Company Structure

For a while, JUCA had a fairly conventional structure, employing as many as 80 workers at a time. At some points, JUCAs were made on an assembly line.

At other times, we had individual craftsmen build whole JUCAs from the ground up. The system was good, but each craftsman had to understand the inter-relationships and assembly of the 117 parts that went into a JUCA at the time. Training was long and extensive. Since turnover in manufacturing is high, we found ourselves continually training half our staff.

We needed 80 workers in the fall, but only needed 20 in the spring. This contributed to the turnover problem.

We then changed everything, to use a lot of outside manufacturing. About two-dozen welding shops were on call to manufacture JUCAs. This had several advantages for customers.

PRICES KEPT LOW

First, our overhead is reduced, especially in the spring, so we can keep our prices down.

FLEXIBILITY ON FEATURES

Next, by having so many sources on call, we can distribute sudden large orders amongst them so we can maintain our guideline of shipping about nine working days after receipt of order. This allows inclusion of custom or adjusted features in some or all of the products of that sudden burst of orders without making customers wait 16 weeks like most custom products cause.

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QUALITY IS VERY HIGH

When the craftsmen were employees who were assured of a paycheck, borderline acceptance seemed to be the goal of many of them--to just work hard enough not to get fired. With our new system, they manufacture the products, then bring them to our warehouse. At that point they are carefully examined for deficiencies before they are paid. If any are found, they must haul them back to their shop, re-work the unit on their own time and then bring them back again for re-examination. That seldom happens. They don't want to chance all that extra effort on their own time, so they make extra sure the products exceed our requirements the first time. Excellent products result.

There is an interesting and informative anecdote regarding this system. When all production was done by employees, a certain sequence of procedures took about 20 man-hours to perform. Our target was 19.2 hours for profitability. The employees were paid hourly rates comparable to other welding companies in the area. Apparently, when on our time, efficiency of operation was not paramount in their minds. Now that some of the same people are on a fixed sub-contract as to payment rate, that same sequence of procedures takes 5.5 hours on their time! Interesting, eh? It has worked out that we pay them approximately the same amount that the employees used to cost us. THEY see it as getting almost four times as much per hour, so they have great incentive to keep us (and you) happy. Quality benefits.

Each shop "specializes" in one JUCA model. Certain shops specialize in certain options, like arch-top units.


In recent years, the customers who ordered JUCAs (over the Internet) have consistently asked for such very odd units that outside sub-contracting shops have been almost useless. (They were great when we only allowed very minimal customization of the units, because then, the welding shops could build pretty much the same assemblies over and over. Even after we allowed customers to have more input, before the Internet, there was limited demand for unusual features. But, having our site on the Internet, and indicating there that we custom build each unit, has seemed to bring out all the "odd" people! Since there seem to be no other companies that are willing to manufacture custom-built fireplaces and woodstoves and fireplace inserts, people from everywhere have decided that we should build units for them. As it turns out, around half of them either live in places like south Florida (where they have no need for the sophistication of a JUCA) or they really don't care if they get much heat (because they need a custom-built fireplace to match some Mantel they bought at a garage sale).

This has been really frustrating for us. We feel we are wasting enormous amounts of time in making these peculiar units for people who don't actually want or need them, and the extreme uniqueness of so many of them have made the sub-contracting concept now impractical. (See our extensive whining in the PRODUCTION SCHEDULE page).

A variety of problems have even interfered with this approach. An important lead worker had very serious medical problems and will never be able to work for us (or anyone) again. Other employees did several damaging actions. All this has greatly affected our effectiveness at efficiently assembling these units. We are not sure what the net effect of that will be, except that we are VERY far behind in building units already ordered.

The JUCA Home Page is at: juca