Keeping it in the family: Andave Cabinets relies on Carbitool
We visited Andave Cabinets’ extensive factory in Braeside, south-east of Melbourne to talk to Andy Carter about how he and his brother Dave Byrnes have built their business as a family concern dedicated to quality, customer service and versatility.
How did you and Dave start out?
We opened as Andave Shopfitting in a small single-roomed factory in an old wine storage warehouse in Pickles Street, Port Melbourne in 1994. As our reputation grew we moved to larger premises. Then in 1995 we relocated to an even larger facility in Braeside, which we thought would last us for some years. But our business kept on growing and, in 1999, we moved across to De Havilland Road.
You’re not there now. Did you run out of space again?
Over seven years we transformed from traditional manual cabinetmaking to become a computer-based, technology-driven workshop specialising in the high-end residential fit-out market. We were running out of room for our people and machinery. Dave was especially keen to stay in Braeside, as we’d built up a number of strong ties with the local community and its charities. So, in 2006 we bought a 11,200m2 property in Jarrah Drive with enough space for state-of-the-art manufacturing and machining as well as warehousing and assembly facilities.
What is your core business?
We’re not selling a ‘product’, we’re providing a service. Everything we do is tailored to very specific needs rather than mass produced. We don’t make bathroom or kitchen cabinets for installation in scores of new houses or hundreds of apartments in multi-residential developments. We do quite a lot of renovation work – for example, customised cabinetry to fit older homes with non-standard spaces. We once solved problems fitting display cabinets for a business that moved into an old bluestone building with uneven walls. Our service includes installation as well, performed by our own skilled staff, not contractors.
Who are your typical customers?
Sometimes architects specify our cabinetry, but we mostly deal with builders. On occasion, home owners or commercial businesses come to us direct. Ours is almost all referral or word-of-mouth business.
Tell us more about moving from hand-tooling to computer-based manufacture.
The oldest machine we own is a British-manufactured antique perhaps 70 years old, and we still use it for drilling and shaping cabinet doors! But we moved across to CNC machines some years ago. We develop plans from architects’ specifications in Microvellum, a specialist woodworking interface to AutoCAD. Then they’re fed into our CNC machinery to automate manufacture. In 2017 we bought an SCM Pratix CNC Router – which saves us huge time. Its nesting capacity cuts out the parts from full sheets of melamine, laminates, timber veneers, solid timber and solid surface materials, minimising wastage. Then it performs precise drilling and routing – automatically selecting from a row of Carbitool routers lined up in collets and chucks.
Do you always use Carbitool?
If it’s not Carbitool, we don’t buy it; as far as we’re concerned, there’s nothing else. We get our Carbitool tools resharpened to extend their life – typically twice, but it depends on each product. For drilling, tapping and cutting metal, we always use Sutton Tools because we get similar quality and local support.
How does Carbitool help your business?
Apart from the regrinding and recoating of the tools we buy from them, Carbitool is a massive help when we have manufacturing issues – or any questions for that matter. When we bought the Pratix 18 months ago, they really supported us in understanding the tooling of this new machine and getting the most from it. They were a ready resource if we had any issues with quality, speed, tool longevity or any other challenges – they helped us with what to do.
What does it mean to be a family business?
A lot, and that’s why we have Carbitool and Sutton Tools as our suppliers, because we have that affinity with them. We were delighted that Sutton Tools – a great Australian manufacturer – acquired Carbitool, rather than some massive overseas conglomerate. And we’re continuing the tradition. My two eldest sons both work in the business, and Dave’s eldest son is just finishing school, but works here in the holidays.