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Thread: A trip to Hancock & Moore's Factories

  1. #1
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    Default A trip to Hancock & Moore's Factories

    Last week I was at Hancock & Moore for the day, and went to three different factories they operate (Main Plant, Frame Factory, and the Motion / Fabric plant). I took a lot of photos and spoke with a number of people. I decided to document my trip there, though likely this will be a thread that it may take me several days to add to, so come back and check it out occasionally to see if anything has been added.

    The impetus for this trip all started with a sofa that arrived with leather that was too loose on the frame, it was a Harvest Tufted sofa. When I unpacked it, I said "this is not good" and I have never seen this occur before. I'll show you what happened because while some stores would NEVER post this for fear of damaging business, the fact is things happen in life and you have to take care of them. This is how the piece looked out of the box, leather is Cameo Burnished. Pretty bad, yes? I sent this photo to them at Hancock and Moore and they were literally horrified - and the customer for this piece was very upset because they had been waiting for it for some time. The normal course of action is to re-box the piece, re-ship it to H&M via a truck line, they correct it and ship it back to me. Total time appx 4 weeks to cycle it back. What had occured was this piece did not leave the factory like this, and it had absorbed the high humidity from being in a transport trailer to my store during a hot, steamy rainy period in North Carolina. I had never seen anything like this, nor had Hancock and Moore.

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    It was decided, partially because the customer was so upset, that H&M would send two upholstery techs from the factory to my store (6 1/2 hours drive), pull the cover off it, re-attach and it would take a day. However, as I took more and more detail photos of it and sent those to them, it because evident it needed to go back to the factory where all the department heads can look at it and they have the resources to do it one hundred percent. Now we are back to the 4 week turnaround. It's been twelve years since I was at the factory, and I had a customer (and forum member) who lived in Fayetteville NC that wanted to buy a floor model I had, so I decided to take my weekend and drive it down myself (Sunday / Monday) in my smaller of the two trucks, my Ford Transit. If I had it on the loading dock at 7 a.m. Monday morning, then they would have it ready to go by 3:30 p.m. that day, and I would tour the three plants while they were working on the sofa and spend the day with the Phil Brown, VP of Sales. This way I could have the sofa back to the customer immediately. So I cancelled my weekend plans and hit the road 6 a.m on Sunday morning. Plus I put my Mountain Bike in the van so I could do a little afternoon off-road riding on the trails with my buddy Fabian Gramer in Charlotte NC after the delivery of the floor stock piece that I made around lunch time.

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    I left the hotel 6:30 a.m. Monday morning to drive to the Main Plant in Taylorsville and arrived at 6:59 a.m. As I pulled into the factory I figured I would have to wander around ten minutes or so to find someone to help me unload and open the loading dock doors, that sort of thing.

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    Imagine my surprise to find every department head and two Vice Presidents of the company standing in the bay of the loading dock waiting for me to back up. Ten people in all. As soon as I put the truck in park I heard my back doors open and four men whisked that sofa out of the truck and put it on the dock before I could even get my door open. It was like a Fast Response Team and I could tell they were embarrassed by what they saw. These are hard-working people clearly proud of what they make and things like this are very, very rare. They said "We got this, you go with Phil and we'll have it ready this afternoon, we're going to strip it down to the bare frame." So Phil and I went off to the three plants, discussed the new Town and Country promotion coming out later this month and talked furniture for the next 8 hours. At 3:20 p.m. they had this sofa totally re-built from the ground up and between you and me - this piece was poured over so much its probably now as perfect as a sofa can be made. You could play the drums on the back of that sofa now, its so tight.

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    And this is the team that worked on it all day. The tallest gentleman on the far right is Lee Sherrill, he's THE Master Upholsterer in the factory and his wife works in the Customer Service Department. (Hancock and Moore is basically twenty-six families in the shops, most everyone is related). The most petite lady is the middle of the sofa is head of the burnishing department, she had to blend in all the hide when it was re-done. The lady of the far right does all the final touch-ups prior to shipping, I spent an hour with her learning touch-up tricks on wood and leather, she's very good at her job. As you can see, they are proud of their work.

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    I left H&M at 3:30 p.m. and got home at 11:30 p.m. Monday night (long day). We delivered the sofa back to the customer on Tuesday, the next day. I drove 1,004 miles it two days time. While you can't assure everything will be perfect every single time, what sets apart one dealer from another is the customer service, and my customer for this sofa did appreciate the extra effort i put in to take care of this for them, as well as H&M's willingness to basically drop everything and get this done in a day.

