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New Liskeard furniture maker sets the stage to grow again

Three H Furniture uses provincial grant to boost production capacity, start second shift

A thriving North American market for office furniture has a New Liskeard manufacturer retooling and reorganizing its work space.

Three H Furniture Systems is embarking on a $1.2-million project to add new machinery while it shifting equipment to expand capacity in its production space.

“Our business is booming and we want to start a second shift,” said Three H Furniture president Roy Dittman.

The company is looking to add five to six additional employees to its workforce of more than 100 at its 50,000-square-foot Clover Valley Road facility.

The provincial government recently contributed a $455,580 grant for their project, while also handing a $54,709 cheque to Temiskaming Industrial Mining Equipment (TIME), in nearby Haileybury, to purchase new equipment to increase production at its fabrication shop.

Dittman said their long-term sales focus on contract business is now coming to fruition.

“Our customers are screaming at us because our lead times are shooting out.”

Back in 2015, Three H grafted on a 10,000-square-foot addition to its main building to meet increased customer demand, and considered doing it again.

“Initially we talked about building but then we looked at our facility and realized we can get a lot more out of this place,” said Dittman.

“So we’ve basically reorganized and cleaned things up and are looking at expanding equipment.”

Established in 1973, Three H is an award-winning designer and manufacturer of high-quality executive office furniture, work stations and other office accessories, much of it customized for large commercial and institutional clients across North America.

Dittman is the son of Heinz Dittman, one of three co-founders who started the company, making European-style residential furniture in the beginning.

The family-run company has showrooms in Toronto, Montreal, Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Denver, Seattle and many other cities.

About 60 per cent of their production is exported to the U.S.

“There are a lot of repeat customers that come back to us as we do bigger projects with them,” said Dittman.

“We just did a massive job – worth more than $2 million – with a publishing company in New York City that’s just wrapping up now.”

Dittman was preparing to head to Toronto view a new CNC-controlled machine, worth $300,000, that he said will improve production quality and capacity.

“This particular machine we’re looking at is a 50 per cent productivity gain over what we have. It’s just newer technology. It can do things better and faster.”

As devotees of Lean manufacturing principles – designed to improve workflow – Dittman said they’ve converted a warehouse into production space to create more room.

Building more warehousing, to store various types of stock material, may come down the road, he said, but it's more about making more efficient use of the space they have.

“We’re looking at reducing inventory levels. We’ve put an MRP (materials requirement planning) system in place that lets us better predict and buy what we need to cut our inventory amounts down.

“That’s why the actual warehouse expansion is still further out. It’s not as critical at this point but we may have to do something before next winter.”

Over the years, the company has garnered many provincial awards for its exporting successes while also being recognized by the interior design community, including at last year’s NeoCon trade fair in Chicago.

Dittman said they’ve since backed away from the limelight to focus more on delivering on their existing catalogue and getting product to market.