Case Study: Fabricator continues pattern of investment
January 27, 2011
After working as stone fabricators and artisans in the Washington/Baltimore area for several years, Rodney Bair and Travis Collins decided to break away and begin their own company in 1993. The resulting company, BC Stone, is now a full-production fabricator with its main operation in Everett, PA, and a second shop in Wilmington, NC.
“At first I worked for a fabricator in Washington, DC, and during a slow period in 1993, Rodney Bair and I decided to start our own fabrication shop,” Collins said. “We became one of the big players in the Baltimore, MD, market and then soon started pursuing other regions.”
Currently, BC Stone employs 65 professionals, and it processes stone for both residential customers as well as commercial clients.
The company’s main location in Everett features 10,000 square feet of space for stone fabrication and machinery, 10,000 square feet of warehoused stone inventory (with a 4,000-slab capacity) and 5,000 square feet of showroom displays and sales offices.
Relying on Bair and Collins’ 25 years of experience and the skills of its workers, BC Stone fabricates everything from basic kitchen countertops to intricate floor medallions. The company processes granite, marble and other materials as well as quartz surfacing and solid surfaces.
Investing in technologyA range of stoneworking technology can be found at BC Stone’s facility in Everett. Basic slab cutting is done with a Cougar manual bridge saw and a Jaguar automated bridge saw, both from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN. Meanwhile, more advanced cutting is achieved using two I-6012 Integrated Flying Bridge CNC waterjets from Flow International of Kent, WA.
Two pieces of equipment from Park Industries - the Excel and the Pro Edge III - are used for automated edge polishing, and more advanced edge processing is completed using one of two CMS/Brembana Maxima CNC stoneworking centers. Workpieces are also processed using a Park Industries Wizard radial arm polisher.
In terms of hand finishing, BC Stone’s Everett facility employs Alpha pneumatic hand polishers, Bosch electric hand grinders, Flex electric hand polishers and Ingersoll-Rand pneumatic hand grinders.
Material is maneuvered around the facility using one 5-ton overhead crane and two 1-ton overhead cranes, along with two 5,000-pound forklifts and vacuum lifting equipment from Wood’s Powr-Grip of Laurel, MT.
An Atlas Copco 100-horsepower, 430-cfm, variable-speed-drive, rotary screw compressor is used powering the shop equipment. Additionally, BC Stone relies on a Custom-built water recycling plant, which has a capacity of 200 gallons per minute.
Collins explained that the CMS/Brembana CNCs and the Flow waterjets represent some of the company’s latest investments in technology. “We made these recent purchases to both increase production and pursue intricate work that other companies are not capable of doing,” he said. “With the evolving technological developments over the past 10 years, if you don’t continue to invest in new equipment, you are going to get left behind.”
The technology investments at BC Stone go beyond the shop floor. For example, the company’s templating is done with five Stealth digitizing systems, currently serviced by Touchstone Instruments of Plaistow, NH. The digitizing systems work in conjunction with a Graphtec computer operated template plotter/cutter, while the CNC technology is programmed using AutoCAD and ProE computer aided drafting software.
According to Collins the “digital aspect” of his operation has been its biggest advance over the past few years, including templating, waterjet cutting and edging.
Employees within the shop include workers dedicated to a single operation as well as ones that multi-task. “We have a mix of both,” Collins said. “While most are specialized, several have moved up through the company by doing various jobs and making themselves more valuable.” In hiring new employees, BC Stone advertises locally and then provides in-house training for new workers.
Sales breakdownBC Stone’s Everett facility processes between 60 and 70 kitchens per week, and 35% of finished work is quartz surfacing as opposed to natural stone. Finished material is delivered to the jobsite using seven stone installation equipped trucks and two stone installation trailers.
Approximately 80% of the company’s business is residential, while the remaining 20% is commercial.
Speaking on challenges for the company, Collins cited “cut-rate unqualified fabricators with no overhead.” “While we started our company the same way many of these individuals did, we kept our prices competitive so that we had enough profit to add equipment and grow,” he said. “Most of these guys are too shortsighted with their cheap square-foot pricing, and they have no business being in business.”
The company’s Pennsylvania shop supplies stone to a broad region of customers. “We have a six-hour radius that we work in,” Collins said. “Our major markets are Pittsburgh, PA, State College, PA - basically most of PA - Baltimore MD, and all of West Virginia. We actually have some business as far south as Tennessee and Eastern Ohio.”
Local hotel showcases BC Stone's fabrication abilitiesAs a “living showroom” of its fabrication abilities, BC Stone completed an extensive range of stonework for the Union Hotel in its primary location of Everett, PA, which the company purchased several years ago.
The fully functioning hotel, restaurant and tavern features a 1920s Victorian design motif, and the stonework is a reflection of that style.
The primary stones for the design are Carrara White and Nero Marquina marble, according to Travis Collins co-founder of BC Stone. “Because of the décor of the hotel, granite was not an option for us,” he said. “Carrara and Nero Marquina are the most common materials of that era, so those are the stones that we chose.”
As the designer, fabricator and installer for the project, BC Stone drew on its experience, with “20 years of working with the best interior decorators in the business,” Collins said.
“[We used stone] everywhere we could while keeping the hotel tasteful,” Collins continued.
Much of the flooring is Carrara White 12- x 12-inch tiles with Nero Marquina accents. The entry to the hotel features a marble slab with a waterjet-cut inlay displaying the name of the hotel. Meanwhile, the foyer, first floor bar and public restrooms were designed with an intricate inlaid seven-piece base/wainscoat chair rail panel.
“The elevator shaft was completely clad with slabs of Carrara White for an additional ‘wow’ factor, and the first floor bartop is 3 ¾-inch-thick and Venatino Carrara,” Collins added. “The fireplace is a 12-foot-high custom three-dimensional design, and first floor restaurant tables and window sills are Botticino Semi-Classico. The basement bar tavern and tabletops are Murgiano Beige. All hotel rooms have a different color and design for the vanities, shower walls and matching light sconces.”
All of the material was supplied by Bramati Marble and Granite, and Avanti Marble and Granite - both of Frederick, MD - and fabricated at BC Stone’s facility in Everett.
During the course of the renovation, workers experienced an unusual challenge due to the fire code. “After the wall panels were fabricated, we found out that code called for a specific height on the fire extinguisher - which was only halfway in the panel,” Collins said. “This created a horrible detail at the chair rail, so we built an intricate frame that made it look as though the fire extinguisher is part of the original design.”
Completed in 2009, this project took about four years to finish and has been very well received by hotel guests and customers. “Clients are amazed. They love it,” Collins said. “We consistently hear that the Union Hotel reminds people of high-end hotels in New York City and Chicago.”