American Woodmark

Is True to Its Name

These days, when even technology companies are outsourcing sophisticated software work overseas, it's unusual to find a manufacturer of something as prosaic as kitchen cabinets making them almost entirely in the United States.

That's the case at American Woodmark Corp. in Winchester, which has built almost a plant a year in this country since 1997.

Most big U.S. cabinetmakers get at least some of their wooden parts from China, then assemble them here, but not Woodmark, said Kent B. Guichard, executive vice president.

Guichard said his company is one of the three largest cabinetmakers in the nation. The only parts that come from abroad are metal hardware such as hinges and handles, he said.

Woodmark is soon to have 14 plants in rural towns like Berryville, Va., and Hazard, Ky., near where it gets its wood and where wages tend to be low. When you add the cost of shipping Chinese goods, Woodmark says it can compete on cost and get the products to customers faster.

The strategy doesn't always work according to plan, though. Publicly held Woodmark, which reported $667.5 million in revenue for its fiscal year ended April 30, earned $31.7 million in that year, down $1 million. It blamed higher costs of hardwood lumber, particle board and plywood, and rising employee-benefit expenses.

Those are blips, Guichard said. The company is committed to U.S. manufacturing for the foreseeable future, he said.

"We actually think long-term it's the most effective way to compete," Guichard said. "When you chase cheap labor around the world, it's like a drug. You become addicted. And you introduce weaknesses to your business model, like a much longer supply chain."