FABRICATOR CASE STUDIES: Large-scale Stone Fabrication

March 13, 2006
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Plan-It Granite & Marble (PGM) operates out of two locations, including a 60,000-square-foot facility in Sterling, VA, and a 35,000-square-foot facility in Itasca, IL. Both locations are equipped with a vast amount of high-end technology from Marmo Meccanica, enabling the company to produce an average of 35 to 45 kitchens per day.


Operating out of two locations in Virginia and Illinois, Plan-It Granite & Marble relies on a vast amount of machinery for high-quality production

Plan-It Granite & Marble (PGM) operates out of two locations, including a 60,000-square-foot facility in Sterling, VA, and a 35,000-square-foot facility in Itasca, IL. Working with granite, marble and engineered stone, PGM's production is comprised mainly of countertop fabrication, and it also does work for the commercial market, including exterior facades.

The company's Virginia-based location houses two CTEC CNC stoneworking centers from Marmo Meccanica, and the Illinois location is equipped with one as well.
In 1997, John Stathis had just completed the sale of an unrelated business he owned in Atlanta, GA. While researching for his next endeavor, he saw a great opportunity in the granite industry, and began working with a friend who happened to own a granite shop. In 1998, after much research and training at his friend's shop, Stathis decided to open his own company. He started Plan-It Granite & Marble out of an 8,000-square-foot building in Sterling, VA, and at the time, it housed a Sawing Systems bridge saw, a Marmo Meccanica 5222 edge polishing machine, a Ghines Sector hand router and other various hand tools. As the company expanded, it added 6,000 square feet of space to its facility, and purchased new state-of-the-art equipment.

In total, the company operates five HTO-1B fully automatic bridge saws, also from Marmo Meccanica.
In 2002, PGM launched another location in Itasca, IL. The 35,000-square-foot shop is currently equipped with a variety of machinery from Marmo Meccanica of Southfield, MI, including two HTO-1B bridge saws, two LCT 522 vertical polishing machines, two LCV 711 flat edge polishing machines and one CTEC CNC stoneworking center.

PGM's shops also house a total of five LCV 711M flat edge polishing machines.
In August 2005, PGM of Virginia designed and built its current 60,000-square-foot facility, which is also equipped with Marmo Meccanica equipment, including three HTO-1B bridge saws, three LCT 522 vertical edge polishers, three LCV 711 flat edge polishing machines and two CTEC CNC stoneworking centers. In addition, the shop utilizes two overhead cranes for material handling and six jib cranes, as well as other various polishing, dust collection and water recovery machines. Additionally, PGM is in the process of designing its own software system.

Air vacuum-powered slab lifters help move slabs around the facility.
According to Jeremy Nix, the company's Director of Operations at the Virginia location, the CNCs required the most training. “Fortunately, we have several employees with AutoCAD experience, and our Production Manager has had extensive training with the CTEC CNC, so the learning curve was not too bad,” he said. “We currently have six employees who are trained on the three CNCs we operate, and we constantly train current employees with the desire and proficiency to learn.

PGM's most recent investment is the development of a new integrated software package, which is custom built to the company's specifications and needs. Nix said it will “fully automate production lines and inventory, as well as, play an important role with scheduling, expediting and accounting.”

The company currently fabricates an average of 1,500 to 2,000 square feet a day between its two locations -- which is equivalent to 35 to 45 kitchens. Furthermore, PGM fabricates full slabs only.

According to Nix, half of PGM's customer base is for new home construction, ranging from the largest national builder to the most detailed custom builder. The company also does some commercial work, including condominium conversions and exterior finishes, as well as work for kitchen and bath shops, general contractors and end-use customers.

The Virginia location also relies on overhead cranes for material handling, and they were purchased along with jib cranes primarily for safety reasons.
PGM's Illinois-based staff consists of 26 employees, while the Virginia location employs a staff of 82. Nix said that each employee in the shop has a different level of experience, and each is hired to fill a specific position. “Once our employees become proficient at their current position, they are encouraged to learn as much as they possibly can about other responsibilities throughout the shop,” he said. “As their knowledge and experience increases, they obviously become more valuable to our organization, and when new positions become available, they get first dibs. Once a new employee is ready to begin the fabrication process, they are assigned to a senior member of the shop, who supervises them until they are ready to perform their job on their own.

“In terms of our installers, each employee is started as a helper,” he continued. “Only after they have mastered their skills can they become a lead installer, and all lead installers are hired from within.”

PGM's training begins with safety, according to Nix, who said that safety equipment is provided for every employee and required to be worn at all times. “Our biggest concern is the handling of material,” said Nix, adding that all employees must have a clear understanding of the dangers of granite. “In fact, we have retained the services of an outside firm which gives us weekly surprise visits to critique our operation and to give us advice on how best to ensure the safety of everyone.”

In August 2005, PGM of Virginia designed and built its current 60,000-square-foot facility.
Nix also said that the overhead cranes and jib cranes were purchased primarily for safety reasons. “We did not want the forklifts operating in the fabrication area, and the least amount of physical handling, the better,” he said.

PGM brings in about six to eight containers a month. “We find that buying direct allows us to operate at the capacity our customers have demanded, as well as maintain a fixed cost to ongoing projects,” said Nix. “All of our local distributors play an important role in our daily purchases as well.”

According to Nix, the greatest challenge for reputable fabricators today is to separate one's self from the rest. “Fortunately for PGM, we have maintained a large customer base by doing what we say we will and standing behind our product,” he said, adding that PGM also prides itself on producing a quality product with excellent turnaround time and customer service. “That has gotten us to where we are today and that will carry us on in the future.

“We maintain good relationships with our tool, equipment and slab suppliers as well as other fabricators,” he continued. “In doing so, we feel we can keep our fingers on the pulse of the industry.”

Plan-It Granite & Marble

Sterling, VA and Itasca, IL

Type of work: countertops, some commercial work, exterior facades

Machinery: Itasca, IL -- Marmo Meccanica machinery, including two HTO1B bridge saws, two LCT 522 vertical polishing machines, two LCV 711 flat edge polishing machines, and a CTEC CNC stoneworking center. Sterling, VA -- three HTO1B bridge saws, three LCT 522 vertical edge polishers, three LCV 711 flat edge polishing machines, two CTEC CNC stoneworking centers, two overhead cranes, six jib cranes, plus other various polishing, dust collection and water recovery machines

Number of Employees: 108 between both locations

Production Rate: 35 to 45 kitchens a day between both locations

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