Fabricator Case Studies

More than a half century of progress

The history of FloForm Countertops dates back to 1961, and through continued expansion over the years, the company has become a major player in Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest

April 1, 2013
Trans

In 1961, Harry, Frank and John Dyck, established FloForm Industries in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, as an add-on to their successful cabinet and construction business. That company grew consistently over years, and today, FloForm Countertops is one of primary suppliers of stone and quartz countertops — with fabrication facilities in both Canada and the U.S. and a sales region that spans across multiple provinces and states.

With its work focused primarily on laminate countertops, the company steadily grew beyond its market in Winnipeg over the years, opening two branches in Alberta — Calgary and Edmonton — and then acquiring Custom Countertops in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Today, Saskatoon is home to the facility for the company’s Canadian stone and quartz surfacing fabrication.

In 1995, Ted Sherritt joined FloForm as Vice President of Finance and Administration, and he became President and CEO after the retirement of Frank Dyck in 2000. Under Sherritt’s leadership, FloForm’s expansion continued, and it added solid surfaces to its product line in 2005. This was followed by expansion into Regina, Saskatchewan, in early 2008, and into Vancouver the following year, its first move into British Columbia — quickly followed by branches in Kelowna and Victoria.

The company’s expansion into the U.S. came in 2008, when FloForm acquired Fine Line Pacific, which included locations in Kent, WA, where fabrication is conducted, as well as retail branches in Spokane, WA, and Portland, OR. “We knew that the owner was selling, and we were expanding into British Colombia then, so it was a good fit at the time,” Sherritt said.

The acquisition of Fine Line Pacific brought new marketing, sales, fabrication and production initiatives to the company. Three years later, Fine Line Pacific would be aligned with the Canadian branches, taking on the name FloForm Countertops.

With all of the expansion that has taken place, FloForm now spans across four provinces and occupies the U.S, Pacific Northwest. The company’s network of retail showrooms sells to over 4,000 recurring buyers. And while it has expanded heavily into stone and quartz surfacing, it remains a major producer of laminate countertops, with three manufacturing facilities. FloForm started as one of the first Postform Laminate shops in Canada and continues today as one of the largest and most successful.

Fabricating operations

In Saskatoon, all of the major equipment is from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN. This includes five CNC stoneworking centers and two Fusion bridge saw/waterjet combinations. “The Fusions have really worked out well for us,” Sherritt said. “They save money and give us better efficiency. Our tooling costs are lower, too.”

In the U.S. plant in Kent, WA, the major equipment is from CMS/Brembana. This includes 10 CNC stoneworking centers, a programmable CNC saw and a programmable waterjet.

Both shops are equipped with extensive Gorbel overhead crane/vacuum lifter systems, and the majority of its tooling comes from Granite City Tool and GranQuartz.

Templating in the field is done using Prodim Proliner systems, and Sherritt estimated that there are 30 of these units in use by the company. Additionally, LT-55s laser templaters from Laser Products Industries are used in the plant as needed.

Overall, FloForm processes approximately 2,500 square feet in stone and quartz surfacing per day, with approximately 60% of that total being quartz surfacing. “Design is the driver behind that,” Sherritt said, adding that the company is a Cambria Lexus Partner.”

FloForm has a total of 600 employees, with 200 on the stone/quartz surfacing side. This total includes salespeople and installers.

In general, Sherritt prefers that his workers in stone and quartz fabrication possess multiple skills. “We very much value cross-training on the CNCs, the saws, polishing, etc.,” he said.

Sales and marketing

FloForm Countertops (fabrication facilities)
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
Kent, WA
Type of work: 75% kitchen countertops and 25% commercial fabrication of natural stone and quartz surfacing
 
Machinery (Saskatoon): Five CNC stoneworking centers and two Fusion bridge saw/waterjet combinations, all from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN
Machinery (Kent): 10 CNC stoneworking centers, a programmable CNC saw and a programmable waterjet, all from CMS/Brembana
Other technology (both locations): Approximately 30 Prodim Proliner digital templating units for use in the field; additional LT-55 digital templating units for use in the plants; Gorbel overhead crane/vacuum lifter systems; tooling from Granite City Tool and GranQuartz
Number of Employees: 600, with 200 on the stone/quartz surfacing side
Production Rate: 2,500 square feet of stone and quartz surfacing per day

Approximately, 75% of FloForm’s production is kitchen countertops. “We do some commercial, such as restaurants and healthcare,” Sherritt said.

The company sells to all of Western Canada as well as the Pacific Northwest in America. “Western Canada has been going very well, and the U.S. is starting to pick up,” Sherritt said. “One of the biggest challenges is price. We have no trouble growing sales, but we need to keep our margins.”

Sherritt went on to say that the recession has actually helped the company maintain its margins to some degree. “Some capacity has been taken out [of the marketplace],” he said. “Now, as builders grow, the margins grow.”

The company’s branches “operate like 11 small businesses,” Sherritt said. “We have great branch managers in all of our locations.”

Looking to the near future, Sherritt is cautiously optimistic. “I hope demand continues to grow over the next two or three years,” he said. “I don’t see it coming back to the point we were in 2006, but hopefully it will be more stable. We want steady growth instead of boom or bust.”

FloForm is also a member of the Artisan Group, a North American network of independent countertop professionals. Additionally, all Artisan Group members are accredited (or are in the process of accreditation) from the Marble Institute of America (MIA). Both of FloForm’s facilities are accredited, and in fact, the Saskatoon plant is the only MIA-accredited one in Canada.

“It is a group of 30 professionals sharing their experiences,” Sherritt said of the Artisan Group. “We talk about best practices, and I have learned a ton from these guys.”           

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