Establishing itself with state-of-the-art machinery
The company is owned by John and James Manning, and the inspiration to start a stoneworking company came when John Manning was building his own home. “He dealt with two granite companies, and he liked the granite industry,” explained Sam Roberts, CFO of Summit Stoneworks.
Shop equipmentAll of the machinery in the plant was supplied by Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN, and the first pieces of equipment included a Yukon bridge saw and a Velocity automatic edging machine. Both of these pieces of equipment were designed for optimum ease of use. The Yukon saw has an operator-friendly control unit featuring a joystick and touch-screen controls. It has a 20-horsepower motor, and it can accommodate blades up to 24 inches in diameter. The sawing head tilts from 0 to 47 degrees for miter cuts, and the saw can be programmed with three single-cut widths.
The Velocity can also be programmed using a touch-screen, and it can be pre-programmed with profiles for a variety of shapes. The unit can process pieces ranging from 2 to 12 feet in length and 4 to 12 feet in width.
The next piece of equipment to be added was the Park Destiny CNC stoneworking center. The unit features a computer-controlled, 20-horsepower spindle that runs up to 10,000 rpm’s, which allows for routing and edging straight and decorative radius shapes on stone ranging from 1 to 6 cm thick. The vertical spindle cores a ¼- to 1 ½-inch-diameter hole in 2- to 6-cm stone.
The CNC machine operates using built-in Park Stone CAM SFP software, and Summit Stoneworks uses the machine’s integrated “connect the dots” laser digitizing system to scan templates, thus programming the CNC unit. Operators can also convert industry-standard DXF CAD files directly into the machine, and the company is currently looking for a CAD programmer to operate the machine. “It is still tough to learn,” said Roberts.
For backsplashes, the company operates a Park Fastback edging machine. The machine can process pieces ranging from 16 inches to 12 feet in length, and widths of 3 to 30 inches. It was designed for high-speed processing of flat edges, and it can also produce a 45-degree chamfer on the top and bottom and edge corners up to 1/16 inch.
Tooling in the shop comes primarily from Braxton-Bragg and Keystone Tools.
The company has 10 employees in all. When hiring workers for the shop, one of the first priorities was to find an experienced shop foreman. Additionally, most of the workers had some experience in the stone industry.
Projects and marketsAccording to Roberts, the company works primarily on custom high-end homes, and it processes an average of two kitchens per day. Kitchens include 75 square feet of material on average, although some homes further outside the Austin area, in Hill Country, have been 120 square feet or more.
Summit Stoneworks is currently outsourcing its templating and installations, and with the equipment it has in place, it wants to increase its production to five kitchens per day in the near future. “We don’t have a lot of competition in the area for what we do, but the hardest thing is determining the ideal price,” explained Roberts. “When we were new, price was key, but we don’t want to sell based on price. We are stressing service.”
The company’s customer base is mostly comprised of homebuilders, and some kitchen/bath and cabinet retailers have also referred customers to Summit Stoneworks. The company works primarily in 3-cm material, although it has done some thicker laminated work. A total of 80% of the material processed is granite, and the company is also working with LG Viatera quartz surfacing for Lowes retailers in the area. In this endeavor, the company is processing 2-cm slabs with four standard edges.