Stone Column

Re-emerging: Serving the production home market

March 1, 2005
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Of all the machinery and tools at Abbott Granite Inc. in Phoenix, AZ, the most impressive piece of equipment may be a simple personal computer. With a production rate of 40 kitchens per week -- primarily for homebuilders -- each job is carefully tracked on a custom-designed program that follows and records all steps of

the process.

The program was created for Abbott Granite to manage scheduling, bidding and inventory, and it carries as many as 120 jobs in the system at one time. Users of the system can track all stages of a job, including templating, sawing, laminating, mock-up and installation. The program keeps a record of what tasks have been completed and also notes if they are currently in progress.

The system also helps troubleshoot problems during the process, as the company can quickly tell where any delays are and why they occurred -- if they were delayed by other tradesmen on the job, for example. The program also includes a “special notes” section for describing the slabs, noting whether the sink is undermounted or top mounted, the model of sink, etc. It also notes the scheduled installation date and other appliances as needed.

The program can also generate a schedule of all templating and installation appointments, allowing management to keep track of all crews. “It is sophisticated, but without it, doing 40 or 50 houses a week would be a nightmare in terms of paperwork,” explained Rusty Abbott, general manager, adding that the program was fine tuned over time.

The computerized operation system is just one of many technological advances implemented by the company, which was founded in 1979 by David Abbott. The 40,000-square-foot operation is comprised of separate work areas, each of which has its own water reclamation pit.

Stone is cut on a bridge saw from Johnson Marble Machinery as well as a Park Industries Cougar with a rotating turntable. For edging, the company has three straight line polishers from Park Industries, the newest of which is the Park Pro Edge III, which runs 30% of the edgework done by the company.

More advanced fabrication is done with a CNC stoneworking machine from Marmo Meccanica. To program the machine after templating, the actual template is pinned to a plotting table, and the dimensions are entered into a CAD program, which ultimately dictates to the machine. The CNC unit was purchased five years ago, and the company has four different people who can operate the machine. “It's helped turnaround time,” explained Rusty Abbott, adding that a typical job is processed within 10 days. He added that there was a “large learning curve” in learning the technology, but it was well worth the investment in time and money. “I think every shop should have one,” Abbott said, adding that they hired a CNC operator before they even bought the machine.

At first, the CNC unit was used for backsplashes as they learned the technology and got used to how the tooling works. They then moved onto processing edges and then began dressing the seams.

The company works mostly in 3-cm stone, which is somewhat uncommon for the area, but satisfies the needs of its customers. Some of these include custom/semi-custom builders and designers such as Continental Homes, Love Development, William Lyon Homes, Andrew Lauren Interiors and Pulte Homes. The company has also completed commercial projects for the Varsity Club of America (Tucson), New Castle Apartments, Fairway Apartments and Phoenician Townhomes.

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