Wood Industry Market Leader: Andrew Campbell, Eastern Millwork Inc.

By Karen M. Koenig

A forward thinker, Andrew Campbell has led  New Jersey-based Eastern Millwork Inc. to its high level of success by leveraging design innovation, automation, technology and lean manufacturing, plus an aggressive information management system, to fulfill projects that require large volumes of material on tight and shifting schedules.

“We’re not the biggest shop, but we’ve been fortunate to do a lot of high-profile jobs and have some really good customers. We also have innovative ways that we’ve built projects that have brought a lot of value,” he said. EMI’s project portfolio includes The New York Stock Exchange, Madison Square Garden, healthcare environments and LG’s HQ,  with a four-story clad wall, made using 3D modeling, prefab and other technology.

In fact, EMI is well known for its state-of-the-art operation, and millions have been invested in optimizing its batch-size-one production. “Rather than outsource to cheaper labor countries, we’ve tried to use automation as a force multiplier for our people, so our parts per person are driven up and the cost per part is driven down,” Campbell said.

A lean advocate, EMI also works continuously to improve its processes, such as the use of expandable/stackable/reusable carts for delivering cabinetry and gang tool boxes, to save time and labor on job sites.

Another smart thing by EMI, Campbell adds, has been the recruitment of European technicians to implement its manufacturing and technology advances. The company is now involved in developing U.S. educated and trained wood engineers.

Modeled after a program by Blum, EMI is assisting a local high school on a design and fabrication program. “Our thought was if we can recruit right out of there and then have a program where we could give them a college degree, then we would have something.”

EMI has partnered with Hudson County Community College on a four-year paid apprenticeship program that earns students an Associate of Applied Science degree in Advanced Manufacturing. “As we develop this, we can create a pipeline of engineers with the unique skill we’re looking for.”

Campbell also is chairman of the Workforce Investment Board for Hudson County, and EMI has been involved in programs to provide skills and jobs to previously incarcerated people.

“I’ve met a lot of people over the years, and learned from them. I’ve found it very helpful to listen to people’s ideas – it can be a completely different situation, but you can always draw correlations and find value.”

Away from work, Campbell enjoys spending time on the water and with family.

Quick Glimpse:

• Education: HSDSC (high school diploma, some college)
• Number of years at the company: 28
• Number of years in the industry: 30
• Words that best describe you: Always looking forward
• Business mantra: Try to always do good work for good people
• Best advice: Take a conservative approach to business and don’t overextend. You’ve got to run the balance between taking the risk and calculating the risk  – it’s a fine mix.
• Who have you tried to emulate: Blum with its educational program. Also, some of my hyper organization comes from observing (a former boss) and his attention to detail and hyper organization of what we were doing. Construction is very kinetic and chaotic, and you have to manage the chaos. If you let the chaos suck you into it you’ll get a world of hurt.

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