Investing in the future
September 1, 2006
As one of the first large-scale production shops in the U.S., Marble Crafters of Trainer, PA, has maintained its success despite increased competition in the marketplace over the past decade. Located in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, it has upgraded its fabrication shop with new equipment and technology, and it also opened a new showroom earlier this year.
The company operates out of a 50,000-square-foot facility, and the new showroom opened on June 14. The showroom space has a broad range of vignettes - including kitchens, bathrooms and living spaces - and it was organized to be user friendly so customers can make material selections in an environment that is not overwhelming. Additionally, the showroom has an area for architects and designers to consult with their customers as well as a resource room to make tile selections.
The company fabricates approximately 30 kitchens per week, and its core business is kitchen and bath dealers, which comprise approximately 60% of business. The remaining 40% of business is directly with homeowners or through architects and designers working for high-profile clients.
In addition to traditional slab fabrication, Marble Crafters also fabricates stone â€œEstate Homes,â€ where stonework is not only comprised of the kitchen countertops, but also intricate fireplaces, custom floor patterns, slab showers and bathtub surrounds, among other architectural stonework.
This high-end residential work is not only completed in the Northeast, but also in remote locations such as Florida. Examples of these products are all on display at the new showroom.
Technology investmentsRecently, the company has upgraded its machinery options, and its equipment now includes a Destiny CNC stoneworking center from Park Industries, a 20-horsepower machine that can hold 25 tools. The unit operates with Siemens CNC control technology, and it also features dial-up remote diagnostics and service connectivity.
Sawing is completed on two bridge saws, including a Park Yukon, which has touch-screen computer controls. A Marmo Meccanica LCV 711 M is used for polishing backsplashes.
Before slabs are processed, the dimensions of the work to be processed are physically laid out on the slabs with tape - or electronically - so the company can determine the exact veining and patterning of the finished piece before cutting begins. For templating, the company uses hard templates as well as digital templating technology from ETemplate System. This is particularly useful for some of the company's remote projects (see â€œElectronic templating methods,â€ on left.)
A Flow waterjet is also used for cutting intricate floor patterns, which is a key component of much of the company's Estate Home work.
The shop is carefully laid out so that the workpieces move smoothly from the layout area to the saws to the CNC machine. Material is handled with an overhead crane as well as jib cranes, which are equipped with vacuum lifters.
Despite the investments in new technology, however, having a staff of skilled craftsmen is key for Marble Crafters because the work they complete is not standard. It requires experience and an eye for precision. In addition to workers in the shop, the company has six crews installing countertops and 11 more for working on large-scale projects.
Projects are delivered in box trucks, and when supplying waterjet-cut floor patterns, the pieces are carefully nested and sequentially crated, which allows the floor to be installed as smoothly and simply as possible.
Sidebar: Electronic templating methodsWith work that spans from the Philadelphia metropolitan area to sites around the country, Marble Crafters has invested in digital templating technology from ETemplate System. This unique system helps avoid possible errors and also ensures that customer expectations are met.
After templating the kitchen with ETemplate, ETemplate's BackPlot technology integrates the profile of the countertop back into the photo, so that the fabricators can ensure that it is a proper fit and design. The customer can also visualize it to approve the fit and features before any material is cut. This enables them to check aspects such as whether the overhang is too wide, too narrow or inaccurately designed in the case of a special radial or serpentine design.
Any errors in design are detected in the template-integrated photographs. Design flaws are detected on the spot and corrected for final customer approval. The visualization of the finished top design profile on the cabinets is viewed in every photo that is used to process the template no matter the type or number of angles. New or additional measurements can be taken from the photos and avoids returns to the jobsite, which is particularly useful when Marble Crafters is working on projects at remote locations.
The ETemplate program at Marble Crafters also includes an Integrator module that extracts the processed data points and automatically draws the base CAD template. The base CAD includes identification of the flatness of the installed cabinets, the linear and square footage and adds specified overhang. All the company must do is add special features that cannot be pre-programmed.