Fabricator Case Study: Childhood experience leads to state-of-the-art fabrication shop

April 4, 2006
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Planet Granite occupies a 28,000-square-foot space, including a fabricating facility, in-house slab storage area and a showroom, in Colorado Springs, CO. Among the machinery in the fabricating shop is an Intermac Pro CNC from AGM.

Adam Bauer, president of Planet Granite Inc. in Colorado Springs, CO, was first introduced to the stone industry at a young age. “I would spend my summers in high school in Aspen, working in the stone and tile industries with my father,” he explained. “At age 14, grinding marble and grouting were not high on my 'enjoying life' list, but the industry was sprouting a seed in me without my knowledge of ever knowing where it could lead.” The experience and knowledge that Bauer gained while working in the field as a teenager pushed him to build a career in the stone business. And now, as a young adult, he owns a solid operation that produces large-scale customized stonework for high-end homes in the area.

“The CNCs have been amazing since we have purchased them,” said Adam Bauer, president of Planet Granite. “Any machinery that we have bought, for that matter, has been a great asset.”
“After high school, I worked with my father up in Telluride,” said Bauer. “When I was 22, my father and I didn't have money to start, but we knew what we were doing. We had a couple of grinders, so we had our first customer give us a deposit, and we went and bought an old truck with that money. We had a friend of ours cut the slabs for us up in Aspen and paid for the slabs with the final check after install. After a while, we rented a barn with a burning stove for heat. It was crazy. We had to unload the slabs with a hoist, and then push the slab over to our large table - and '1, 2, 3, go' - and three of us would tilt it onto the hand-made table. We didn't have a forklift or saw yet, so we would cut every job by hand, bullnose every job with a cup wheel, and that stove never really did work.”

Within the next eight years, Bauer and his father's business gradually expanded, and they moved to several different locations to accommodate the company's growth. Today, Planet Granite occupies a total of 28,000 square feet, including a fabrication shop, in-house slab storage area and a showroom.

“I think growing pains are something that everyone in this industry deals with,” said the fabricator, adding that he would not be in the position he is in today without the knowledge and continuing support he receives from his father. “It's been eight years for me. I'm 30 years old, and I feel like it's just starting. We have a solid team, in which many of our guys I grew up with in high school or met snowboarding. We've succeeded in having a positive and safe environment.”

Additional equipment in the shop includes two Yukon saws from Park Industries.

The set-up

The company's operation is set up in two buildings - one for manufacturing and one to house slabs and slab layouts as well as providing an area for the installation crews to work. The majority of the fabricating machinery is from Park Industries. The shop is equipped with two Yukon saws, a Pro Edge III and Destiny CNC machine, all from Park.

“Park Industries has been remarkably great with their service and product,” said Bauer. “For instance, it has been about a year since the purchase of the Destiny. The spindle went out due to water, and they were here within two days to fix it.”

Additionally, Planet Granite recently purchased an Intermac Pro CNC machine from AGM. “The CNCs have been amazing since we have purchased them,” said the fabricator. “Any machinery that we have bought, for that matter, has been a great asset.”

A Park Industries Pro Edge III is also essential in producing the company's high-end custom work.
The company obtains its tools and accessories from GranQuartz and Hard Rock Tool.

In total, the company employs about 50 people, including installers, yard crew, importing, administration, sales, estimators, managers and fabricators. Of this number, about 15 workers are in the shop.

Currently, the operation is outputting approximately 5,500 square feet a month, and it is gearing up to increase this number. “I am confident that this facility will handle 9,000 square feet a month,” said Bauer. “We have a little excess in square feet [in the shop], but I have learned to have that room for growth - especially if the opportunity is there to embrace.”

Approximately 90% of Planet Granite's jobs are residential countertops and vanities.

A high-end market

According to the fabricator, the shop is running two shifts. “The second shift is not in full throttle as of yet,” he explained. “A lot of our work is huge custom projects. Recently, our reputation has hit the production builders, and they have started to use us. Things are changing in that regard, but we still insist on quality first. If the quality starts to get jeopardized, then that growth is not worth it.”

Breaking it down, approximately 10% of Planet Granite's work is for commercial jobs, while the other 90% is residential projects. “The majority of our work is slab, and mostly natural stone,” said Bauer. “I would say we are about 50/50 on the builders/designers verses residential direct clientele. We have a nice showroom that clients, designers and builders enjoy visiting, plus the inventory to choose from makes it a good experience for the customer.”

Among the company's more high-profile jobs was a residence for ABC's “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” “We had the opportunity to donate $20,000 worth of granite countertops,” said Bauer. “That was fun, and after I saw the family, I finally saw that we were doing this for more than just the publicity. I had never watched the show before we were invited to participate.”

In addition, the company has completed a large project for Grace Church in Colorado Springs, an 80-unit high-rise complex and slab work in a 25,000-square-foot home that was well over $100,000, according to Bauer. “We are now doing a nice job for the airport,” he said. “The production builders have been a nice source of reliable work as well, but the bread and butter has always been in the residential work and their word of mouth.”

In addition to the fabrication shop, the company has a second building to store slabs and slab layouts as well as providing an area for the installation crews to work.

An expansive stone collection

For about four years now, Bauer has been importing material directly from Brazil. “I received a call from a Brazilian producer, who asked me to come down to look at material,” explained Bauer. “I took him up on his offer, although I had no clue what to expect. What a great experience South America was, though. The people are wonderful, and now I am off to Brazil once or twice a year to pick quality stone, visit quarries and learn more.”

The fabricator went on to say that he also visits Italy regularly to buy material. “We have about six suppliers in Denver, and we don't need to import, but I love doing it now,” he said. “I like to offer our clients many options, and I like them to be able to choose their material immediately and not have to run all over Colorado looking for colors.”

When citing future goals for his company, Bauer said that the primary focus for the next couple of years is to hit 9,000 square feet a month in production, without sacrificing quality. “Looking at our company now, I am very excited, but I always see so many things that we could be doing better,” he said. “There is always something to adjust, which creates a chain reaction of tune-ups. I wouldn't have it any other way. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.”

“We have about six suppliers in Denver, and we don't need to import, but I love doing it now,” said Bauer. “I like to offer our clients many options, and I like them to be able to choose their material immediately and not have to run all over Colorado looking for colors.”

Planet Granite Inc.
Colorado Springs, CO

Type of work: 90% custom residential and 10% commercial

Machinery: two Yukon saws, a Pro Edge III and Destiny CNC machine - all from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN; Intermac Pro CNC from AGM of Pineville, NC; tools and accessories from GranQuartz of Tucker, GA, and Hard Rock Tool of Denver, CO

Number of Employees: 50

Production Rate: approximately 5,500 square feet per month

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