An ‘Open Door’ Policy
For over thirty-five years, Grass America has been designing and manufacturing first class functional movement systems, hardware, and accessories for kitchen and bath cabinetry across the United States. Grass offers their customers the highest quality and most innovative movement systems that add value to their products.
Grass America is a full-range manufacturer and supplier of cabinet movement systems. The one-stop-shop serves all of its customers’ functional hardware needs with innovative adjustability and adaptable products, simplifying installation for the cabinet manufacturer and on-site installer.
Grass America draws from the rich history and abilities of its European parent company: Grass GmbH – one of the world’s leading manufacturers of functional movement systems. As one of seven manufacturing locations, Grass America is the only facility located outside of Europe. It is also one of thirteen Grass distribution centers located around the world.
The parent company was founded in 1947 and now has over 1700 employees worldwide, over two hundred of whom work at Grass America’s Kernersville, North Carolina location. This includes a sales team covering markets in the United States from coast to coast.
Grass America was founded in 1977, in the Piedmont, North Carolina area known for its local furniture industry. The company initially rented and occupied a small warehouse space in Kernersville. In 1984, land was purchased, and the original building was built. The company has since made several additions to this building as their business has grown, and more space is available to accommodate future growth.
Grass America boasts over 150,000 square feet of manufacturing area with an additional 70,000 square feet of warehouse space. The state-of-the-art stamping, powder coating and assembly facilities have fully-automated assembly machines that are outfitted with the latest programmable logic controllers (PLC), and the site’s stamping processes have capacities ranging from 150 to over 600 tons.
When speaking with Tom Kipp, president of Grass America, one quickly gets a sense of Grass America’s operational commitment to maintaining the highest standards in quality and service. The company has adopted lean manufacturing techniques throughout its facilities to further optimize outputs.
“The facility is organized through the use of a sophisticated enterprise resource planning (ERP) system,” Kipp explained, “This ensures that material levels and availability are controlled and production and labor is optimized.”
In 2004, Grass was purchased by The Würth Group. The company was founded in 1945, in Germany, and is still proudly a privately-held family business with worldwide annual sales of over $10 billion and approximately 67,000 employees spanning the globe.
With a rich and successful history of its own, Würth’s resources, including extensive capital investments, serve to provide a competitive edge. Being owned by Würth allows Grass GmbH and Grass America to take full advantage of the latest technical expertise and technological advancements available in the market.
Grass headquarters in Austria enjoys a full complement of research and development facilities, the latest technologies and a team of experienced staff and engineers. The U.S. development team collaborates with their international colleagues, enabling them to better serve the needs and specific design considerations of customers in the United States.
Grass America serves two primary markets: original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and distribution. OEM customers are large scale manufacturers of kitchen and bath cabinetry found throughout the United States. Grass America’s distribution partners satisfy the building material needs of small to medium sized local cabinet makers in their respective areas.
In terms of products, Grass America supplies cabinet hinges, lifters and slides specific to the design of a cabinet. As Kipp explained, “We do not just sell a product; we solve our customer’s problems and provide them with the best solutions.”
Its product lines include frameless hinge systems, face-frame hinge systems, institutional hinges, soft-close hinges, drawer systems, undermount slide systems, ball bearing slide systems, roller slide systems, electronic opening systems and lifter systems.
The company’s signature TEC hinge, manufactured in Kernersville, is available in both the self-close and soft-close motions and is specifically designed for the face-frame cabinet style that is predominant in the U.S. market. Its epoxy-coated roller drawer slides are also tailored for the U.S. face-frame market. The Zargen and Integra single wall metal drawer box systems, which are durable and easy to install, are found in many institutional settings.
The company also carries imported products such as the Dynapro undermount drawer slide, which is fully synchronized and comes in a heavy-duty version rated at over 130 pounds. The Elite drawer slide is a cost-effective undermount solution that is designed and supported by Grass.
Rounding out its portfolio is a selection of European-style door hinges. The Tiomos and Nexis are designed for the frameless cabinet style, though they are adaptable to face frame construction as well. The Tiomos is the company’s newest hinge offering and has a built-in six-way adjustment with three-way adjustable integrated damping to achieve the desired soft-close motion.
