top of page
  • Brent DeWolff

“Balancing Act”: Quality, Cost and Time – a custom cabinet maker can help!

Hey everyone! Today I want to write about something not as flashy and stunning as kitchen design and the custom cabinetry we create together with our clients, but something crucial to achieving a successful outcome: project management. There are three components to project management: quality, cost and time.  A custom cabinetmaker can help balance these three crucial components of the design-build process to achieve that perfect outcome.

Let’s start with some definitions.  Time: it’s simple really—it’s the period of days or weeks required to complete a given project.  This duration often spans from the initial client design meeting, through the shop construction process, and ends when the project is installed. Quality is the level to which service and construction are offered and completed to the satisfaction of the client’s expectations. Quality is scalable, and there’s an old saying “don’t deliver a Porsche when the client ordered a Ford” (I promise I don’t favor any makes or models!). In other words, quality varies and is on a continuum from low to high.  In the realm of custom cabinetry this may ranges from basic melamine kitchen boxes with slab doors, to intricate whole-house millwork and cabinetry packages with designer doors and styling. Lastly there’s budget, and like quality it is also scaled, but most often is a constrained parameter representing the monetary limits of the project’s overall cost—how much are we really looking to spend? An upper budget level is almost always present for any project, but sometimes a minimum level is also present and required to ensure perceived product value. Together the three components of time, quality and cost represent a model known as the project management triangle.


Project management triangle joins these three parameters into an interconnected model, where changing one parameter affects others. For example, if the project requires cutting overall costs than there will be an inverse relationship affecting either (or both) components of quality and time. Perhaps the custom kitchen could be built at a cheaper price-point, but this would come at the compromise of material quality or a reduction in hardware amenities installed in the kitchen, and this may result in the project ultimately not meeting the client’s aesthetic and functional expectations.  The same can be said for time, where if the project’s deadline is advanced without adequate notice, the cabinetmaker may be required to defer other clients’ projects, which are simultaneously moving through the shop’s design-build process, to work on meeting the new deadline. Project costs are important as there needs to be mutual value associated with the project by all parties; that is, the client expects the work completed for what they agreed to pay, and the manufacturer, upon project completion, expects to be paid that sum of compensation.


Some components in the time-cost-quality model are easier to manipulate without negatively affecting the project, while others (e.g. time) almost always have negative repercussions. Quality is typically the most fluid component, followed closely by budget.  Time is constant, and a custom cabinet shop will have processes in place to be very time-efficient; thus, it’s typically easier to lengthen a project’s time versus shorten it.

When quality is compromised it can very often lead to increased cost and time delays due to the need for extensive re-discussions of project goals and can sometimes result in undesired reworks or revisions due to the low-quality of production. In other cases, the most important variable may be delivering exactly what the client wants in a good quality product, and then the price “is what it is”. That being said, the primary components of the design-build process affecting cost are material type, hardware selections, and overall size of the project.  In other words, a cabinetmaker can alter the materials used to help bring the project within the client’s budget, and the client can alter their hardware selections and the overall scale of the cabinetry and millwork project to do the same.  There’s only so much that can be done to negotiate price.

Time is important because it is a constant constraint, and being mindful of time is mutually beneficial to all parties. Delivering projects on-time increases credibility and builds confidence with clients, and delivering late almost certainly yields a negative reaction and can result in increased costs to other facets of the overall project. Comprehensive planning, effective time-management, and tracking progress and adjusting as necessary are THE strategies to maintaining the balance of time. Intricate knowledge of how long a process takes allows accurate planning of a project’s movement through the design-build-install process. This knowledge, coupled with modern tools and techniques allows predictability.  From a custom cabinet shop’s perspective, time management is almost 100% our responsibility, but we also depend on our clients being ready for the project’s delivery at the scheduled time.


Ultimately, adequate management (ie: achieving an optimal balance) of quality, cost, and time may often dictates a project’s success or failure. Ideally, the custom cabinetry shop is able to effectively communicate budget, scheduling and quality expectations with the client before the project moves too far along, and then meet those deadlines on time and on budget.  This “balancing act” is the sign of a competent custom cabinetry and millwork company that understands a project’s constraints and delivers within those constraints while maintaining clients’ expectations.

It’s important to remember that each component of the triangle (cost, quality, and time) is interconnected, and changes to one very often lead to alterations in the other two. It’s a dynamic process of mutual change, and ignoring one component often leads to a diminished client-builder relationship, or even outright project failure.  Choosing a custom cabinetry and millwork shop with experience to successfully balance these components will yield a project completed on time and on budget, while also adhering to predefined quality expectations. We strongly encourage our clients to consider whether the custom shop they’re considering has the expertise to handle the overall scope of the project. For success, a shop should be experienced, flexible, adaptable, and have a keen understanding of the project management triangle to deliver high quality results on time and for the quoted price.

What about us here at Parkhill Woodcraft? We are able (and have the experience) to balance the project management triangle: while focusing primarily on quality and budget, sometimes we can extend the timeline.  We have found in the past this is one of the few “workable” compromises of the project management triangle in the sense that clients often accept the reality of increased production times for a higher quality product, but that increased production times may result in a higher price. Very rarely does our shop prioritize speed over quality and cost… that’s just not in our blood, and we’re focused more on delivering exactly what the client wants for the quoted project price. Our shop has a set standard of quality, below which our cabinetry and millwork is just simply not acceptable.

Speaking to budget: costs from our shop will not change over the course of the project from those stated and agreed upon by the client during the design stages. The only way prices will change are with change orders specified by the client and agreed upon by both parties.  These changes sometimes lead to increased time and production cost, but in-turn also increase project quality for the client.

Integrating project management into our shop’s processes isn't just about checking boxes or following protocols—it's about delivering an exceptional experience for our valued clients. By prioritizing time, budget, and quality, we ensure that your vision becomes a reality without any compromises. Our experience in the industry let’s us state with confidence the cost of a project for a given standard of quality, and how long it will take to build and install that product. And we feel that counts for a lot!


bottom of page