Fabricator Case Study: A model of stoneworking efficiency
January 1, 2007
Despite the bustling level of activity at Front Range Stone’s fabrication plant in Englewood, CO, there is clearly an order to the stoneworking process. Workers, machinery and material seem to move in perfect unison, allowing the company to work at a high level of efficiency.
The 37,000-square-foot facility, which is located near downtown Denver, is completely dust and smoke free, according to Oscar Espino, the company’s Production Manager. Stone is processed in a manner reminiscent of an automobile assembly line. Equipment is carefully organized so that the overall flow is as smooth as possible, and material is maneuvered using jib cranes equipped with vacuum lifters from Wood’s Powr-Grip.
The production processDuring the fabrication process, some of the most complicated work is completed on one of two Intermac CNC stoneworking centers, which were purchased from AGM. Included is the Intermac Master 1500, and its latest addition, the Intermac Master Stone 33. The new CNC router offers many new features, such as PC-based controls. The machine is fully networkable, comes with remote diagnostics and runs under a Windows XP environment. It has a 20-horsepower electrospindle and a rotary tool changer that allows operators to load tools from outside of the machine, which intends to save time and improve operator safety. It also features misalignment-free safety doors that were designed for OSHA compliance.
According to Espino, all ogee, waterfall and bullnose edges are processed on the CNC machines. Additionally, the CNC units are used for radius workpieces and odd shapes. Tooling for the CNC units is supplied by Hard Rock Tool.
To program the machines, Front Range Stone is currently scanning cardboard templates using a digitizing board, but it is considering a move to electronic/digital templating technology in the future.
In addition to the CNC machines, the company processes material with several edging machines. These include two single-head units - a Tru-Edge III from Park Industries and a Daytona from Matrix Stone Products, which can produce a variety of popular edge profiles. The company also has a Comandulli Synthesis, which is an automatic, multi-spindle belt polishing machine purchased from AGM. Operating with tooling from Hard Rock Tool, it features eight frontal spindles, four spindles for bevelling, a 130-mm generating wheel, 130-150-mm polishing wheels and a 300-mm grooving disc. According to Espino, the unit can process 50 to 60 lineal feet of stone per hour.
Backsplashes are processed on a Marmo Meccanica LCV 711 M edging machine, purchased from Marmo Machinery USA.
Front Range Stone has a water treatment system it designed in house, also using a dehydrator from Hard Rock Tool. Espino explained that the CNC units and the Synthesis use new water, but all of the other water used in the shop is recycled.
Production and marketsThe facility operates two shifts, with 25 people working per shift. It also has 10 installation crews and four templating crews. On average, Front Range Stone completes an average of 14 kitchens per day, but that total varies depending on the size and shape of the kitchens being produced at a given point.
Builders in the region comprise 70% of the company’s overall business, and Front Range Stone provides stone for both production builders and single homes. But even when working on production homes, each stone project is unique. “Although it’s production, that’s really a misnomer,” said Brad Pearce, President of Front Range Stone. “Every kitchen is different, and there is no single formula you can use.”
In addition to builders, the company also works with retail home centers. Once a project is installed, clients are asked to sign a completion checklist that ensures customer satisfaction and quality for the finished work.
Front Range StoneType of work: countertops for production builders, custom homes, home center work
Machinery: AGM/Intermac Master Stone 1500 CNC stoneworking center, AGM/Intermac Master Stone 33 CNC stoneworking center, AGM/Comandulli Synthesis edge profiling machine, Park Industries Tru-Edge III edge profiling machine, Matrix Stone Products Daytona edge profiling machine, Matrix Stone Products GSC-2000 bridge saw, Matrix Stone Products Sebring bridge saw, Marmo Meccanica LCV 711 M backsplash profiling machine from Marmo Machinery USA, vacuum lifters from Wood’s Powr-Grip, tooling from Hard Rock Tool
Number of Employees: two shifts of 25 workers in the shop; 10 installation crews; four templating crews
Production Rate: approximately 14 kitchens per day