www.Designs and More.com

by WOHe

www.Designs and More.com

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The Internet is merging with the electronic highway to provide new
technological advances and possibilities for kitchen and bath
design software.

A designer chooses a cabinet style and size, and enters that
into his or her software program. As if by magic, the cabinet is
ordered and a CNC-linked machine is cutting wood to spec, only
minutes later.

Well, it’s not quite that streamlined but almost. Design
software has extended far beyond pretty computer graphics into the
starting point of a network that has the capacity to greatly
improve one’s business, according to manufacturers surveyed by
Kitchen and Bath Design News.

New technology 
A few years ago, design software was an option some designers
enjoyed computer graphics, while others found them cumbersome and
preferred hand drawing. But increasingly, software has emerged as
the gateway to all facets of business in the Internet

“Manufacturers had been behind in technology, but in this last
year, it’s really exploded,” believes Shane Oakley, v.p./business
development for Planit-Autograph, in Lexington, KY. 

“They have e-mail, they’re using design tools to the greatest
extent, [as well as] pricing programs and EDI [Electronic Digital
Interface]. It’s really amazing,” Oakley says.
The linking of systems is key, explains Emil Musgrove,
v.p./operations for CADKIT, based in Denver, CO.

“We call it a supply chain or a sales chain. It gives a
manufacturer and its dealers the ability to automate the sales
order processing.”

Musgrove adds, “Kitchen designers can design using software.
Once the design is complete, with a push of a button, it goes into
the pricing order entry system, and that gives them an accurate
price they can show their client. They can also electronically send
that to the manufacturer to order their kitchen. The manufacturer
checks inventory, confirms the order, and then the information is
sent into a production system, which routs information to

Generally, a company buying into a system will begin with the
component it needs the most [usually order entry], and work into
the others, Musgrove adds. 

The goal is a smooth, error-free path from design to finished
product, according to Richard Chappell, marketing manager for
Cabinet Vision Inc., in Tuscaloosa, AL. “A lot of mistakes are
made” in transferring information from one piece of paper to
another, he elaborates. A paperless system, with automatic order
forms, electronic transmittal to shop drawings and cutlists, can
eliminate thousands of dollars worth of clerical errors and the
resulting headaches, he notes. 

In addition to linking systems, software companies seem to be
linking to one another. Musgrove notes the creation of the Kitchen
Software Industry Alliance, comprised of Twenty-Twenty, CADKIT and
Pattern Systems. Links be-tween the companies’ software enables the
alliance to go to manufacturers “and offer them a complete solution
from design to order entry to production.” 

Similarly, Planit and Autograph merged last year, releasing
their new Millenium software; the same corporation also owns
Cabinet Vision, though the two companies’ operations are still
separate. “We’re still in the process [of merging Planit and
Autograph].” explains Oakley. “But the company has grown by leaps
and bounds.”

Graphic solutions

Links and innovations aside, the primary purpose of design software
is still to aid in designing. For the past few years, improvement
in computer graphics for software programs was a priority,
upgrading older “cartoon-like” graphics with photo realism. These
days, the graphic quality of programs is just about as good as it
needs to be, those surveyed agreed, though some bells and whistles
are still being added. 

“Photo realism really hasn’t changed much [this year],” thinks
Musgrove. Currently, the push is to add motion to the still
pictures, providing a virtual walk-through that would enable one
to, for instance, open cabinet doors, or “walk” the client through
the design. However, software manufacturers admit that this is an
addition that’s nice, but not really necessary. 

“Everybody wants to make sure they have [advanced graphic]
ability, [but most designers] don’t use it,” says Musgrove, who
believes that most designers prefer to stick to the more basic
aspects of a program that can be done quickly.

“[Graphic improvement] will go further, but at a slower pace,”
believes Jeffrey Welge, v.p. of Cabnetware Inc., in Woodland, CA.
He adds that 80% of Cabnetware’s customers stick to program basics,
“and then you have the other 20% who are always pushing the limit.”
In the past year, the trend toward more furniture-like, ornate
cabinetry is necessitating those additions in design programming,
he adds. 

While photo realism is the graphic standard these days,
designers have complained that the programs lack brand name
accuracy for instance, they want to feature a Sub-Zero
refrigerator, not a generic-looking one, and it’s not available on
the program. In response, software companies are working with
manufacturers to make more accurate and comprehensive catalogs of
brand-name appliances, countertops, etc., which can be inserted
into a design for added realism. 

