Increasing capacity with waterjet technology
FloForm Countertops, which has been handling business in Western Canada since the early 1960s, began as a laminate countertop and solid surface operation, and has since moved into natural stone fabrication. With branches in Edmonton, Calgary, Regina, Saskatoon and Winnipeg, the stone division of the company produces an average of 12 kitchens a day with the help from a variety of state-of-the-art equipment from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN, including a Park Fusion™ 6000 CNC saw/waterjet.
“As the market changed more to granite and quartz, it was a natural progression for us to get into these products,” explained John Eustace, General Manager of FloForm Countertop’s Saskatoon branch, which houses the stone shop, in regards to why the company made the move into stone fabrication. “Today, we have a full-service laminate and solid surface shop, as well as a complete granite and quartz manufacturing facility.”
The company’s head office and postforming shop is located in Winnipeg, and its 22,000-square-foot stoneworking facility is located in Saskatoon. The addition of the Park Fusion 6000 CNC bridge saw/waterjet, which came about in January of 2008, added an extra 33% capacity to the company’s shop. “This [bridge saw/waterjet] cuts accurately enough that we no longer use the mill bit on our CNCs,” said Eustace. “The tops go straight from the saw to the profiling stage. If the tops need scribing, this is also done on the [bridge saw/waterjet]. What surprised us the most when we first installed the Fusion was that the 30%-plus increase came almost immediately. We expected a longer learning curve. Park’s training was excellent.”
In addition to the Fusion TM, the shop currently houses several other machines from Park Industries, including two Destiny CNC stoneworking centers, a Titan CNC machine, a Fastback polishing machine and a Yukon bridge saw. The company also relies on an EnviroSystem water recycling system from Water Treatment Technologies of Hampton, NH.
“We started out with the bridge saw - which we primarily use to cut backsplashes from 2 cm to 3 cm - a Pro Edge edging machine and a Wizard work station [all supplied by Park Industries],” said Eustace. “Within the first year, we installed our first CNC, and now, three years later, we are making plans for our fourth.”
The company’s most recent purchase was a third CNC. “This increased our productivity from eight kitchens a day to 12,” he said, adding that all investments helped increase production and give faster turnaround times. “The [Fastback] makes backsplashes so easy, and once again takes time off the CNC.”
Overall, FloForm Countertops employs close to 300 workers in all three Prairie Provinces, including 20 in the granite and quartz shop and 75 in total in Saskatoon. “All of the stone products are manufactured in Saskatoon and distributed to our branches via our own internal trucking system,” Eustace said, adding that the company has two full-size semi trucks.
“Our biggest challenge is getting people to work,” said the General Manager. “There is a huge labor crunch in our market area. We are competing with oil and mining companies for quality staff. Most of our key employees come from word of mouth, although we do use print media and the Internet when necessary,” he went on to say, adding that all employees are trained for one particular task in the facility, and then they are cross trained for other jobs.
FloForm Countertop’s purchases its slabs from AG&M. “AG&M travels the world and keeps us up to date on new stones available,” said Eustace. “As for quartz slabs, we buy some direct from Cambria and some through distributors. We stock Cambria, Zodiaq and CaesarStone, and have access to all the other quartz products [on the market].
“We have a very broad market - retail, wholesale through cabinet shops and also our fair share of Big Box [retail] work too,” Eustace continued. “We have a dealer base of over 600 dealers, and cover all three Prairie Provinces.”
The company recently completed a large bar top for a new sports bar in town, and it was also working on a 40,000-square-foot residential project at the time of press.