the millwork shop drawings that help fabricating the finished product – documents that form a single source of truth to communicate the concept. Select the appropriate manufacturing processes, determine the inconsistencies, and eventually turn that concept into a tangible furniture item.

How to perfect your millwork drawings

1. Know the requirements early

Detailed CAD drawings for wooden cabinets under staircase
Detailed CAD drawings for wooden cabinets under staircase

One of the important roles of millwork drawings is perhaps to identify and finalize the design requirements right from the early product development stages. From detailed dimensions, and material used to manufacturing information, millwork shop drawings take the guesswork out of the equation and give designers the clarity on how their designed furniture piece will look and fit within the given space.

With complete and accurate details, millwork drawings hold the key to faster project approval from the designer, allowing you to shorten the manufacturing lead time significantly.

A clear set of millwork drawings will also bring more clarity on the customer expectations, as they include a specific level of real-world buildable fabrication and installation detail, often not represented on the architectural drawings.

Millwork drawings reduced cycle times by 25% for a bespoke joinery manufacturer

A UK-based specialist joinery manufacturer partnered with Hitech to improve operational efficiencies and bring down manufacturing costs while delivering bespoke joinery to their customers.

With extensive experience and knowledge of veneer selection, material choices, and joinery construction, engineers at Hitech delivered accurate working drawings against architectural drawings and hand sketches. These drawings improved the design communication during manufacturing and installation, resulting in significant savings in terms of time and cost.

The knowledge transfer further led to improvements across material selection, design, and project management processes, bringing 25% reduction in overall cycle time.

Read Complete Case Study →

2. Clearly define the design approach

Millwork Design Approach

Millwork drawings essentially bring the furniture design concepts to reality by transforming the designer’s concept to manufacturing-ready drawings. It is through these documents that you get an opportunity to comprehend and finalize the approach by substituting materials and products that provide the same design intent and quality as perceived by the designer.

Preliminary shop drawings during design development offer a way to identify constraints and limitations, finalize design standards and specifications, and get approval from the designer before moving to actual manufacturing. Having clarity on everything right from the beginning allows your factory floor to remain efficient, and improvements here will have a direct influence on the bottom line.

Millwork design using 3D parametric tools like SolidWorks further offers an opportunity to improve the top-down, or in-context assembly design. This extremely beneficial for millwork items like cabinets, where an outer skeleton model once created will resize all of its components automatically. This change in the size of the cabinet will automatically update the millwork drawings, without requiring any manual rework. This unique approach directly helps you as a furniture manufacturer to reduce design cycles and bring your products to market faster.

A cabinet manufacturer in Europe was looking to cut design time and reduce the lead time to design and manufacture custom cabinetry. The company switched its 2D design approach to 3D using SolidWorks, and with it, the designers were able to do in-context or top down design. This approach gave designers better control over dimensional information in sub-assemblies and allowed them to make changes in the model quickly. Compared to traditional bottom-up approach, the manufacturer experienced 20% reduction in the manufacturing lead time.

3. Expedite the design with part libraries

Editable part-model from CAD library
Editable part-model from CAD library

The design and development of a custom furniture piece is a time-intensive task. Your draftsmen may end up spending hours creating a custom furniture design from scratch. However, with parametric CAD tools like SolidWorks, you have access to a library of parts that can be reused in the design or can work as a guide to build custom designs using them. A CAD library also saves you a lot of time by letting you import standard parts such as bolts, nuts, hinges, handles, etc. into your design directly rather than redrawing each item from scratch.

Davis Furniture Industries, Inc., a leading manufacturer of contemporary office furniture, utilized the parametric nature of SolidWorks to design high-end furniture quickly. Utilizing the part library and configuration feature, Davis Furniture was able to cut design cycles by 75% and reduce the time-to-market by 50 percent.

4. Automate repetitive tasks

DriveWorks configurator interface
DriveWorks configurator interface

One of the major advantages of utilizing a parametric CAD tool for millwork design requirements comes in the form of the ability to automate mundane and repetitive tasks such as preparing 2D submittal drawings. Traditionally, you’ll find yourself doing the same tasks of aligning the section views, dimensions, product notes, and other annotations to maintain consistency in your submittals. However, a CAD platform with automation capabilities eliminates the repetitive operations in the drafting process, allowing you to push your custom furniture design to manufacturing faster.

DriveWorks is one such tool that helps you automate repetitive design tasks to accelerate design time while reducing errors. The tool essentially lets you create a rule-based design for your furniture piece. This means modifying any design element will automatically change the associated elements. The updates will also reflect on millwork drawings, providing you better accuracy and control in manufacturing. Design automation API is another way to run automation scripts on your design files.

Hitech worked with a leading furniture manufacturer in USA to automate their furniture design process, quotation, and documentation using SolidWorks and DriveWorks. The implementation of design automation resulted in a 70 times faster design cycle and a reduction of one week in time-to-market.

Read Complete Case Study →

5. Improve communication between customers, designers, or vendors

3D CAD model of partition walls in SolidWorks
3D CAD model of partition walls in SolidWorks

Millwork drawings essentially reflect your understanding of the designer’s idea and form an important document that can be used to identify discrepancies between the customer requirements, the designer’s concept, and manufacturing feasibility. When the design is unclear, you can always use these shop drawings to get clarity from the designer, ask customers about their quality expectations or communicate effectively with vendors on materials, pricing, specifications, and real-world limitations.

Quick and accurate millwork drawings need better design tools

As a furniture manufacturer, your goal is to offer your end customers high-quality, custom furniture items quickly; items that accurately resemble the designer’s intent. While investing in augmenting your manufacturing capabilities is essential to achieve this, millwork drawings are a major factor that can make or break your furniture manufacturing efficiency.

A complete and accurate millwork drawing is what ultimately determines the overall success of your project. From being a document that communicates the designer’s idea to a clear set of instructions for accurate manufacturing, millwork drawings get the job done quickly. And, with the intuitive 3D parametric CAD tools, developing these design documents is a whole lot easier with an added advantage of automating repetitive tasks and the power of 3D visual communication with all the stakeholders.

Altogether, these improvements directly boost your factory floor efficiencies and help you achieve your business bottom line effectively.

bespoke joinery manufacturerdesign automationfurniture drawingsfurniture manufacturingmillwork drawingsshop drawings
Authored by:
Usha B. Trivedi

is an engineer and she contributes in-depth articles for mechanical and industrial equipment designs, furniture designs and fabrication sector. Her contributions are primarily focused on enabling engineering professionals, furniture manufacturers and fabricators to optimize design outcomes through CAD and CAE tools.

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