Outclassing the competition is nothing new for Sheldon Laboratory Systems Inc. Since 1898, the Crystal Springs, MS-based company has been producing innovative, high-quality laboratory furniture and furnishings for educational and medical institutions.
“The company remains a leader in the field because, while our products are continually evolving, our quality, attention to detail and service remains the same,” said Dwight Turner, Manager of Plant Operations at Sheldon Labs. “We specialize in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) classroom furniture and hold a variety of patents on lab equipment.”
The mobile STEM Station, for example, can accommodate up to five students and be easily integrated to a school space. The station includes key components such as an imprint top, which allows students to record data, plus storage for supplies, equipment, laptops and iPads.
While the company’s products are used primarily in the United States, Sheldon Labs has designed furniture for installations worldwide. “We ship anywhere and everywhere. We shipped equipment to a college in Africa. We developed Eye Wash stations in Iraq for soldiers. Another of our specialty designs is the patented Climatarium, a portable growing station, which includes grow lights,” Turners said.
Manufacturing custom as well as stock casework, cabinetry, tables and more, is all in a days work for Sheldon Labs. The company utilizes a mix of solid wood, plywood and laminate in the production process.
“Our casework features through-bolt construction with metal rods from one side to the other at the top and bottom in front and in back. You can’t see the rods, which are hidden in the rail, but it creates a very durable piece,” Turner said. Dowel construction is also available.
“We know our lab equipment will see lots of use and be exposed to a lot of different elements. Students lean on our cabinets, sit on them. The equipment takes a beating, but we have a great track record for quality products. We know a teacher probably retires before our casework does,” he added. “Some cabinets are in daily use for 30 years.”
Not content to rest on its laurels, the firm continues to find ways to enhance the quality, productivity and profitability of its operations. Key to its plan is the optimization of its raw materials.
To improve the yield of the oak and maple lumber, Sheldon Labs recently invested in TigerStop’s TigerSaw1000. “We have an older TigerSaw and recently added a new one,” Turner said. “It has been a big help in optimization and more as there is no such thing as a perfect tree. You need to cut out defects and this machine streamlines the process, telling you which cuts to make for optimization.
“Already we have noted a change and are seeing less waste. Before, we might have to cut 30 pieces to make sure we were getting what we needed. With this system I get what I ask for,” he added. The system also has the capability for multi-grade optimization, Turner said, which is a benefit for Sheldon Labs. Programming can be done from the office, saving time and further streamlining the process.
“It is an intelligent process that is easy to use and it fits well into our operation,” he said. Another new workhorse is the Torwegge double-end tenoner. Other equipment used in the 69,261-square foot shop includes: a Biesse Rover A nested-based CNC router, two Holz-Her Pro-Master CNC routers, a Gannomat (Tritec) dowel boring machine, Homag (Stiles Machinery) and Holz-Her CNC edgebanders, Biesse Selco and Holzma CNC panel saws, and various clamp presses. Sanding and finishing are also integral to the process.
For the 65 employees at Sheldon Labs, the attention to detail extends beyond its furniture’s functionality. Standard on all furniture doors and drawers, for example, is vertical matched grain. “When you walk into a room, it is nice to see the wood grain going in the same direction — that makes the room look polished and clean.” Customer service also is key to Sheldon Labs’ success, and the company has an open door policy with clients. “We have visitors here all the time, including architects, designers, teachers and heads of different science labs. We also work closely with clients in the field. It is a partnership.”
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