In 2008, when foreign competition and rising materials costs flattened this furniture manufacturer’s growth curve, the management team called on MAGNET to help it embark on a new era of innovation.
Detail: Sauder Woodworking, a family-owned company in Archbold, Ohio, is North America’s leading producer of ready-to-assemble (RTA) furniture and the fifth largest residential furniture manufacturer in the United States. Sauder’s headquarters in Archbold include 4 million sq. ft. of manufacturing facilities and a staff of 2,100 employees.
Growth Challenge: In the early 2000s, Sauder Woodworking began experiencing flat growth and dwindling profits with a dramatic drop in imported, already-assembled furniture prices. Such was causing difficulty in creating new product ideas and implementing them. Vice President of Engineering Dan Sauder noted that with stabilized finances and the opportunity to again invest in innovation presenting itself, his company had to take a different approach.
“After we got through some painful restructuring, we decided we needed to look at diversifying into something other than RTA,” Sauder said. “That’s when I knew the time was right to take our company’s proven technology into some new markets.”
How We Worked With Them: MAGNET growth advisors and engineers led a team of cross-functional Sauder employees through a two-day “ideation” session, using an innovation process where product ideas were accepted and collectively deliberated among staff from all levels of the company. A total of 85 ideas capable of entering a new product market were generated and the team ultimately chose a distinct, affordable drop-ceiling system that was unlike anything else on the market.
MAGNET consultants continued working with the Sauder team in developing the drop-ceiling system as they facilitated refinement from consumer feedback and helped Sauder secure a grant from the federally funded Manufacturing Extension Partnership program. This grant helped Sauder take its product to the commercial market as well as the residential market.
The final product, the WoodTrac Ceiling System, is now sold in 13 Midwestern states and has led Sauder to hit all its target revenue projections.
What They Had To Say:
“MAGNET was different from other consulting companies we looked at,” Sauder says. “Instead of promising to come up with new ideas for us, MAGNET promised to teach us how to develop and implement new ideas ourselves.”
– Dan Sauder, EVP New Markets and Engineering, Sauder Woodworking Co.
“What MAGNET really did for us was help us come up with a way to look at all the ideas we had and pare them down. That helped us select just a couple to focus on instead of flailing around.”
Dan Sauder is EVP for New Markets and Engineering of Sauder Woodworking Co.. He is the third generation of his family devoted to keeping the Archbold, Ohio-based business at the cutting edge of the industry.
Dan Sauder (center) looks over some of the 85 new product ideas generated during the MAGNET ideation session in 2008 with Tom Warner, head of New Market Development and former MAGNET consultant Cynthia Leis.
Marv Burnett, WoodTrac Product Manager (left), holds a new WoodTrac sample kit ready for shipment to a contractor. Dan Sauder credits Marv with the original proposal that was the winner at the 2008 ideation session.