However, “most companies are putting out generic looks,” while
continuing to assemble graphics libraries, admits Welge. The latter
is sometimes slow going. “The manufacturers aren’t willing to put
the effort in at this point they just don’t see the need,” Welge
elaborates. Despite the advertising advantages of providing the
library samples, “the economy is so good right now, people are
having a hard time keeping up with manufacturing their product, let
alone trying to promote it.”

“Our industry is driven by the demands of the designer,”
counters Chappell. “If there’s a designer who’s doing a great deal
of business with a particular manufacturer, the pressure is on that
manufacturer to support and maintain the software [to enable
them].” But, he adds, “some companies are much easier to work with
than others.”

Another problem with computer-generated graphics, according to
some designers, is that they find that many ultra-high-end clients
still prefer “artistic” hand drawings. CADKIT offers a solution in
the form of Squiggle, a file hand-off that gives a hand-drawn look
to a computer graphic, with the attendant order and revision
advantages of a computerized design. “People love it,” declares

For custom cabinet shops, the issue has been streamlining
cutlists and pricing, rather than elaborate photo realistic
renderings. Leslie Murphy, spokesperson for KCDw Cabinetmakers
Software in South Dennis, MA, cites KCDw’s cabinet-focused program,
which provides “complete design, with wall elevations and floor
plans and 3-D color drawings [along with] the cut list and pricing,
contracts and reports.” The next upgrade, due out this year, will
include CNC links that tie in directly to automated CNC saws and
other carpentry equipment, as well as a more photo realistic look
to the graphics. 

But manufacturers caution that fabulous software by itself isn’t
enough. Fancy graphics “don’t sell the job,” notes Musgrove. “What
sells the job is the excitement and the knowledge of the sales

Connecting to the ‘Net
“Any software that’s going to be coming out in the next two to five
years, if it’s not Internet-based, it just won’t be successful,”
declares Welge, and others surveyed agree. The possibilities are
endless, though technical problems remain.

For instance, CADKIT offers an Internet-based order entry
system, wherein the manufacturers’ catalogs will live on Web sites,
and a dealer placing an order can do so through the site. “[The
catalog is] always up to date, [incorporating any] price increases
or a product change. That will increase ordering speed and
correctness,” says Musgrove, adding that only dealers will have
access to the sites (requiring a password) for a more streamlined

Web sites geared towards professional designers can also offer
catalog additions. Mouldings and special applications for cabinets
are the most frequently requested items from Cabnetware’s site,
Welge reports. He believes downloading off the Web site will
eventually replace mailing software upgrades and catalog additions
to the company’s designer client base. 

Web site downloads are also available to homeowners who want to
make preliminary design sketches to take to a professional
designer, explains Oakley. “End users can hit a [manufacturer’s]
Web site and actually design their kitchen using a manufacturer’s
catalog and our software. 

“We figure they’re sitting around Saturday morning, drinking
coffee in their bathrobe, [saying] ‘honey, let’s hit the ‘Net and
look at a kitchen and maybe redo ours,'” he elaborates.
Manufacturers’ sites can also direct homeowners to a dealer and/or
contractor in their area, Oakley adds. In the near future, “we can
tie everybody in with design on line.” 

The primary problem with the Internet? “It’s too slow,” says
Welge. “We offer things to download on our Web site, but with large
graphic files, with most transfer rates now, that’s going to take

“I refer to the Internet as the World Wide Wait,” quips Oakley,
who quickly adds that newer, faster modems, as well as affordable
phone and cable company Internet access lines, will soon solve this
problem. Planit-Autograph’s Millenium software is also programmed
for faster downloading, he adds. “While you’re looking at screen
one, we’re already sending the information for screens two and

Looking to the future, Musgrove sees the development of ERP,
Enterprise Resource Planning, accounting and inventory control
software, particularly useful for manufacturers, that links up to
the other electronic systems to further streamline an

Oakley cites CMS, Customer Management Systems, a front-end
system that enables designers to automatically track their designs,
link customer information to the design and process their order to
the manufacturer.
Overall, the new developments in technology spell doom for
designers who still insist on working without the advantage of a
computer, manufacturers agree. Not being able to transfer
information electronically is increasingly a major downside;
similarly, client-mandated changes can be easily incorporated in a
computerized drawing, whereas a hand design must be completely
redone, notes Cabinet Vision’s Chappell. 

“More and more [kitchen and bath firms] are finding they have to
get into the software business or they’re just going to fall
behind,” insists KCDw’s Murphy. 

Concludes Chappell, “In our industry, 10 years ago, when you
walked into a shop, you may or may not have seen a computer. Now,
if you walk into a kitchen designer’s shop and you don’t see a
computer, that business will not be around in another three years.”

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