In the fast-paced business world of Las Vegas, NV, getting the job done right, on budget and in the shortest time is the secret to success. At least that’s been the case for the T. Nickolas Co., a leading supplier of fabricated stone products to the hotel/casino resort industry there.
To meet the demand, T. Nickolas recently expanded its operations by adding to its original 10,500-square-foot facility with the addition of a 33,000-square-foot complex to accommodate its increasing workload. This new facility consists of a 15,000-square-foot fabricating shop/warehouse and 18,000 square feet of office space. Meanwhile, the original facility is now being used as a staging warehouse.
The company, established in 1988, has been growing each year at the rate of some 10 to 15%, and it currently has annual sales of over $40 million, 98% for commercial projects. The company primarily supplies vanity tops and other stone fabricated products to the rapidly growing hotel/casino resort industry in the area.
“In Las Vegas, the rate of change is increasing all the time,” said Shane Switzer, general manager of T. Nickolas Co. “The successful suppliers and contractors for this high-powered market are the ones who can respond quickly and dependably with top-quality products and services to meet this demand.”
Indicative of the capabilities of T. Nickolas is the reputation they have earned up and down the Las Vegas strip, as evidenced by the fact that the company does no advertising, according to Switzer. “Everything is word of mouth,” he said. “The contractors look for suppliers that can get it done right and as fast and reliably as possible.”
Key success factorsAn important ingredient in T. Nickolas’ ability to perform at this high level, in addition to the skill of its craftsmen, is the reliability, precision and ease of operation of the five automatic Marmo Meccanica S.p.A. machines that form the backbone of the firm’s production operations, added Switzer.
These machines -- purchased from Marmo Machinery USA of Southfield, MI -- consist of three HTO-1B bridge saws, an LCV straight edge polishing machine and an LCT-522 bullnose polishing machine. “All are easy to run, maintain and are very reliable,” said Switzer. “We work them all day long with virtually no problems. We have 15 operators, all cross-trained to operate any of the machines. So we always have a trained, experienced operator on hand for each machine.”
During the course of an average work day, the T. Nickolas crew processes 30 to 40 slabs -- 150 slabs on average every week, explained Switzer. “In our industry, we have specialty and repetitious tops. We will run 2,500 vanity tops with the same detail, and then we will do the entire casino low-rise bar tops, cash cages, buffet tops and registration tops for a job,” he said. “We push out some 350 feet of marble tile trim about every 45 to 50 minutes.”
All products are cut and fabricated at the shop, then shipped to the jobsite. “Basically, everything starts at the bridge saws, where the panels are cut to size, then sent to the fabricators for lamination, then to the polishing machines for final touch-up,” explained Switzer.
The HTO-1B bridge saws are fully automatic machines that are well-suited for quick and accurate cutting of granite and marble slabs. They were selected because they are rugged and well built, according to the company. Each has a double-beam bridge and oversized steel construction that lends itself to T. Nickolas’ demanding, non-stop cutting jobs. Just as important, the operators like it because controls are easily understood and simple to operate. Plus, the saws are programmable, allowing the operators to program their movement in manual, semi-automatic and automatic cutting mode.
Another feature of the bridge saw that the operators find attractive is a hydraulic tilting table that assists in loading slabs on the cutting surface, which greatly reduces manpower requirements as well as reducing potential injuries to shop personnel. The table also is easily rotated and lockable at any angle position. An angle shot indicator displays the angle at which the table is being rotated through, which assists the operator in positioning angle cuts quickly and accurately.
Following bridge saw cutting and lamination, slabs go to the edge polishers. The Marmo Meccanica LCT 522 CAI edge-polishing machine features a user-friendly operating system. It produces 30 to 60 lineal feet of 3-cm bullnose edgework per hour, with no human intervention because edge processing on this unit is continuous. Different pieces of identical thickness are inserted sequentially without the need to change forming or polishing heads. In addition to squared off or inclined edges, the unit polishes toroidal edges, rounded and other convex shapes.
The Marmo LCV edge-polishing machine executes polished flat edges in one pass. It processes many types of edge treatments and can automatically chamfer upper and lower edges when necessary. The company cited the machine’s fast production speed -- up to 100 lineal feet per hour, which helps control the volume of granite, marble and other natural stones that T. Nickolas processes.
Granite is the material of choice for most jobs, according to Switzer, although there are a lot of more exotic materials being used as well for walls, cladding, floors, mosaics and other works. Exotic materials have included Perigo Light and Honey onyx, and Switzer estimated that he used 7,500 square feet of this onyx over the course of the last year.
Demand is triggered by the rapidly changing hotel and casino scene in Las Vegas. “New hotels and casinos are going up all the time, and about every three years, at least one of the existing resorts does a major renovation in order to stay competitive,” Switzer said. “In some cases, an older casino/hotel is simply imploded and rebuilt, which is often less expensive than remodeling.
“The products we create for these projects include vanities, shower stalls and so forth in the guest rooms, plus an array of fabricated stone applications throughout the low-rise areas of the casino/hotels in such areas as change booths, cocktail bars and restaurants, registration counters, elevator lobbies -- virtually every area in a casino,” he continued.
For many of these projects, T. Nickolas is working as a major subcontractor to the Perini Building Co., one of the leading builders of hospitality and casinos projects in the U.S.
High profile projectsSome of the projects completed by T. Nickolas include:
· The multi-billion-dollar Project CityCenter of MGM Mirage, one of the largest building construction programs currently underway in the U.S. This urban complex covers 66 acres between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo Casino Resorts in Las Vegas. It includes a 4,000-room hotel tower, casino, convention center, showroom, approximately 500,000 square feet of retail and restaurants, three branded boutique hotels and numerous residential towers. Launched in 2005, the entire project is planned for completion by the end of 2009.
· The recently completed Red Rock Casino Resort and Spa built for Station Casinos Inc., one of the leading gaming corporations in the nation. Red Rock, the first billion-dollar resort built off the Las Vegas Strip, is being built in two phases. Phase I features 415 rooms and suites, while Phase II will add an additional 435 rooms for a total of 850 rooms. Perini is the general contractor for both phases.
· Encore at Wynn Las Vegas, the $1.4-billion second phase of Wynn Las Vegas, which will add 2,000 rooms to the 2,700-room first phase when Encore opens in 2010. The second phase also will add more casino space, restaurants and a new pool and spa. The guest rooms will be about 20% larger than the rooms in Wynn Las Vegas and will include a living room. Tutor-Saliba is the general contractor.
Other activities have included supplying major remodeling projects in Metro Las Vegas for Harrah’s, Caesars Palace, Bally’s and Flamingo.