LIVE MAGAZINE – Summer 2020 edition

Clever use of technology, a constant drive for innovation and a team working to a common goal are just some of the reasons why elite kitchens has become such a success story.


The Taranaki business, now in its 20th year designing and manufacturing custom kitchens, won the Innovation Excellence Award at the TSB Taranaki Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards.

For Directors Sean and Fay Rice the award encapsulates what their business is all about.

“We strive to be at the forefront of change in what is an industry built on traditional practices. In the last 10 years there have been major in-roads in the technology available, we have grabbed that with two hands and run with it across the business,” Fay says.

You don’t get more cutting-edge than two of the world’s latest computer-controlled machines, which elite kitchens imported from Italy in 2018, just as the business moved into a purpose-built joinery centre in Waiwhakaiho.

The CNC router cutter is a “precision robot cutting machine” that cuts out all the kitchens ready to be assembled. It removes the element of human error, is fast and provides the highest quality finish.

The edgebander has an “Airforce” function to achieve an invisible edge – no joints and no glue line, in perfect harmony with the panel. By using a compressed hot air system, a PVC edge bonds perfectly with a panel guaranteeing resistance to water and an excellent long lasting quality finish.

The factory has a “digital foreman”, with large electronic screens displaying each employee’s jobs for the week updated in real time, with touch screens throughout to keep track of hours worked on each project.

The system removes the need for Sean to always be on site, while empowering staff to manage their own workloads.

The business has also adopted lean manufacturing principles. For example, nothing in the factory is fixed down, everything is manoeuvrable.  Workers have a fully-stocked work bench that is wheeled to the part of the kitchen they are working on.

The increased space and efficiency see the team building up to 15 kitchens a week – putting them in the top 5% in New Zealand for production, Sean says.

elite kitchens’ design process is also unique with the company pioneering ‘live design’. In collaboration with their client, the designer creates a design in real time on a large screen in a design pod.

“The true test of great design is  a kitchen that not only looks beautiful, but is  equally beautiful to work in. Our ‘live design’ process allows our clients a unique view inside their new kitchen to understand  how workflow design can support their daily routines and provide effortless functionality tailored to their needs,” Fay explains.

Clients also have eyes on the manufacturing process. A glass wall runs between the factory and showroom and clients are invited to see their completed kitchen before it’s installed.

Fay says their 30 staff are a huge part of their success, as all share the same core values and drive for continued evolution.

Fay jokes Sean “eats change for breakfast”. So what’s next for this forward-thinking couple?

They’re researching the use of virtual reality, enabling clients to physically experience their new kitchen before it leaves the design process.

They are also looking at more robot solutions and have their eye on a machine that works through the night arranging product ready for the next day’s manufacturing schedule.

You get the impression, the sky’s the limit.

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