Operating fabrication facilities that total more than
100,000 square feet, Top Master of Kansas
City, KS, grew from a
garage shop through expanding, investing and excellent customer service.
For a company founded in the garage of its original
owner, it is apparent that Top Master, Inc. of Kansas City, KS, has led a
successful path - now operating fabricating facilities that total more than
100,000 square feet. Over the years, the company has continued to thrive
through expansion, investments and excellent customer
Formed in 1984, Top Master originally provided solid surface countertops to
kitchen dealers, builders and remodelers throughout the Kansas City Metro area.
“We quickly became known as a company that offered top-quality products and
superior customer service, and expanded our services to the commercial
industry,” said Manager of the Commercial Division, Mike Varone.
Slabs are processed on two CNC stoneworking centers
from Northwood Machine Manufacturing Co. of Louisville, KY. The machines are
equipped with vaccum pods from Blick Industries of Laguna Beach, CA.
Besides expanding its client sector, which is
comprised of 70 percent residential work and 30 percent commercial, Top Master
- an Artisan Group member - additionally moved into stone processing, which
currently makes up 60 percent of its market. This includes Artisan Stone
Collection granite and marble, along with Saratoga Soapstone. Additionally, it
fabricates engineered stone, such as Silestone, HanStone, CaesarStone, LG
Viateria, Radianz, Vetrazzo from Polycor and IceStone. With the ability to
fabricate 1,000 square feet of stone and 1,200 square feet of solid surface a
day, the company can produce anything from kitchen countertops, vanities and
bar tops to stone and solid surface cladding and complicated commercial design
Top Master’s biggest advancement in recent times, however, has been the
conversion of its templating and fabrication process from manual to automated.
“We’ve become more efficient through automation in our production lines and
more sophisticated in our approach,” said Stone Shop Manager Dale Jordan. “In
this economy, you have to produce more product for less money.”
Additional equipment includes a Northwood NW-257
high-tech dual-table SawJet, which aids in producing curves and complex work.
Equipment and investments
Top Master’s main facility in Kansas
City, KS, is about
60,000 square feet, which primarily houses its solid surface warehouse,
corporate office and showroom. Its separate granite shop is 30,000 square feet,
and the company has an additional 15,000-square-foot facility in Wichita, KS,
which houses an installation facility and showroom.
Equipment for Top Master includes a NW-257 high-tech dual-table SawJet from
Northwood Machine Manufacturing Co. of Louisville, KY, which aids in producing
curves and complex work. The SawJet utilizes a waterjet pump and cutting nozzle
from KMT Waterjet Systems of Baxter Springs, KS. For advanced edge processing,
two Northwood 158EDS CNC stoneworking centers are in place, which utilize ADI
tools from GranQuartz of Tucker, GA, as well as tools from and Tyrolit of
Italy. The CNC machines are equipped with vacuum pods from Blick Industries of
Laguna Beach, CA.
Slabs are additionally cut by four HTO-1B bridge saws from Marmo Meccanica of
Italy, and flat edgework is completed with the help of two LCV 711 flat
edge-polishing machines and four LCT 522 vertical polishing machines also from
Marmo Meccanica. A Pro-Edge III automated edging machine from Park Industries
of St. Cloud, MN, also helps with edgework, and material is maneuvered
throughout the shops using vacuum lifters from Anver Corp. of Hudson, MA.
The Northwood SawJet utilizes a waterjet pump and
cutting nozzle from KMT Waterjet Systems of Baxter Springs, KS.
The company most recently added Proliner digital
templating units from Prodim USA of Vero Beach, FL, for digital templating.
“The accuracy and the speed of this new equipment has been a definite time and
money saver,” said Michael Combest, Continuous Improvement Manager. “In order
to survive in the current marketplace and stay ahead of the competition, Top
Master knew that by making such an investment, it would make us the most
capable and cost-effective solid surface and stone fabricator in the region.”
Moreover, the company uses the SlabsmithTM system from Northwood Designs, Inc.
of Antwerp, NY. The system was designed as both a
manufacturing aid and sales tool. A digital photo of the slab is taken, and the
system’s Perfect MatchTM module is for optimized nesting of the various parts.
The system allows the user to quickly and easily manipulate the nest for the
best results, and users can watch the results in real time as the nest changes.
A picture of the finished countertop can be created for customer approval, and
a DXF file of the nest can be exported for manufacturing.
Jobs and inventory are managed through JobTracker software from Moraware of
Reno, NV, and the company has also recently invested in updating its vehicle
and shipping fleet.
Along with the aid of technology, Top Master reports that the dedication of its
employees has helped combat the current economic conditions and the challenge
of increased competition.
Material is maneuvered throughout the shops using
vacuum lifters from Anver Corp. of Hudson,
Devotion to great service
Top Master currently employs 170 individuals, many of which take the extra step
to ensure what the company calls “overall great service.” “We do everything we
can to maintain that status,” said Chief Operating Officer, Dan Richardson. “On
the residential side, if customers have problems, we take care of them. For us,
we’ve chosen to get a little deeper in partnerships with Lowe’s, Home Depot,
etc. We’ve taken a much larger market share of those companies than anybody
else. Those are the forefront of [our] remodel work.”
“All of our employees are proactive with having face time with customers and
developing relationships so they feel comfortable,” added
Because a large amount of Top Master’s employees have been with the company for
more than a decade - rising from entry level - many are able to excel at every
facet of fabrication and installation, according to Combest. The company also
welcomes new employees to its business, but it has a stringent hiring
“We are always excited to hire people that can bring new ideas and innovation
to the company,” said Richardson.
