Fabricator Case Study: Catering to the high-end market
June 1, 2006
David Palmer knows the stone business. Not only has the fabricator been running Palmer Marble & Tile, Inc. in West Palm Beach, FL, for the past 25 years, but he also gained valuable experience while working with several industry leaders, including Cold Spring Granite Co. and Georgia Marble Co. Additionally, Palmer worked alongside his father for a little more than a decade - learning skills that have aided him in building the prosperous fabrication business that he has today.
The 18,000-square-foot facility where Palmer Marble & Tile runs its operation includes a Pedrini Lux M920 bridge saw, which the company purchased several months ago through IGE Solutions, Inc. of Jupiter, FL. â€œIf you know how to use it to its potential, it can do some amazing things,â€ said Palmer. â€œWe have increased our production by about 50% - there's more speed and accuracy.â€
The saw, which is more than three times faster than the saw it replaced, is now cutting kitchens in minutes as opposed to hours. Additionally, the hand grinding and finishing that was previously required has been eliminated. Pieces move directly from the saw to the edger or installer - creating edges and seams that are basically flawless.
Another benefit of the Pedrini Lux M920 is its advanced CNC controls and highly accurate automatic rotating table, which allow for faster programming times and set-ups. The programming is also very user-friendly and can be done by operators with minimal programming training.
Moreover, the saw can be used for profiling. Since Palmer had previously fabricated pieces by hand, this change reflects a significant increase in productivity. The saw is also very quiet, which has resulted in a dramatic noise reduction in the shop.
Additonally, the shop is equipped with a Jet Edge waterjet, which the company has had for about five years; and three Ghines Sector portable routers, which were purchased from GranQuartz of Tucker, GA.
According to Palmer, the company cuts about nine slabs a day. â€œEverything we do is mostly custom work,â€ he said. â€œWe do about three large kitchens a week, and they are all made with strict attention to absolutely every detail.â€ The high-end kitchens, which extend well beyond the typical size of a kitchen, usually require a lot of stone details.
Moreover, the company also performs a great amount of specialty work, such as staircases, pool decks and glass tile as well as custom bathrooms and kitchens. According to Palmer, they often have 30 or more projects open at one time.
Currently, Palmer Marble & Tile employs 36 workers, including six administrative employees, restoration professionals, fabricators and installers. â€œWe started with three employees, and during major projects have been as high as 60,â€ explained Palmer, adding that the company runs about a 10-hour day. â€œWe are full service - from job planning, layout, management and coordination through fabrication installation and follow-up maintenance and restoration.â€
In addition to shop workers and installers, the company also keeps a carpenter, electrician and plumber on staff. â€œIt really helps to have the skills of other trades on hand,â€ said the fabricator, explaining that the company even performs maintenance on all its floor applications. â€œIt means that we really can give the customer a finished project without risking quality.â€
At this time, Palmer Marble & Tile uses plastic core templates for templating entire rooms. â€œWe do everything diligently,â€ said Palmer. â€œWe are currently examining the benefits and limitations of laser templating.â€
Although the company does buy material from suppliers such as International Granite & Marble (IGM) and Keys Import, the majority of its material is imported directly from quarries around the world. â€œI like working with the quarry,â€ said Palmer. â€œI don't buy here [often] because I usually can't get the quantities required. If we are buying for a job, and I like the material, I'll bring in some extra.â€ At the time of Stone World's visit, the company was working on a project that required 32,000 square feet of travertine.
Palmer Marble & Tile fabricates and installs custom products for high-end residential and the most exclusive commercial projects. Its primary market spans from Orlando down to southern Florida, including Miami, Naples and Palm Beach, but often customers with second homes elsewhere in the country hire Palmer for those jobs also.
Additional servicesIn addition to cutting custom stone products, Palmer Marble & Tile is also a certified Zodiaq fabricator and installer as well as a distributor for Bisazza and Crossville tile. â€œWe do a lot of glass tile pools,â€ said Palmer.
The fabricator went on to say that he has been working with Bisazza on educational programs. â€œWe helped plan and build 'Studio Bisazza,' which teaches tile professionals better [installation] techniques,â€ he said. â€œWe also continue to explore and innovate to improve the industry.â€
Moreover, Palmer is also involved with a second company, which is named Stone Technology Distributors. This business carries stone care, installation and maintenance products from companies such as Miracle Sealants. It also supplies accessories from shower drains to diamond blades.
â€œAs a fabricator interested in testing and using only the best available tools and materials I found that the supply side of the business was so complex and diverse that we needed an organization just to handle this,â€ said Palmer, when explaining the reason for starting Stone Technology Distributors. â€œI felt that other fabricators and stone professionals could benefit from all the research we do. The company stocks about 800 different products.â€
Palmer Marble & Tile, Inc.Type of work: primarily high-end residential work; some commercial jobs
West Palm Beach, FL
Machinery: a Pedrini Lux M920 bridge saw supplied by IGE Solutions, Inc. of Jupiter, FL; a Jet Edge waterjet; three Ghines Sector portable routers supplied by GranQuartz of Tucker, GA
Number of Employees: 36, including fabricators, installers, restoration professionals and administrative workers
Production Rate: three large custom kitchens a week; a wide range of specialty work, including staircases, pool decks, glass tile and custom bathrooms and kitchens