Millwork company is thinking outside of the wooden box

Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce Tour of Industry series continues

Client relations manager Jonathan Weatherbe

Client relations manager Jonathan Weatherbe

One of the younger companies on the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce’s Tour of Industry, Morinwood Millwork and Interior Finishes has turned to new technology to gain an edge.

Operating for the last six years, Morinwood has taken software almost exclusively used by architects and applied it to their business. Owner Tom Morin says BIM — or Building Information Management — has slowly been filtering through the industry.

“So, in trying to be leaders, we have adopted it. I saw it on a job six years ago, while we were working on the Vancouver Convention Centre.”

What BIM is, Morin explained, is computer software that allows his company to create 3D models of a project, allowing clients to see how pieces come together and what a finished project will look like. While architectural conceptual drawings have used the technology for years, Morin said it hadn’t made its way to millwork companies like his. Typically, he continued, clients and workers are given two-dimensional blueprints. Visualizing how something will look based on those, he said, can be difficult.

“With each project that we do, (BIM) grows a little bit further.”

What the technology adds, he continued, is the opportunity for more collaboration on a job. Morinwood is currently working on the new B.C. Children’s and Women’s Hospital in Vancouver, using their BIM software to show their clients what the finished products will look like.

“BIM can reverse roles,” Morin added. “It can allow the builder to hire architects and start the design work from there, rather than the other way around.”

As a contractor or sub-contractor, Morin said the technology helps them produce faster shop drawings, pre-visualize a project, include more complex engineering and prefabricate components more accurately to reduce waste and potential mistakes during construction.

“With the hospital project, we can populate (computer) models with our product and allow for better planning and faster budget estimates.

“It opens doors,” Morin continued. “We get more access to new projects — that’s what BIM gives us.”

Of course, that technology is only a single component of what Morinwood does. With those plans in place, workers can get busy on the main production floor in their Keating X Road facility.

Tour participants were shown around the space where different products are manufactured using more computer technology  as well as good old hand finishing work for good measure.

Morin said he chose Central Saanich to locate his company because it was a family decision. The side benefit, he added, has been the fact the community has been a great place to work as well — despite the fact that the construction industry itself can be quite chaotic.

“Our focus is on producing small batches, trying to remain efficient,” Morin said. “Working on the Island … provides us with a few good opportunities and even a few challenges.”

One of those issues is transportation. Getting raw materials for their high-end products can be an issue, especially since much of it comes from the U.S.

“There are very few forest products being made in this province,” Morin said. “Especially the cheaper items, like two-by-fours.”

The higher-end items he needs, like hardwood, come from the U.S.

Be that as it may, Morin added his local workforce is second to none — stable and highly skilled. Plus, he said, the local tax structure in Central Saanich is “favourable.”


The PNR’s Tour of Industry series wraps up with Category 12 Brewing in our Feb. 18 edition.