High-end fabricator upgrades with advanced technology
August 1, 2007
Located in Sheridan, WY, just south of the Wyoming/Montana border, Big Horn Granite and Marble, a high-end fabricator and installer of natural stone and engineered stone, was founded by Kyle Williams in 2001. With the shop’s latest edition of a Komo Summit CNC stoneworking center, production has continued to flourish and help keep the company at the forefront of its competition.
The company’s 10,000-square-foot facility includes a showroom, office space and a fabrication and staging section. The company began its fabrication work using a 515 C gantry bridge saw from Sawing Systems of Knoxville, TN, a Hercules edge profiling machine from Braxton-Bragg Corp., also of Knoxville, TN, a converted spray booth for dry grinding, as well as several Makita hand grinders and air polishers from Alpha Professional Tools of Oakland, NJ. Over the past few years, Big Horn Granite and Marble has purchased frames, racks, tables, smaller saws, dollies and trucks and cranes, to further aid in the company’s success. “Our machinery allows us to meet any demand of our client, and we treat every job as a new possibility,” said Williams.
In 2006, the company purchased a Summit CNC stoneworking center from Komo Machine of Sauk Rapids, MN. “[With this purchase,] we found out how important it was for us to develop a system that relied on technology and put us on the leading edge of what is possible for our products,” said the fabricator.
Williams went on to say that the Komo CNC machine gave the company the ability to stay specialized in custom work and produce high-end stone pieces quickly and accurately. According to the fabricator, he, along with the company’s primary hand tooling expert, spent two weeks at Komo’s facility training to learn how to use the machine and software, and then spent one week on site with a trainer, who helped them set up the tooling and define software perimeters. Within two months, Big Horn Granite and Marble was producing countertops consistently and accurately with very few problems, according to Williams.
“We just hired a CNC specialist who will be helping us take the system we have in place to the next level,” added Williams. “This person will be doing the primary programming and work directly with the operator, keeping things as simple and fluid as possible for the operator and the entire crew on the floor. We intend to double shift the CNC [this month].”
For Big Horn Granite and Marble, it was essential not to sacrifice quality when moving to automation. “We spent over four years doing all sink cutouts, radius work and honing all by hand,” he continued. “We really enjoyed the flexibility that it gave us to achieve greatness in our work through such an artistic approach. As we became known for doing very high-quality work, we began to realize what a scarce resource quality craftsmen were to us.” With this in mind, Williams began looking into the technology that would help the company grow. “We wanted to retain a relatively tight knit group of people, and be able to provide our products to the majority of the market.”
Today, the company’s hand tooling includes products from Granite City Tool for the CNC machine, as well as tooling from GranQuartz, Braxton-Bragg and Keystone Tools. In the fall, the company plans to add an inline backsplash polisher to the shop as well as additional overhead cranes.
“The key to investing in this way is coming to terms with your expectations,” explained Williams, on why these key pieces of machinery were added to the shop. “For us, we expect it to make us more efficient. We have always known that we possess the talent and ability to be the best -- we just had to admit that we could not keep up with demand when doing everything by hand. And then, when we realized how accurate we could be and how far we could stretch the boundaries, we realized that there is so much more that we can offer our clients.”
The target market area for the company is Northeastern Wyoming, and it works with high-end residential and commercial builders, as well as spec builders and multi-unit developers. Big Horn Granite and Marble works solely with slabs of granite, marble and Dupont Zodiaq quartz sufacing, to produce countertops, tub decks and fireplace surrounds. Production currently stands at three to five jobs (or 300 to 500 square feet) per week, depending on the overall scope of work to be completed. Williams noted that the company has the capacity to produce a lot more, and that they look forward to growth in the near future.
Overall, the company’s staff comprises 12 employees, including fabricators, installers and office workers. Williams said the company spends a great deal of time cross training its employees. “I know that the crew is versatile and can adapt very easily to accomplish accurate work on tight timelines,” he said, adding that advertising in a local newspaper has enticed new employees to join the company’s staff. “I find people to be very grateful to find a good paying job that is fast-paced, upbeat and an overall positive and fun place to work. Our industry is very dynamic, and our crew is fairly young. There’s fantastic synergy among us in growing our company to be the very best that we can be.”
According to Williams, there are two main challenges as a fabricator in today’s stone industry, including finding and retaining a quality workforce and finding steady reliable sources of quality product. “We do the best we can with both, and we keep an eye out for opportunity along the way,” he said.
In terms of inventory, Big Horn Granite and Marble’s facility contains an outdoor slab storage area where 200 to 300 slabs are typically stored for upcoming work, although some are available to be purchased, according to Williams. Currently, the company purchases its slabs from Arizona Tile of Denver, CO, as well as Montana Stone Gallery in Missoula, MT. “All of the major stone yards are a minimum of seven hours away from us, and availability and consistency has become more and more of an issue,” the owner stated. “We are looking forward to developing relationships overseas and plan on adding a large material selection at our location within the next several months.”
The company prides itself on customer service. “We do our very best to treat everyone with the same attention,” said the owner. “We are especially proud of the high-end residential work that we do in our area. It’s a great feeling to receive such admiration and appreciation from our clients and associates.”