Leaving a lasting legacy in stone
May 1, 2010
After working as a civil engineer in general construction for a number of years, George Kanaan decided to open his own stone contracting firm in Dallas, TX, in 1986. Over the years, Sigma Marble, Granite and Tile has completed stonework for scores of high-profile projects - including NFL stadiums, hotels, commercial spaces and residences - and it also opened a second facility in Houston, TX. With a range of stoneworking equipment that includes both standard and CNC technology, the firm continues to process and install stone for prominent architectural projects in Texas and beyond.
In addition to George Kanaan, the company Founder and President, leadership at Sigma includes Ramzi Kanaan, Vice President, and Simon Kanaan, President of Sigma Marble, Granite and Tile Houston - which is also a full-service fabrication and installation facility in Houston.
George Kanaan explained that he selected Dallas as the company headquarters because of the city’s energy and potential for growth, and he reports steady growth over the years - due to Sigma’s status among contractors, architects and designers. “We understand the needs of the building industry, and we are able to provide a turn-key operation by offering a full-service shop that includes: material selection, drafting, design services and in-house fabrication using top-of-the-line waterjet and CNC technology,” he said.
Ramzi Kanaan joined the company in 1986 as a general partner, and his responsibilities ranged from measuring, estimating and project management to purchasing and accounting. In 2007, he began a high-end residential division of the company, with a focus on working with builders, architects and designers specializing in complex, large-scale homes.
Sigma’s operations moved beyond Dallas in 1991, when Simon Kanaan began the Houston division. In 2002, Sigma Houston was awarded the Reliant Stadium project, which is home to the NFL’s Houston Texans as well as the Super Bowl, NCAA Final Four, National Rodeo and other national and international events. This gave the company the opportunity to show its capabilities to deal with a high-profile, multi-million dollar commercial job that dealt with challenging schedules and extensive coordination of materials and fabrication from overseas.
In Dallas, Sigma has worked on high-profile commercial projects such as Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX, the Bass Performance Hall in Ft. Worth, TX, the Winspear Opera House in Dallas, the Emerald Grande in Destin, FL, and countless others.
Current commercial work includes the Peabody Hotel in Orlando, FL, Dean Foods in Dallas, and JW Marriot in San Antonio, TX. In the residential sector, it has completed the stonework for grand upscale homes owned by celebrities and athletes. When working on residential projects, Sigma’s work generally goes beyond the kitchen and bathroom countertops. Additional work in a home will include slab showers, custom entryways and foyers, complex staircases and other applications. “Our work has been in Architectural Digest a number of times,” said Ramzi Kanaan. “We generally work on houses ranging from $500,000 to $5 million, but even some of the super high-end customers have scaled back. Although they are wealthy, they are still affected by the money they have in the stock market. Right now, the issue we face is pricing. We still are competitive in terms of margins.”
Typically, the production breakdown is 85% commercial and 15% residential, and the actual rate of production depends on the types of project being processed at any given time. A total of 80% of the company’s work is in Texas, and it also processes work in locales such as Florida, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Nevada.
The Dallas shop operates two shifts and it employs 20 people, including three draftsmen and five supervisors in addition to fabrication personnel. It also has a full estimating and CAD department. “We haven’t had much turnover,” Ramzi Kanaan explained. “When we do hire new employees, recruiting can be a challenge. Some of our new employees have experience, but most are trained in-house. We look for math skills, logic skills, common sense and a vision on how things will look when they are completed.”
John Hein, production manager at Sigma’s Dallas office, reported that the fabrication process at Sigma utilizes a combination of digital and manual techniques. “Square” work tends to be more standardized, while more complex work utilizes digital and CNC technology.
Given Sigma’s diverse range of finished products, it has equipped its shop with a wide variety of machinery. Straight cutting is done using two bridge saws - an Accu-Cut and a Prodigy - both from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN. Meanwhile, more advanced cutting is done using a Calypso waterjet, which utilizes a pump and cutting nozzle from KMT Waterjet Systems of Baxter Springs, KS.
Sigma’s Dallas shop also has multiple methods for edge polishing, and equipment includes a Pro-Edge II edge profile polisher as well as a Fastback straight line polisher for smaller work, both of which are from Park.
For advanced edge processing, the Park Titan CNC router is used, and it works on pieces of all sizes. This machine was purchased in 2007.
Material is maneuvered around the shop using a Gorbel overhead crane system from Global Crane of Irving, TX, as well as boom cranes, and they are fitted with Manzelli lifters from GranQuartz of Atlanta, GA.
Templating is completed using one of two LT-55 laser templaters from Laser Products Industries of Romeoville, IL.
In addition to projects completed in-house, some of Sigma’s work is fabricated overseas. “Whatever we can fabricate overseas, we will. This way, we are not shipping waste,” Ramzi Kanaan said. “On all of the jobs, though, we use the shop for something because there are always modifications or adjustments.”
In all cases, George Kanaan said that the flow of a project is critical to its success. “This begins with estimating and project management,” he said. “The flow of information is very important, and that’s where we can really compete. We developed our own technology in-house, and all purchase orders are electronically generated. We have one person just working on information systems. Shop drawings are done in-house, and the project managers work directly with the project engineers. Everyone has a specialty - whether it is interiors, hotels or residential work.”
This emphasis on procedure goes beyond the shop itself. “We have developed several programs,” George Kanaan said. “We have a step-by-step program used by all project managers, and everyone follows the same model.”
Sigma also places an emphasis on safety, and it has an in-house “classroom” to teach safety procedures, OSHA regulations and other topics. “There is a 30-hour OSHA course,” George Kanaan said. “We need our employees to be as well-versed as the general contractors. Every job has an MSDS/PDS book that remains on site.”
The company also has a transportation manager in place and a range of vehicles in its fleet, including box trucks, pick-up trucks and flatbeds.
Sidebar: Sigma Marble, Granite and TileDallas, TX, and Houston, TX
(Dallas Facility Summary)
Type of work: large-scale contract work in the commercial sector; high-end residential
Machinery: Titan CNC router from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN; two Park bridge saws - an Accu-Cut and a Prodigy; Calypso waterjet, with pump and cutting nozzle from KMT Waterjet Systems of Baxter Springs, KS; Park Pro-Edge II straight-edge polisher; Park Fastback edge polisher; Manzelli lifters from GranQuartz of Atlanta, GA; two LT-55 laser templaters from Laser Products Industries of Romeoville, IL
Number of Employees: Varies, depending on contracts being completed