    More on the actual tour next post in this series.
    Last edited by drcollie; 09-14-2019 at 12:49 PM.
    Duane Collie
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  2. #2
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    Default Re: A trip to Hancock & Moore's Factories

    I had never been to the Frame shop, so my first request was to go there. Hancock & Moore has three production facilities, 1) The Frame Shop where all the stationary frames are made 2) the Main plant, where all leather Stationary is made 3) the Motion / Your Way plant. The Frame Shop is quite a drive from the other two, takes about 25 minutes to get there on a very pretty North Carolina foothills road - it's just outside of Taylorsville proper, whereas the other two plants are closer to Hickory NC. H&M still builds all their own frames - many companies sub-contract them out to jobbers, and that's one reason you can get custom tweaks to the H&M product, since they control all aspects of production. Pulling up to the Frame shop, its the prettiest of the three facilities, with a park and playground right in front (you can see it to the left of this photo):

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    There are about fifty workers at the Frame Shop and there are no young workers here. The average age is about fifty and most have been here some time. That's a problem, younger workers don't seem to have the work ethics or the desire to work hard in what is a somewhat hazardous environment. I only saw one worker that looked to be under thirty-five years of age. These are very proud people, you could see them light up and beam that someone (me) actually took an interest in their jobs and they are very happy to talk about what they do. Here's where your sofa or chair starts life, the wood in from the railcars and trucks (inventory was low this day) and a photo os the huge dust collector they have.

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    And hers is Scott, who is the Foreman of the Frame Shop and my Tour Guide for the day.

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    Duane Collie
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  3. #3
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    Default Re: A trip to Hancock & Moore's Factories

    This is the bins where they keep the master pattern pieces for everything made at the Frame Shop. All the masters are painted red on the wood, which means DO NOT MISPLACE OR USE. Each bin has all the master pattern segments to make a frame for a particular series. See the bin with 5834-1 marked on it (tag is on the top of the bin)? That's all the master parts to make a Jameswood chair

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    And here are carts loaded with parts, you can see the red-painted master parts atop the stacks that get returned to the bin. The second photo is Walnut, for those pieces they do offer in real walnut rather than the standard Maple in the regular frames.

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    I can only attach five photos per post, so onto the next one...
    Last edited by drcollie; 07-06-2019 at 01:36 PM.
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    Default Re: A trip to Hancock & Moore's Factories

    Around the corner is the carving room, and all these legs are on the wall. Hancock and Moore does all the carving in-house, done out of solid wood. Some are 20/4 in size (appx 5") which is a huge piece of expensive lumber to buy. They don't use glue-up sections on the legs like so many other companies do. Everything is kiln-dried several months before it begins the journey to H&M's frame shop to be used in a build.

    All these leg patterns are on the wall of the workshop in the carving room.

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    Last edited by drcollie; 07-06-2019 at 01:52 PM.
    Duane Collie
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    Default Re: A trip to Hancock & Moore's Factories

    And this is the main carving machine at H&M's frame shop, each spindle has a different bit in it. The gentleman that is their top master-carver is 63-years-old and only has one arm if you can believe that - but he's so good at his craft. He was lamenting that there is not enough work any more, he can only get 32 hours a week carving, and has to fill the rest of his time in the frame shop doing more mundane tasks. I explained to him (from the retailer's side of things) that not as many customers are ordering carved pieces any more, the look today is more clean-lined and simple. He asked me if I thought demand for carvings will come back any time soon, and I said "I don't think so", but I'd like to be wrong about that. He's concerned about his craft and that's when it really hits home there is a real person doing this whose ability to pay his bills depends on how many carved units go out the door. Here he is making the inset to a Rodeo Lounger. It's very intricate detail.

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    And here's the oldest working employee at Hancock & Moore. He's 83 years old and stands every day at this shaper to turn out parts. And he works just as fast as the younger people. Do your job at H&M and you never are asked to leave.

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    Last edited by drcollie; 07-06-2019 at 02:12 PM.
    Duane Collie
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    Default Re: A trip to Hancock & Moore's Factories

    Some other photos in the frame shop.

    Here's the arm from a Sebring desk chair, showing the mortise and tenon fitment prior to assembly.

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    One of the workers on a machine that rounds over the sharp edges on legs and arms, and smooths them.

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    Two people on the edge sanders/shapers, they were working so fast I turned to Phil and asked "Are they on piece work?" Phil says "No, they are salaried". "Why are they working so fast then? There are no wasted movements, they almost run to get another part". Phil says "this is the work ethic here, they keep up with everyone else". The lady on the left has been doing it thirty-two years I was told.

