Friday, October 8, 2010

Honored for innovation - Phill’s Custom Cabinets earns highest industry honor for ‘Cabinotch’ cabinet manufacturing system

By Benjamin Hoak
Excerpt from Greater Owensboro Business publication - Fourth Quarter 2010

A 67-year old cabinetmaker from Pennsylvania who has been in business since 1971 called Phillip Crabtree of Phill’s Custom Cabinets in Owensboro a few weeks ago. “What you’ve done has completely revolutionized my cabinet shop,” he said. “We’ve gone from (probable) bankruptcy next year to a 25 or 30 percent margin.” Cabinotch, a patent-pending computerized cabinet-building system developed by Crabtree and his father, Phill Crabtree, over the last five years, is the kind of product that’s going to produce many more such phone calls. In August, the International Woodworking Fair (IWF) awarded Cabinotch its 2010 Challengers Award – one of the industry’s highest honors. “It’s like an Olympic swimmer winning the gold,” Crabtree said. “These aren’t given to small guys. Companies spend millions (trying to win).” Cabinotch produces pre-cut custom cabinets at high speed and low prices without sacrificing quality. Crabtree credits his father, an expert millwright who started the company 36 years ago, with the success as well. “He’s just as much part of it as me,” he said. “Dad and I worked all of it together.” The company began the IWF Challengers award application process in April and was named one of 22 finalists in June. Presented every two years, the award challenges companies to use technology to move the woodworking industry forward. After a 15-minute final presentation at the IWF in August – the fair included more than 950 exhibiting companies and judges from all over the world – Phill’s Custom Cabinets was named one of seven winners, marking the first time that a first-time exhibitor has won the award. Six of the eight judges told Crabtree that Cabinotch was the most innovative product they had ever seen. As a result of the award and its publicity – publications around the world will be writing about the Challenger awards – Crabtree is anticipating an increase in business. The company is already getting calls and they’ve invested in more equipment to accommodate the demand. He expects newly-created jobs to soon follow.

How Cabinotch works:

Custom cabinet-makers enter their cabinet height, width and depth specifications to the thousandth of an inch at Cabinotch’s website, The system’s software automatically programs equipment in the Crabtree’s shop to cut the cabinet elements to those exact specifications. The pieces are then delivered fl at-stacked to the client’s shop, where the ingenious interlocking design lets the cabinetmakers form the cabinet boxes in a matter of minutes. Customers building custom pieces can then add their own doors, finish and trim. The process is faster and less expensive than if cabinet makers built their own cabinet boxes by hand. It’s also more efficient – instead of cutting sheet after sheet of plywood by hand to get exact dimensions, Cabinotch produces minimal waste. Because of its precise measurements and machinery that can cut to 1/20 of the thickness of a human hair, scrap pieces from 10 Cabinotch
kitchens would only fill a 5-gallon bucket, Crabtree said. The company’s YouTube Channel ( shows several videos of Crabtree demonstrating how Cabinotch cabinets work. In one time-lapse video, Crabtree and an employee assemble and install 13 cabinets – an entire kitchen’s worth – in just 49 minutes. Crabtree said his ability to conceive and produce the process goes back to high school. “I learned more in three years with Mr. Green at Apollo High School in tech lab…than in all four years of college,” he said. “It’s just priceless to me to have (that) training.” Crabtree dreamed up the basic Cabinotch premise while laying laminate flooring at night to pay for his college education at
the University of Kentucky. “If laminate flooring could be clicked together, I thought machinery could do it for cabinets,” he said. After he earned his degree in management and marketing, he came back to join his father’s company on Kentucky 81 in Owensboro. “We’ve got 23 of the best employees in the country,” he said. “It’s a rock-solid company built on strong Christian principles. We don’t just have employees. We have family.” Phill Crabtree started his company in his garage in 1975. Since then, the company has relocated eight times and now serves an area from Indianapolis to Nashville, with shipping available to any location across the country. The company produces custom cabinets, bookcases, desks and built-ins. The word “custom” conjures up images of high prices, but Phillip Crabtree said their process allows them to build pieces so quickly that they can beat a quote on a custom kitchen from Lowes or Home Depot by 10 percent. He is still amazed they actually won the award, even though he was confident in their idea. “For a little guy from Owensboro to come in and win is incredible – the global impact that we could have from Owensboro.”