MEET A MAKER - TOMMY OWENS

MEET A MAKER - TOMMY OWENS

A MAKER - There are people who love what they do so unconditionally that they bring depth to topics that seem flat. They strike a curiosity in people they meet that opens up an entirely new world of beauty and perspective. They list fact after fact and tell story after story of their history with their passion.

As the door squeaks slightly when entering the seating development area, Rick Rademacher’s head pops up from his computer for a moment. Tommy Owens is over at the table with a rolling cutter, chalk lines meandering with effortless precision as he works on upholstery patterns that will ultimately be cut by a machine. But like all good things, they start by hand.

Rick is a seating engineer, and Tommy is an upholsterer: simple titles for a daily jigsaw puzzle of responsibilities. Yet the puzzle always looks like the pristine image on the front of the box. Rick and Tommy bounce ideas back and forth in the same way an engineered form of mixed materials needs foam and fabric to bring it to life.

This is the start of the game. How can Tommy make the process and patterns consistent and repeatable, so the 1,000th chair that is ordered and produced in the plant mirrors what is sitting on the table in development? That’s the thought process...below are thoughts shared while reviewing samples.
 
“I think the team is going to need an extra pull here to keep this corner taut. Rick, let’s add another Christmas tree (fastener term) along the seam to keep that line consistent.”

“That area gets a lot activity. Let’s use a double stitch for extra durability and a more tailored look. A customer may not notice, but we know...we can do better.”
 
Tommy takes out his tape measure and makes some notes. He disappears through double doors to the manufacturing floor and returns with some foam and fabric. He rolls out the fabric and gets to work with chalk, straight edges, protractors and the rolling cutter in hand. He jumps over to the sewing machine where he taps his foot like a drummer and spindles of yarn unravel like he’s trying to land a blue marlin. He’s a sewing machine (pun intended). Then he raises the spinning/lift table to ergonomic height, and the popcorn starts popping, aka the stapler gun. Pop, pop, pop, it’s taking shape. Like a great friendship, frame, foam and fabric (and few hundred staples) become something greater together than apart.
 
This whole process can be simplified into a few sentences thanks to the meticulousness, creativity and experience that Tommy draws upon to deliver our core values to our customers through his job. There’s an inherent pride that takes shape as well that is never spoken, but is seen in the form of a finely tailored chair. And, Tommy would be the first one to tell you that it is a team effort.
 
“Tommy is our ‘go-to’ when it comes to converting high level design into shop floor productivity. It’s amazing how he has turned countless napkin sketches into functional, beautiful pieces of furniture,” said Jeff Eckert, VP of Manufacturing.
 
Tommy is definitely an artist...a maker.
 
Jun 21, 2016 BLOG/Design