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    Here a chair is being assembled. Note the arm is very thick plywood, and I asked why that was since the rest of the frame is solid maple? The woodworker explained to me its stronger this way, because where the arm curves to the back frame - if it were made of solid wood - that would be short grain, and that can snap off if someone sits on the arm one day. This thick plywood will never break he tells me. The mantra at H&M is to build the best possible furniture, and they will use whatever components that will allow them to accomplish that goal.

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    Duane Collie
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    Default Re: A trip to Hancock & Moore's Factories

    Here's a new chair undergoing development. For the October 2019 Market coming up, this will be a new introduction. It will be the Steele Farm Dining Chair. This is the 4th prototype made so far, and a fifth one was going to be started that day. They make a chair, take it into a meeting and everyone has input on it, then take it back and do version 2. Repeat as many times as is needed to get it right. You can see the notes in red magic marker on this one.

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    This chair is not in the H&M catalog, but sits in the Frame Plant Manager's office. Its the chair they make for the White House Cabinet Officials and have for every Administration since Jimmy Carter. All the Cabinet members get their own chair, personalized with a plaque on the back with their name on it. When they leave, they take the chair with them and new ones are ordered for incoming Cabinet officials. Anyone can order one however, should someone want one.

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    My last photo of the Frame factory, this reminds me of the warehouse that seemed to never end in Indian Jones Temple of Doom (at the end of the movie). Parts for Hancock and Moore frames sorted by bin as far as you can see, and there are several rows like this.

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    Next - off to the Motion Plant......

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    This was just too much fun not to take a photo of .... only in the Carolinas!

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    Last edited by drcollie; 07-06-2019 at 02:47 PM.
    Duane Collie
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    Default Re: A trip to Hancock & Moore's Factories

    The Plant Manager of the Motion Factory is Brian Craft. Brian has the energy and enthusiasm of an entire soccer field of 10-year-olds, the man is always on the move, always thinking, always looking for ways to make things better than they were the year before, or even the week before. He's the kind of man you want to run your factory, for sure. I have talked to Brian on the phone many times but never met him in person - he's fantastic. And, he'll tell you "I've been to every recliner maker in the country, no one builds them as good as we do, they're not even close". And after the tour, I believe him!

    Now this will come as a shock to many of you - but Hancock and Moore has switched over to plywood for all their motion pieces and Brian took great pains to explain to me why. More stability, stronger, less prone to frame breakage, and easier to produce with more accuracy. The key is your components and how you assemble. Other companie (such as Bradington Young, where Brian used to work) use 22 mm standard plywood, H&M uses 24mm Russian Birch plywood, the best you can buy and finish grade. Its very expensive to acquire I'm told. Here's what it looks like:

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    Then, it goes into this giant CNC cutter which when into service 9 months ago, where the computer program cuts out the parts perfectly. Now instead of having to wait 3 weeks to get frame parts, they are done in 2 days time. There is only one of these machines at the moment, but he hopes to add a second one soon. It's impressive to watch operate.

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    And the parts then go on a cart to assembly. Here we see the parts for eight # 1080 Sami Recliners on a cart:

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    Brian is very proud of their assembly method. Not only do they screw and glue (which is standard in the industry) but they T-Nut the lower frame to brackets and use a through bolt system, ensuring this frame will never come apart (and they don't, I speak from experience);

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    A recliner taking shape ...

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    Last edited by drcollie; 07-16-2020 at 06:00 PM.
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    Default Re: A trip to Hancock & Moore's Factories

    The foam going on...

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    Ready to go to the next station where the back is put on

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    A "Flex-O-Later" back that goes into an Austin Series Tilt Back chair

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    And here it is in the chair before the Outback is attached

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    A Rugby Club Lounger in Weston Cane Burnished getting the Outback tacked on, note this leather is burnished AFTER the piece is entirely made, the color will change dramatically.

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    Last edited by drcollie; 07-06-2019 at 04:59 PM.
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    Default Re: A trip to Hancock & Moore's Factories

    Putting on Nail Trim, used to be this was all done by hand, and the nailer would actually put about twenty nails in their mouth to hold them and reach up and take one out of their mouth one at a time. Now they have an air gun setup, which is really slick. I was offered a chance to put nails in the arm, but I didn't want to screw up someone's new chair!

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    The Quality Control Inspection Station at the motion plant, or is it break time? You decide !

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    This is the button maker, for all those tufted back pieces you see. Take a little button and circular piece of leather (shown by the operator's hand) and marry them up, and hit the press. Might be the most fun job there.

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    Leathers pulled, each one an order. Waiting to go to marking and cut out

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