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Shop talk with Mike Erickson of Canvas Designers Inc.

July 1st, 2012 / By: / In the Shop

Describe your shop layout.

Our shop consists of four and a half 5,000-square-foot bays. The machine shop and metal fabrication area occupies one bay. The canvas shop occupies one bay. The CAD and cutting department, along with the woodworking area, occupies a full bay, and the upholstery/interior department is in a bay. The showroom, offices, shipping and storage occupy the rest of the building.

What is your product focus?

Marine canvas, yacht interiors and custom metal fabrication.

What unique design elements are built into your products?

With our nontraditional capabilities, we are able to add a new level of customization to almost all of our products. One good example of this is our stainless steel biminis where we weld in inside eye ends and flow and polish them so there are no seams. Another area is in our sunfly and sail shade rigging. With our capabilities we can create all kinds of custom poles and mounts.

Who are your main customers?

About 25 percent of our business comes from boat yards, yacht brokers and manufacturers.

What do you consider your specialty?

Our shop is known for its high-quality EZ2CY™ enclosures and our ability to completely renovate a yacht interior. We are also well known for our sunfly poles and shade sail products. We also produce an anchor fairlead for high-end sport fishing boats that has become a standard for many custom OEM manufacturers.

What is your work-flow process?

We use a combination of Quickbooks for job assignments, Outlook for appointment scheduling, and Appendit to file work orders and job pictures. We use Quickbooks in a very unique way to assign all jobs and components of jobs. This occurs from the moment the job is an estimate all the way through the process to when the job is completed and billed. All jobs have an electronic file folder where correspondents, field pictures and measurements are stored. We typically have 200 to 300 jobs in progress, so it is extremely important to have all the information available for whoever is working on a job.

What other products do you produce?

We have a well-equipped machine shop and metal fabrication shop that give us a lot more capability to produce specially designed products that complement the rest of our business. If we need a specialty shaped pad, mount or receiver, we can build all of these components in house. We have also been doing a lot of fabric tension structures. Because of our technological capabilities, we already had the CAD knowledge, the CAD software, and the wide-width cutting capabilities, so it was fairly easy to move into this sector of the market.

Do you use any new or unusual technology?

We are unique in some of the technology that we have embraced in our business. We cut all of our plastics, woods and our EZ2CY acrylic using a 3-axis CNC table. When we designed the table, we upgraded to a 7 kw industrial head, which allows us to cut some aluminum and stainless steel plate. The second technology item is a new 12-foot by 36-foot Aeronaut Quattro cutting plotting table. We cut a vast majority of our canvas and upholstery product components with this machine. The machine can cut, crease and drill a variety of products. With the addition of the pen holder and inkjet head, we have the ability to draw on almost any fabric. The third technology item we employ is our 3-D digitizer. Not only can we digitize existing 2-D patterns, but this machine gives us the ability to digitize in 3-D in the field.

Interested in the technology discussed in this article? Erickson will present a full-day technology seminar at the 2013 MFA National Convention.

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