High-Tech Equipment Stimulates Company Expansion
Beginning with just a track saw in 2002, The Countertop Place of Wichita, KS, now owns a complete line of state-of-the-art equipment - turning itself into a technologically advanced fabricating shop. “We’ve come a long way in six years,” said Co-Owner Robert Larson, adding that Mike Bell is the other owner.
After completing a few miscellaneous jobs, Larson established a shop at his current location in June of 2002 - at the time it was called Fairway Ltd. “When we started in this location, I didn’t even have a bridge saw,” he said.
Machinery ProgressionFour months at that location, Larson bought a Sierra bridge saw, followed by a Wizard radial arm polisher in March of 2003 and a Pro Edge III automated edge polisher a year later in March of 2004 - all of which came from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN.
From there, the company purchased a Master JetSaw 3200 (combination waterjet/bridge saw) from Advanced Industrial Machinery, Inc. (AIM) of Hickory, NC, in September of 2007, and then in that same year, it bought an Intermac 43 CNC stoneworking center in November. “With the purchase of the JetSaw, we are a completely digital shop,” said Larson.
Becoming Digital and EfficientLarson explained that after the first CNC purchase, the company at the same time bought an LT-55 digital templating system from Laser Products Industries of Romeoville, IL. “This last summer of 2008, we purchased our second one.
The JetSaw and the CNCs have allowed The Countertop Place to be completely efficient, according to Larson. “Not only are we digital, but also, it allows the CNC machines to be more efficient because of less steps needed to be taken,” he explained. “The waterjet portion on the JetSaw allows you to cut everything on the line. The JetSaw eliminates one step in the normal process of the CNC.”
The BusinessNot only has The Countertop Place incurred technological advancements, but it has also more than quadrupled its staff inside of its current 18,000-square-foot facility. “When I started, we had four employees,” said Larson. “Now there’s a total of 17 - four of which are showroom and sales, two are laminate and solid surface workers, leaving only 11 employees for the entire stone fabrication and installation area.”
Production currently allows for 1,000 square feet a week - or approximately 10 to 12 kitchens a week, along with tub surrounds, showers and outdoor barbecues, among other miscellaneous projects. The Countertop Place does all of its own stone fabrication, installation and templating. “We also do laminate countertops, quartz and, of course, granite,” said Larson. “Occasionally we do solid surface, but I’ve seen a trend of that moving more toward quartz. When comparing the two in price, most customers are swayed toward the quartz direction.”
“Technology has increased my production, so now I have a reduction in prices,” he continued. “Now for a lot of my builders, I don’t need to charge for [extras].”
For this reason, Larson intends to continue to advocate the use of leading edge technology. “I couldn’t have done anything I’ve done without the technology and equipment,” he said.
Sidebar: The Countertop PlaceWichita, KS
Type of Work: Mainly custom stone fabrication for residential work, including full homes or renovations; some commercial
Machinery: a Sierra bridge saw, a Wizard radial arm polisher and a Pro Edge III automated edge - all from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN; an Intermac 33 CNC and an Intermac 43 CNC stoneworking center - both from Intermac of Charlotte, NC; a Master JetSaw 3200 from Advanced Industrial Machinery, Inc. (AIM) of Hickory, NC; two LT-55s from Laser Product Industries of Romeoville, IL
Number of Employees: 17
Production Rate: 1,000 square feet a week/approximately 10-12 kitchens a week