Technology Yields Success for Alabama Shop
June 3, 2009
With a background in commercial real estate, Michael and Suzanne Flanagan started Select Granite, Inc. in 2002 with a 5,000-square-foot facility in Pelham, AL. Today, the company is also marketing itself as Design Center South, and company growth has led the owners to acquire 6 acres of land with a stoneworking facility now measuring nearly 20,000 square feet. Among the machinery investments, the addition of a dual-table Northwood SawJet from Northwood Machine Manufacturing Co. of Louisville, KY, has specifically changed the face of its business, according to Scott Spector, General Manager of Select Granite, Inc.
Spector explained that the Northwood dual-table SawJet, which utilizes a waterjet pump and cutting nozzle from KMT Waterjet Systems of Baxter Springs, KS, has made a huge difference with production. “It took the shop away from an analog type of operation where you’re using a tape measure,” he said, adding that this machine was the company’s most recent investment. “It [allowed us to] digitize everything, and eliminated most of the mundane errors that used to occur. By digitizing everything and streamlining everything into production, it’s made a reduction in our transaction costs.
“It’s turned our business upside down,” Spector continued. “We’ve consciously and strategically moved away from the builder segment, and we’ve strategically aligned ourselves with the premier general contractors in the Southeast in the commercial and hospitality sectors in a big way.”
Additionally, the SawJet has facilitated the company to yield stone quicker and better, and reduce waste significantly, according to Spector. This enables Select Granite, Inc. to now charge by the square foot and not by the slab for all exotic and rare stones. “Tracking costs used to be a difficult task, but our processes allow us to find true profitability in each project,” he said, adding that what was once considered “waste” material can now be better utilized.
For intricate profiling and edging, the company utilizes a Northwood CNC stoneworking center. Slabs are cut in the shop with a GMM Eura 35 bridge saw, which is manufactured in Italy and supplied through Salem Stone of Winston-Salem, NC, and edging is also completed with the help of a Montresor Lola 400 edger, which is made in Italy and supplied through Salem Stone.
Because of all of the machinery investments made, the company has been able to go from two shifts to one. “When we were in the smaller building, we ran two shifts because of time and capacity,” explained Spector. “Moving here, we’ve tripled our footprint and could legitimately produce up to 2,000 square feet with one shift. So there’s really no need to put another shift on because of the machinery.”
Select Granite plans to add a second Northwood CNC stoneworking center. “The gains realized with two CNCs allow for even more throughput,” said Spector.
Besides natural stone, production also allows for quartz surfacing as well as slabs of glass, recycled glass and steel. Of the slab work, 80 to 85% is granite, with a half of that amount being exotics, and 15 to 17% is quartz. The projects are templated using an LT-55 from Laser Products of Romeoville, IL, and a Proliner digital templating system, manufactured by Prodim of The Netherlands.
At its peak, the shop will have 15 workers, while 12 to 15 is the standard. The company also has two to three of its own installation crews.
Commercial and institutional work makes up 40% of Select Granite’s sales, and residential remodel and retail comprise 30%. Meanwhile, hospitality and residential production and estate builders separately make up 15% each.
Recent projects by Select Granite, Inc. include several condominium projects in Birmingham, AL. Work is currently being done on the Hallman Hill Lofts in Homewood, AL, for Arlington Construction Services and Victoryland Oasis Hotel & Casino in Shorter, AL, for Brasfield & Gorrie.
The company relies on clientele from what Spector calls a relationship market. “It’s all about who you know, who you fish with, who you go to the symphony with and so on,” he said.
Having goals to maintain those relationships, Select Granite, Inc. remains optimistic that the market will come back. “On a short term, we want to nurture and cultivate existing relationships, so that when the builder market does come back, we’ll be properly positioned,” Spector concluded.
Sidebar: Select Granite, Inc.Pelham, AL
Type of work: residential production, commercial, hospitality and residential remodel
Machinery: a GMM Eura 35 bridge saw, which is manufactured in Italy and supplied through Salem Stone of Winston-Salem, NC; a CNC stoneworking center and SawJet from Northwood Machine Manufacturing Co. of Louisville, KY, equipped with a pump and nozzle from KMT Waterjet Systems of Baxter Springs, KS; and a Montresor Lola 400 edger, which is made in Italy and supplied through Salem Stone
Number of Employees: 10 to 12 in shop
Production Rate: capacity for 2,000 square feet a day