In addition to Grass America’s robust offerings of ‘Made in America’ and imported products, Kipp is also proud of the services it offers its customers. “This includes excellent technical support,” he said. “Even if the product is imported, the customer will always have access to superior technical service from engineers with over thirty years of experience in the cabinet business.”
Speaking of Grass America’s commitment to customer service and satisfaction, Kipp continued, “All competitors have a sales team, but Grass America is also able to provide expert technical assistance. Our engineers are able to solve our customer’s problems and provide solutions tailor fitted to their needs.”
To provide the very best service, the company offers in-house customer service with clear and efficient communication between the customer and its technical and manufacturing teams. Grass products being made in America decreases the development time and enables Grass to deliver products more efficiently with less lead time and better adaptability to changes in the customer’s orders and schedules.
“’Made in America’ helps support our local communities by providing additional opportunities for employment. By helping to strengthen our communities economically we improve the quality of life for all our friends and neighbors,” said Kipp.
Grass America has developed a robust quality management system (QMS) that is ISO 9001 certified. Quality control starts with each operator who has a clear understanding of their role in upholding standards of quality, having been given clear instructions and the equipment necessary to collectively contribute to a safe working environment for all.
In order to minimize human error, Grass America controls drawings electronically. Production documents and equipment are regularly reviewed to ensure the latest engineering standards are met, and facilities are equipped with sophisticated measuring devices, computerized vision technology and on-site chemical analysis to ensure quality.
Grass America enjoys a number of competitive advantages including financial resources available, technical expertise, local manufacturing capabilities, superior local technical support and a full range of superior-performance products in terms of adjustability and adaptability. Each of these has served as a catalyst for Grass America’s growth and success.
In an effort to address qualified labor shortages that remain a constant challenge in the manufacturing sector, Grass America, drawing on its full complement of equipment and qualified journeymen on site, has worked with NCWorks Apprenticeship and Forsyth Technical Community College to develop apprenticeship programs for the highly sought-after skilled trades of machinist and toolmaker.
The company had its first graduate in 2014. Three employees currently enrolled in the apprenticeship program, and two more are scheduled to enroll in the fall. The curriculum, which includes both classroom and practical training, was approved by the North Carolina Department of Commerce. The program has been of great value to Grass America.
“The company benefits from the work produced by the students – even during the apprenticeship – and the student earns a living while learning a highly demanded skill,” Kipp explained. “Upon graduation, the company has a skilled employee that knows the company, the products and processes and the employee has a secured position.”
Grass America has made additions to its sales and marketing teams, increasing its market reach while developing its internal ability to support this growth. It has addressed demand while maintaining its existing customer base and developing new business relationships.
“These efforts have enabled us to serve our customers with higher quality products and services and with more reliable delivery,” Kipp explained. The work has not gone unnoticed, as Grass America has received a number of awards that recognize its commitment to a positive customer experience.
Grass has received multiple vendor-of-the-year awards from its customers, recognizing its efforts in the areas of value analysis and innovation. Grass America was recently voted ‘Business of the Month’ by the Kernersville Chamber of Commerce, and its safety procedures have been reviewed and officially approved by the state of North Carolina.
Grass America has also received multiple awards for its commitment to operate in an environmentally-responsible manner. It is a repeat winner of the ‘Award of Excellence’ from the city of Winston-Salem and the state of North Carolina for its waste pre-treatment program, a water treatment process that enables it to simultaneously save money and be a good environmental steward.
Continuing to build on this success, Grass America plans to continue to expand its market share and anticipates double-digit growth in 2016. As Grass America continues to improve its manufacturing processes and product innovation, the market can expect the introduction of new products in the near future.
“We anticipate that the economy will remain strong for the foreseeable future and look forward to fully utilizing our available manufacturing space, increasing employment and growing sales volumes in the long term,” concluded Kipp. Grass is working to remain a leader in the design and manufacture of functional movement systems for the kitchen, bath and casegood markets across the U.S. and the world.