“But we do not take the decision to hire the right person lightly. The hiring
process is pretty intense; we do not make our decision solely on whether the
candidate has specific industry experience. We look at each candidate’s worth
of integrity, honesty, ability to communicate, and the ability and willingness
to learn our trade. In addition, we put our new hires through a lengthy series
of post-screening tests that help to ensure the safety of our employees and
“Our training program is more like an apprenticeship,” he continued. “There is
some form of class training, but the most valuable training we offer is
hands-on job training. Our craftsmanship leaders, also referred to as the
artists of the company, take pride in training the new hires.”
Templating is done using the Proliner digital
templating system from Prodim USA of Vero Beach (an example of which is
Getting its market share
Top Master’s residential work covers all of Kansas. It additionally has customers in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Oklahoma and Illinois. “We have work
that has gone as far as Japan and all over North America for our customers -
because they are in different markets as well,” said
The company recently completed work for Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas
City, MO, Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, MO, Scott Air Force Base in
Bellville, IL, Mercy West Lakes Hospital in Des Moines, IA, Kansas University
Medical Center in Kansas City, MO, the Kansas City Chiefs’ training facility
and offices in Kansas City, MO, Garmin World Headquarters in Olathe, KS, and
Denver Children’s Hospital in Denver, CO.
Throughout the Continental U.S., work has been completed for such franchises as
Applebee’s, McAlister’s Deli, Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Denny’s, Chuck E. Cheese,
McDonald’s, Smash Burger, TCBY, KFC, Fuddruckers, Burger King, Arby’s, Blanc
Burger, Taco Johns, Flying J’s, QT, Schlotzky’s, Panchero’s and Carlos
Ongoing projects that Top Master has recently been awarded are the TD Ameritrade
Park Omaha in Omaha, NE, which will house the NCAA Division I Men’s College
Baseball World Series, the Kansas City Wizards MLS stadium for soccer,
Hendrick’s Memorial Hospital in Abilene, TX, and with three phases of the
Richard Bolling Federal Building in downtown Kansas City, MO, being completed,
Top Master has just been awarded phase four.
According to Varone, Top Master anticipates continuing to provide
top-of-the-line products and services to its customers. It is also strives to
be an employer of choice and wants to continue growing through expansion into
Top Master, Inc. is part of the Artisan Group, a
national organization of independent granite fabricators that have joined
together to offer the Artisan StoneTM Collection, the first and only brand of
granite wholly owned by Artisan Group, which has a comprehensive lifetime
warranty. The group also offers Heritage WoodTM countertops and Kohler sinks
Top Master is one of Artisan Group’s founding members. “Being part of the
Artisan Group has given us national exposure through their extensive marketing,
PR and advertising efforts,” said Mike Kaufmann, President of Top Master, Inc.
“Their upper-end products and warranties have afforded us the opportunity to
cater an upper-end customer as well as bring variety of product choices across
Group members average more than 20 years of fabrication experience in the
countertop industry. Moreover, all Artisan Group members have achieved - or
have begun the process to achieve - full accreditation with the Marble
Institute of America. The group is among the first granite fabricators in the
world to be working towards this distinction. Artisan Group also provides a
complete line of granite care products including: FirstlineTM Sealer,
FirstlineTM Clean & Restore and FirstlineTM Shine.
Top Master, Inc.
Kansas City, KS
Type of work: A range of products in stone and solid surface for the commercial
and residential community
Machinery and equipment: two 158EDS CNC stoneworking centers and a NW-257 high
tech, dual-table SawJet - all from Northwood Machine Manufacturing Co. of
Louisville, KY; a waterjet pump and cutting nozzle for the SawJet from KMT
Waterjet Systems of Baxter Springs, KS; ADI CNC tooling from GranQuartz of
Tucker, GA; CNC tooling from Tyrolit of Italy; CNC vacuum pods from Blick
Industries of Laguna Beach, CA; four HTO-1B bridge saws, two LCV 711 flat
edge-polishing machines and four LCT 522 vertical polishing machines - all from
Marmo Meccanica of Italy; a Park Pro-Edge III automated edging machine from
Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN; a vacuum lifter from Anver Corp. of Hudson,
MA; a SlabsmithTM nesting system from Northwood Designs, Inc. of Antwerp, NY;
Proliner digital templating system from Prodim USA of Vero Beach, FL;
JobTracker software from Moraware of Reno, NV; and vehicle and shipping
Number of Employees: 170
Production Rate: Ability to fabricate 1,000 square feet of stone and 1,200
square feet of solid surface a day
The company uses the SlabsmithTM system from Northwood
Designs, Inc. of Antwerp, NY. The system was designed as both a manufacturing
aid and sales tool. A digital photo of the slab is taken, and the system’s
Perfect MatchTM module is for optimized nesting of the various parts.
The company utilizes Moraware’s JobTracker software to
help manage jobs and inventory (an example of which is pictured).
A range of color selections can be found in Top
Master’s showroom, with displays of engineered stone from companies, including
Silestone, HanStone, CaesarStone quartz surfacing, LG Viateria, Radianz,
Vetrazzo from Polycor and IceStone.
Top Master recently completed front reception and bar
area work for Studio Movie Grill, which features DuPont Zodiaq.