Steady advancement in granite fabrication

September 1, 2005
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Although the family-owned and operated Sellers Tile Co. has been in the stone industry since 1959, it only began fabricating its own work in 1998. Before that, the business strictly focused on ceramic tile installations, and the fabrication of countertop jobs was outsourced. According to current owner, Jerry Sellers, the company started fabricating one or two kitchens a month seven years ago, then progressed to one or two a week. The 6,000-square-foot fabrication shop, located in Wilmington, NC, now produces an average of three to five jobs per day in the residential sector, with a little commercial work as well.

“My father started the tile install business, so I grew up in it,” said Sellers. “Then we got into the granite business, and now both of my sons work here in the granite shop, so it's a real family situation.”

In addition to Sellers and his two sons, the company employs a staff of 40, including the tile installation end and the granite sector.

A Regent Stone Products/Marmo-elettromeccanica Splash straight edge polisher is one of Sellers Tile Co.'s most recent investments. In addition, the company operates a CNC machine from CMS/Brembana, which cut production time in half - from 16 hours a day to eight hours a day. “We used to do the ogee edges and bullnose edges with [a portable router] - it was very labor intensive,” said Sellers. “Now [with the CNC] we can turn out an ogee as quick as we can do a straight edge polish. I don't know how any shop without a CNC can stay in business. You can't control costs as well with a man operator. The CNC machine will tell you before you start what your costs will be and exactly how long it will take. We like this about automated machinery, and feel it is the key to staying in this business.”

A Sawing Systems 541C bridge saw is also in operation at the shop, and “pretty much covers the gamut of anything we do,” according to Sellers. The saw operates for 16 hours a day, and two separate crews rotate the two 8-hour shifts.

The company also has two Regent Master 3000 portable routers for edge details, an overhead crane and a Wood's Powr-Grip vacuum lifter. “The vacuum lifter is also a power tilter so we can lay things down on the CNC machine,” added Sellers. The company purchases its polishing pads, core bits and saw blades from Regent Stone Products, Vic International Corp. and GranQuartz.

Sellers Tile Co. does not require any special training for its staff, but rather it starts employees at the bottom and slowly works them up. “We bring guys in and teach them how to polish on backsplashes, but we are finding that if he did 50 feet a day, it was a good day,” explained Sellers. “The Splash will do 50 feet in 25 minutes, and it is flat and consistent. I hate to think we are just taking all the human elements out of it, but a human just can't do what the machine will do.

“We start guys out polishing splashes, then straight edges, then bullnose, then ogee,” he continued. “Along the way, we teach them how to rod for sinks.”

Sellers Tile Co. also has a stockyard where anywhere from 100 to 250 slabs are stored at a time. “We keep a lot of standard things in stock - slabs that everyone sells - and then a few things that are a little different,” said the owner. “We've been so busy recently, it's pretty phenomenal.”

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