Reimagining Architectural Millwork Design & Drafting to Drive Success

Last Updated July 17th, 2019
Architectural Millwork Design Drafting

For architectural millwork companies, driving success in today’s fiercely competitive and volatile market requires reimagining their existing design and drafting competencies.

Architectural Millwork companies in the U.S are facing fierce competition, especially with the onslaught of technological innovations and shifting consumer trends. The rising demand in complex millwork installations and the need to utilize renewable materials for the sake of LEED adherence further require millwork drafting companies to manufacture on a shoestring.

Market Report Estimated import market shares in the wood household furniture, upholstered furniture, and kitchen cabinet sectors in the United States (Source: MDPI)

These hurdles are increasingly affecting the performance of millwork industry as a whole. This is evident from the 2019 market report from IBISWorld which shows that the growth in the millwork industry is just 0.3% more from 2018.

For millwork companies, the only way to succeed in such a competitive landscape is to reimagine their existing millwork design and drafting competency. Competencies that eliminate inefficiencies, shorten lead times, and bring more value for the business. This involves adopting technology tools that empower millwork drafting companies to develop custom millwork designs quickly and efficiently.

What are the Software used for Millwork Design?

Millwork companies need to get over with their legacy 2D CAD systems that offer little scope of productivity improvement, and move to 3D parametric CAD tools. Tools that understand the design intent and offer intelligent features to compliment and expedite the millwork design process.

Inventor for Millwork Drafting and Design

Autodesk’s Inventor, for example, offers designers with an opportunity to create architectural content such as cabinetry, furniture, millwork, store fixtures, etc. using simplified workflows. The parametric design approach makes it easy to build the design intent for millwork designs and keeps 3D model as a ‘single source of truth’. This means that all the design data, including 2D drawings will always remain consistent, reducing errors on the shop floor.

Furthermore, one-button CNC can be a reality with Inventor’s CAM feature that helps in generating CNC programs for the model geometry quickly as per the woodworking machine tools. Besides, designers have access to an extensive library of hardware and materials with their own cutting data, bringing down the manufacturing cycle time significantly. On top of all these features, there’s iLogic, a technology to generate parts, models and assemblies through rule-based design. This essentially means that repetitive design tasks and configuration of basic parts can be fully automated.

SolidWorks for Millwork Furniture Designing

SolidWorks is an equally powerful 3D CAD modelling tool for millwork and woodworking projects. Best known for its user-friendliness, SolidWorks also has a set of partner products such as PASCAM, SWOOD Design, and DriveWorks that expedite the process of developing production-ready millwork designs.

DriveWorks, for instance, is an intuitive tool to consolidate automation for ‘same but different’ millwork design elements. DriveWorks implementation shrinks the manufacturing cycle and offers an easy access for customers to configure their furniture product. This powerful tool also helps generate quotes quickly, all through automation rules that can be developed right inside the SolidWorks environment.

Read here: Millwork vs. Casework: A Detailed Study of Differences and Comparison

Is Technology Adoption Enough?

With the right tools, however, the job is only half done. A major part of the efficiency equation relies on the right skills; skills that effectively convert the architectural sketches to manufacturing-ready shop drawings. But, considering the current state of manufacturing in the U.S., this skill gap is continuously widening. As per a Deloitte survey on skills gap in the US manufacturing industry, technical and computer skills form two of the most serious skill deficiencies.

Technology Computer Skills70%Technology Computer Skills
Problem Solving Skills69%Problem Solving Skills
Basic Technical Training67%Basic Technical Training
Math Skills60%Math Skills
Note: Percentage indicates the percentage of executives who did not opt for “Extremely sufficient” or “sufficient” Skills in which manufacturing employees are most deficient (Source: Deloitte)

Millwork companies employ CAD drafters who are proficient in delivering both 2D & 3D CAD drawings with intricate details. However, the high degree of customization required in executing certain millwork projects, poses severe challenges in terms of scaling production while reducing lead times.

A major roadblock to efficiency also comes in the form of training the resources and encouraging them to adopt new technology tools. While initial resistance to new technology is expected, succumbing to this pressure could be detrimental to productivity and adversely impact business bottom lines.

Read also: Millwork Shop Drawings for Appealing Designs of Retail Shops

Involving Millwork Design and Drafting Specialists

As a millwork company, the ultimate goal for you is to deliver high-quality architectural millwork that will augment the space where it will be installed. However, chances are that your team spends most of the time perfecting the design and shop drawings so that it fits well with what the architect or the contractor has envisioned. This delay significantly affects your engineer’s ability to create documents for the downstream jobs, ultimately affecting the overall manufacturing process. The right way forward to deal with this situation and eliminate the non-value adding activities is through a partnership with millwork design and drafting services providers.

While traditional drafting companies do take care of your non-core processes, millwork drafting specialists essentially extend your existing design capabilities. With a sound experience in developing design and shop drawings for a wide range of custom millwork, they complement your engineering processes and enable you to meet your business goals more effectively.

The technologically equipped millwork drafting experts work with your team in cohesion, understand your manufacturing processes thoroughly, and are well aware of the AWI standards. Whether it’s about kitchen cabinetry, retail store fixtures, custom furniture or wall paneling, they take the burden off of your in-house drafting and engineering teams when dealing with custom millwork designs.

Wrapping Up

With increasing competition from casework imports and low-priced alternatives, millwork companies must reimagine their existing design and engineering competencies. Adopting the right technology tools and enhancing the existing skillset through partnerships with specialists is the right way forward. Specialists who understand millwork and its intricacies to the core and extend the design and drafting capabilities can significantly bring down lead times and offer millwork companies a competitive edge in the market.

Partnering with a millwork drafting company offers unparalleled advantages in terms of access to an experienced pool of engineers, advanced technologies and reduced operational costs.

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Usha B. Trivedi

About Author: is a mechanical design engineer at TrueCADD – a company invested in industrial CAD drafting, modeling, and design automation. Ms. Trivedi writes about solution finding approach in CAD and design automation challenges backed by her years of exploration in industrial designing in furniture, millwork, and metal fabrication designs.

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