Modern technology maintains a legacy of stoneworking
March 2, 2011
Frank’s Marble & Granite, LLC, of Red Lion, PA, was founded in 1972 by Frank Pantano, who learned the stoneworking trade in his native Italy. In its early stages, the company was primarily an installer of ceramic and stone tiles, and it moved into slab processing in the early 1980s. Today, the company is a leading countertop fabricator in its region, and it continues to update itself with state-of-the-art stoneworking technology.
The company has been in its current location - which has 17,000 square feet of space - for 12 years, and the shop is run by Frank’s son, Carmine. Additionally, Frank’s wife, Carmela, and his daughter, Diane, work in the front office and showroom.
The company has a total of eight employees, in addition to the four family members working at Frank’s Marble & Granite. Of these eight, four work in the fabrication shop, three are installers and one is responsible for templating.
Investing in technologyOne of the latest investments in the shop has been an Ultimate FabCenter (SW138-UFC) from Northwood Machine Manufacturing Co. of Louisville, KY. “We are very happy with it,” Carmine Pantano said. “The table size allows us to load larger jobs. It was very easy to learn how to program. Our foreman who programs the machine, Nick Comerci, has no programming experience, and he has done very well with it.”
The CNC is equipped with pods from Blick Industries of Laguna Beach, CA, and ADI tooling from GranQuartz of Tucker, GA.
Additionally, the company uses the SlabsmithTM system from Northwood Designs, Inc. of Antwerp, NY. Using this system, a digital photo of the slab is taken, and the system’s Perfect MatchTM module is used for optimized nesting of the various parts. This allows them to manipulate the nest for the optimal results. A picture of the finished countertop can be created for customer approval, and a DXF file of the nest can be exported for manufacturing.
Edgework is also automatically processed using an Omag Profiler CNC stoneworking center from Italy, which the company purchased in 2001. Other stone-processing equipment in the shop includes a Cougar bridge saw and a Wizard radial arm polisher, both from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN. “We use the Wizard mainly for creating a leather finish and for backsplashes, since our Northwood drills the holes now,” Carmine Pantano explained.
Additional tooling in the shop comes from Regent Stone Products of Virginia Beach, VA.
In order to accommodate the new equipment at Frank’s Marble & Granite, the company added onto its stoneworking facility and paved a new floor. It then moved the bridge saw into the new space and placed the Northwood CNC in the vacant area in order to maintain optimum material flow. Material is transported around the shop with the help of a Manzelli vacuum lifter from GranQuartz.
“We added an 11-camera security camera setup all over our warehouse and shop,” Carmine Pantano explained. “They are pan-and-zoom type cameras that allow me to zoom into our CNC machines. This allows me to watch over the machine from my office while it’s running after hours, so my guys can go home.”
Templating is completed using a Proliner from Prodim USA of Vero Beach, FL, and the company has a Chevrolet van in the field for templating. Meanwhile, finished pieces are delivered to the jobsite in specially equipped pick-up trucks. Frank Pantano developed unique wooden storage racks for these pieces, which can be loaded directly into the truck beds.
Water treatmentWith an eye on conserving water with maximum efficiency, Frank’s Marble & Granite also recently invested in a Hy-Pack filter press from Beckart Environmental of Kenosha, WI, in November of 2009.
Designed for 100% water recycling and closed-loop operation, the system filters influent from the saw, polishers and CNC equipment down to below 1 micron, and then routes the clean water back for use in the fabrication process. The fully automated system includes company-engineered PLC control panels.
“Prior to getting the Beckart system, we had a homemade settlement system with five 1,000 gallon tanks,” Carmine Pantano explained. “Now everything gets clean recycled water, even the CNC spindle. Once we had the new water system in place, we were ready to add the Northwood CNC.”
Among the benefits of the new system, Carmine Pantano cited its ability to run with minimal supervision. “Everything is computerized, and it regulates what the shop needs in terms of water,” he said. “Nothing is changed manually.”
Sales and marketingFrank’s Marble & Granite works within a 60- to 90-minute radius of its office, which includes the metropolitan areas of Baltimore, MD, Harrisburg, PA, and Lancaster, PA. Typically, the company processes and installs eight kitchens per week.
“There are not many shops right here, but we do have some competition coming from Lancaster,” Carmine Pantano explained. “Our customers are cabinet dealers, builders, remodelers and walk-in customers. We have dealer pricing and retail pricing, and that keeps the contractors loyal to us. We stay true to our prices and quality, and we are not offering dealer prices to homeowners.”
A typical job includes 50 to 60 feet of fabricated stone, and the majority of work processed by Frank’s Marble & Granite is for remodeling projects. The company processes a mix of exotics and basic materials. “Some of our clients are on a budget, while some are willing to pay the extra $1,000 for exotics,” Carmine Pantano said. “We are seeing more interest in exotics than we were a couple of years ago. We also do all quartz surfacing, such as DuPont Zodiaq and CaesarStone, but it is only a small percentage of our business.”
The company also stocks and sells sinks from Artisan Manufacturing Corp. of Newark, NJ. “We are not the ‘Home of the Free Sink,’ “ Pantano said. “There’s really no such thing. When shops offer that, the customer ends up paying for it some other way.”
One of the greatest challenges today is the “lower-priced shops, which are hurting the market,” said Carmela Pantano, who explained that these operations are generally selling solely on price as opposed to quality and service.
To offset this, Frank’s Marble and Granite emphasizes communication and teaching as key aspects of the customer-relations process. “A lot of people come in with myths about stone,” said Diane Pantano. “We spend a lot of time on customer education.”
Typically, representatives from Frank’s Marble and Granite will spend 90 minutes with a customer on their first visit. “This is just to explain everything to them,” Carmine Pantano explained. “We never pressure a customer.”
According to Frank Pantano, about 20% of the walk-ins actually result in sales, but the effort to educate consumers is worth it in the long run.
Frank's Marble & Granite, LLC - Red Lion, PAType of work: slab processing for residential applications
Technology: Ultimate FabCenter (SW138-UFC) from Northwood Machine Manufacturing Co. of Louisville, KY, equipped with pods from Blick Industries of Laguna Beach, CA; Omag Profiler CNC stoneworking center from of Italy; ADI tooling from GranQuartz of Tucker, GA; Hy-Pack filter press from Beckart Environmental of Kenosha, WI; additional tooling from Regent Stone Products of Virginia Beach, VA; Cougar bridge saw and Wizard radial arm polisher, both from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN; Manzelli vacuum lifter from GranQuartz; Proliner digital templating system from Prodim USA of Vero Beach, FL; Slabsmith™ nesting system from Northwood Designs, Inc. of Antwerp, NY
Number of Employees: 12, including four family members
Production Rate: 8 kitchens per week