Fabricator Case Studies

Equipped for efficiency and quality

With a specialized material-handling system, well-organized inventory and experienced workers, Blume’s Solid Surface of Freeport, PA, has developed a solid reputation in its region

July 3, 2013
Trans

Although it was first established as a processor of solid surface countertops, Blume’s Solid Surface of Freeport, PA, is now considered to be a leading fabricator of natural stone and quartz surfacing in the Western Pennsylvania region, and it emphasizes efficiency and customer service.

The company was founded in 1988 by Gus and Dottie Blume. “It actually started in a garage,” explained Michelle Goetzinger, the Blumes’ daughter, who represents the second generation of the family in the business — along with her brother, Gus Blume, Jr. “It was a team effort from the beginning, and it was very hands on. My mother was a fabricator from the start.”

In 2001, the company expanded from solid surface into stone and quartz surfacing. “It was a purposeful move,” Goetzinger said. “We bought the building, the CNC and the saw at that time. We started off doing quartz in home centers, and it took off from there.”

Quartz surfacing remains a key part of the company’s fabrication, and it has developed its own line, the KeyStone® Quartz Collection, in 32 different colors.

In terms of stone, Blume’s Solid Surface processes everything from traditional materials to some of the latest exotics in the marketplace. “Very often, someone will want New Venetian Gold, but then they come away with an exotic,” Goetzinger said.

The fabricating process

Blume’s Solid Surface

Freeport, PA

Type of work:Fabrication and installation of natural stone and quartz surfacing; solid surface work for commercial applications

Machinery: a TB 600W bridge saw, two LBZ stoneworking centers and a Vario 6 automated edging machine, all from Löffler of Germany; vacuum lifter from Wood’s Powr-Grip of Laurel, MT; water treatment system from ECS-Eich of Germany; Diamut and Tyrolit Vincent tooling from Granite City Tool

Production Rate: Five kitchens per day, with an average kitchen size ranging from 50 to 90 square feet

Number of Employees:25 (20 on the stoneworking side)

All of the major stoneworking equipment in the facility is from Löffler of Germany, including a TB 600W bridge saw, two LBZ CNC stoneworking centers and a Vario 6 automated edging machine. The CNCs are equipped with Diamut and Tyrolit Vincent tooling from Granite City Tool.

The stoneworking shop at Blume’s Solid Surface is equipped with an extensive conveyor system to help facilitate material handling. The bridge saw, CNCs, automated edger and hand fabrication area are all linked by the conveyor system, and material is maneuvered as needed using lifters from Wood’s Powr-Grip. Meanwhile, the water used during the fabricating process is recycled with a system from ECS Eich of Germany.

The shop processes an average of five kitchens per day, with an average kitchen size ranging from 50 to 90 square feet. Jobs are templated using Luan and a PhotoTop digital templating system. When using hard templates, they are delivered to the jobsite with the finished pieces. “Our policy is to measure twice and cut once,” Goetzinger said.

Blume’s has a total of 25 employees, including 20 on the stoneworking side. For the most part, employees are cross-trained to fill multiple roles in the shop, although the machinery operators are specialized on their own equipment. “We try to cross train everyone,” explained Goetzinger. “Even the people in our office have a working knowledge of stone.”

Sales and marketing

Blume’s Solid Surface sells wholesale only, fabricating and installing material through independent kitchen and bath dealers and millwork houses in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. “Business is going well. We are doing  a lot of remodeling work,” Goetzinger said. “Overall, Pittsburgh is a stable market, and it has been for awhile. It was named the ‘most livable” and ‘most moved-to’ city.”

Although it only sells wholesale, Blume’s Solid Surface has geared its operation to be a user-friendly environment for the homeowners who are sent there during the process. “Educating homeowners is a priority for us,” Goetzinger said. “We want no surprises and a happy customer every time.”

The showroom features a range of materials and completed vignettes, as well as Kohler sinks and faucets. The stock is very well organized, and slabs are labeled with the name and country of origin — all part of a company philosophy of educating customers and helping them relate to the stone. “We try to teach them the geology of stone — the mica, the garnet, the feldspar,” Goetzinger said. “We explain if it is a metamorphic or igneous rock. We want them to be able to tell the story of their stone. We also do geology lessons for local science classes.”

Blume’s carries out a broad range of green practices in their operation. In addition to recycling 80% of its water, stone and quartz waste is picked up by a landscape company and crushed into gravel. The facilities have programmed thermostats for automatic temperature regulation, and out-of-use cell phones are donated to charity. It also recycles its ink cartridges, cardboard, aluminum cans, old blades and tooling, used motor and hydraulic oils and magazines/catalogs.

Also pointing to an emphasis on quality, Blume’s Solid Surface achieved accreditation from the Marble Institute of America. “We were only the 18th shop in the world to be accredited,” she said. “It is a tough process overall, so we wear the badge proudly, it is on our business cards and on our trucks.”

Blume’s Solid Surface was also one of the founding members of the Artisan Group, a North American network of independent countertop professionals sharing best practices. “We’ve been with the Artisan Group since it was founded in 2007,” Goetzinger said. “One of the greatest benefits is networking and having people to share ideas. There is a wealth of knowledge there. The buying power of the group is also incredible.”

In terms of trends, Blume’s Solid Surface is seeing more “tactile finishes” and more unique materials being explored by customers. “People are getting away from the core colors,” Goetzinger said. “People don’t want what their neighbor has.”                      

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