A recent move into a 28,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility in Zion, IL, has allowed Unique Marble and Granite Corp. to produce an average of five to 10 kitchen countertops a day. With the addition of high-end technology, including CNC machines, edge-milling machines, an inventory system, a water filtration system and security devices, the company hopes to double its production rate in the near future.
Owner Daniel Hahn launched the company out of an 800-square-foot shop in Barrington, IL, in 1987, after briefly working with a friend in the stone industry. â€œBasically, I got into the industry after a knock on the door,â€ said Hahn, who added that a friend of his needed help maneuvering stone around. â€œI accepted his offer, and worked hand in hand with him for two years, while he showed me the business. I was so intrigued by it, and there was such a demand for it. The popularity of granite was growing, and technology was advancing fast, bringing down the cost of stone and making it more affordable to the average middle class family.â€ Soon thereafter, Hahn joined the local marble setters union, where he spent a year and a half working on large commercial jobs before starting his own company in 1987.
In 1989, he relocated Unique Marble and Granite Corp. to a 6,300-square-foot facility in Gurnee, IL, where it continued to flourish. In 1999, the company moved next door to a 10,000-square-foot warehouse, slowly acquiring more machinery with each move. In January of 2005, the company moved to its current state-of-the-art facility in Zion, IL. â€œWe couldn't find a location to suit us, until now,â€ said Hahn. â€œNow we have more room to maneuver and to be more organized. It's tough to crank five jobs a day out of a small plant. We used to have to run two shifts.â€
The 28,000-square-foot facility houses a significant amount of high-end technology, including two Italian-made Zonato bridge saws from International Machine Corp. of Holbrook, NY, with a third one on its way. The shop is also equipped with a Breton NC 160 CNC stoneworking center with two tables, enabling the spindle to keep running all day long. Hahn referred to this machine as the â€œRolls Royceâ€ of all CNC machines. Workers also utilize a Comandulli edge-milling machine, a Marmo Meccanica LCV 711M flat polishing machine for countertops and backsplashes. The company uses diamond tooling from ADI Diamond Tooling of Thiene, Italy, which it purchases through GranQuartz.
The newest addition to the Zion-based facility is a water recycling system from Water Filtration System, which allows the company to save money on water bills by re-circulating water throughout the plant. Also, a full security system is currently being installed, which Hahn said will help monitor production through the use of cameras.
In addition, the company recently purchased a sophisticated inventory system. â€œWhen material enters the plant, it gets scanned into the computer by its bar code,â€ explained Hahn. â€œWhen the saw man finishes the hand at task, he retags the leftover material and scans it back into the computer. This makes it easy to find out if we have a half of a slab of something left in case a customer inquires about it.â€
With this state-of-the-art facility, Unique Marble and Granite Corp. is able to produce an average of five to 10 kitchens a day, and hopes to double that rate in the near future. â€œWe pride ourselves on working with all the top homebuilders in Chicago,â€ added Hahn. â€œWe have met them and built strong relationships with them. Many of our jobs come through them. We could get 200 to 300 jobs at a time from a developer.â€
According to General Manager Melissa Smith, the company's production is about 80% residential and 20% commercial. And although 75% of Unique Marble and Granite's work is in natural granite, it is also seeing requests for quartz surfacing.
â€œMany of our problems have been eliminated by moving into the new facility,â€ said Smith. â€œWe have more room to keep slabs in stock, so we don't have to wait for suppliers.â€ The new facility also houses a showroom, which Hahn described as â€œwarm, inviting and opulent.â€
Tony Bogumill, the company's facilities manager, agreed that the new facility allows for a more efficient operation. â€œOur inventory is growing,â€ he said. â€œI place a lot of orders overseas in Brazil and Italy. Slowly but surely, we will house an onsite inventory of 200,000 square feet of slabs at any given time.â€
Hahn admitted that it is often difficult to keep up with production during peak season. â€œWe have to accommodate 10 to 15 subdivisions,â€ he said. â€œWe are at the end of the trade schedule, and builders often ask us to push the schedule up when people ahead of us run behind.â€
According to Bogumill, the company prides itself on customer service and turnaround time from the measurement to the installation. â€œI wish the day was about 36 hours long, so we had more time for installations,â€ he said.
Unique Marble and Granite currently employs a full-service staff of 45. â€œThe union installers we employ are specially trained,â€ said Hahn. â€œWe sponsor most of our employees who are brought into the union. We offer on-the-job training, including shop work and procedure training with qualified individuals.â€
End boxUnique Marble and Granite Corp. Zion, IL
Type of work: residential kitchen countertops
Machinery: Breton NC 160 CNC machine, Comandulli edging machine, three Zonato bridge saws from International Machine Corp., Marmo Meccanica LCV 711M flat edge polishing machine, ADI diamond tooling from GranQuartz, water recycling system from
Water Treatment System
Number of Employees: 45
Production Rate: 5 to 10 kitchens a day