Time for Manufacturers to Talk

by WOHe

Al Gore and George W. Bush, two guys with viewpoints,
personalities and constituencies about as wide apart as they come,
spent the past few months engaged in a dialogue that proved, at
times, spirited, contentious, unsettling, even humorous.

The dialogue, however, also proved fruitful: It helped the
nation’s voters decide on a new president. Maybe it’s time for
cabinet and appliance manufacturers to take a cue from the two
presidential candidates and start seriously engaging in an open
dialogue of their own one that would almost certainly yield
positive results for kitchen designers and cabinet installers
across the country.

The exchange of ideas would focus, of course, on how cabinets
and appliances can be made to mesh more smoothly in today’s
kitchens, and how manufacturers can work together to reduce the
number of potential headaches faced by designers and installers on
the job site.

Ask kitchen specialists what they think about the need for such
a dialogue, and most will probably agree citing lots of anecdotal
evidence to suggest that the two manufacturing components of the
industry, for all their advances, still seem somehow out of
sync.

One experienced kitchen dealer pointed out recently in a
national forum how a pair of appliance manufacturers introduced
downdraft cooktops that couldn’t fit in standard 24″-deep base
cabinets with 3/4″ backsplashes. That same dealer observed how
another manufacturer changed the specs on a double wall oven, yet
kept the model number the same, forcing the dealer, at the point of
installation, to order a replacement.

There’s even more to this cabinet-appliance dilemma. Kitchen
designers report, for example, that they’re often left very much in
the dark regarding appliance specs, which remain troublesome to
locate, and are outdated quickly as new models emerge with little
or no notice. They’ll also tell you that connecting with competent,
responsive technical service personnel is often quite a
challenge.

Appliance panels can also prove especially challenging,
designers add, since they’re often difficult to fit before the
appliance has been installed, and ordering them after installation
will inevitably delay a project and irritate homeowners.

All this, of course, is hardly news to industry veterans.
Although there have been efforts by some major players to improve
things recently, the truth is that there has never really been
enough of a regular, meaningful discourse between appliance and
cabinet manufacturers.

The need for such an exchange, however, is more pressing than
ever . . . simply because cabinet and appliance product advances
have rendered kitchen design more complex than ever, requiring a
higher degree of coordination.’

What’s clearly needed now is an unprecedented level of
communication within the kitchen and bath industry in short, more
dialogue between each of the industry’s moving parts. Appliance
designers and engineers need to consult more closely with designers
before they develop products. Appliance and cabinet companies need
to coordinate their production efforts more closely. Installers
should be given far more of a voice regarding the challenges they
face on the job site.

Perhaps the NKBA, the KCMA and AHAM can help in this regard, by
bringing the various sides together. Kitchen & Bath Design News
would certainly be more than willing to help organize a forum of
appliance manufacturers, cabinet suppliers and kitchen designers,
if it would facilitate a meaningful exchange of ideas and some
progress.

Cabinet and appliance manufacturers have come too far over the
years to be stuck in some odd kind of time warp with respect to the
way they communicate with the industry, and among themselves. It’s
time for the industry’s key manufacturers to have a talk. It may be
conducted on a far smaller stage than a presidential election, but
the result, for the industry they serve, can be every bit as
significant.

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