Maryland fabricator strives to meet customer expectations
Serving the Baltimore/Washington, DC, Metro area, including parts of central Pennsylvania, Designer Surfaces Unlimited, Inc. produces an average of 3,500 to 4,000 square feet of stone and quartz surfacing on a weekly basis. The company was founded in 1990 when brothers Greg and Don Fisher realized the value that Corian® countertops brought to the marketplace. Located in Frederick, MD, Designer Surfaces Unlimited began as a fabrication and installation business for Corian, but has since expanded to include other surfaces such as granite and soapstone.
“Designer Surfaces started as a solid surface fabricator,” said President Greg Fisher. “When stone/quartz became more in demand, we did templating and installation, but outsourced the fabrication. Through this, we learned a lot and wanted to provide better fabrication, so we went through Regent Stone Products’ training and got certified in quartz, then we invested in a building and equipment.
“Today, we are a certified fabricator and installer of granite, solid surface, quartz, soapstone and butcher blocks for builders, remodelers, kitchen and bath dealers, in both the commercial and residential marketplaces,” Fisher continued.
According to Fisher, investing in equipment and tooling is the main key to increasing production and making life around the shop easier. Therefore, over the years, the company has invested in a variety of state-of-the-art machinery. Today, the 30,000-square-foot stoneworking facility is equipped with a Northwood SawJET™ from Northwood Machine of Louisville, KY, two Yukon bridge saws from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN, a Marmoelettromeccanica Master 3500 portable router from Regent Stone Products of Virginia Beach, VA, vacuum lifters from Wood’s Powr-Grip of Laurel, MT, two overhead cranes from Crane America Services of Baltimore, MD, and two Intermac Master Stone CNC stoneworking centers supplied by Intermac America of Charlotte, NC.
“Learning the CNCs was a two-month process, and we currently have five trained operators on the staff,” said Fisher, adding that tool calibration is the biggest obstacle. “Overcoming these challenges was achieved by our initial training process as well as trial and error.”
Additionally, the shop houses a water recycling system from Water Treatment Technologies of Hampton, NH. The model #10 was designed specifically for Designer Surfaces based on their equipment and fabrication volume to meet the ebb and flow of the company’s workday, Fisher explained.
According to Fisher, Designer Surfaces Unlimited is currently using CorPlas templating material. “It gives us hard templates to get signatures on, double checks upon installation and protects installed tops from damage by other contractors,” said Fisher.
The company currently has 85 employees, 32 of which work strictly in the stone shop, which operates two shifts. “All of our employees are specialized in different aspects of fabrication,” said Fisher. “New hires come to us via word of mouth mainly, and are trained for their specific position, while some are cross-trained to give maximum flexibility in fabrication.”
To learn about new materials, employees of Designer Surfaces Unlimited attend various trade shows. “We also learn about new things from the distributors that we purchase our slabs from,” Fisher said. “We belong to many professional organizations such as NARI, NAHB, NKBA and MHBA. We are also members of the Marble Institute of America and the International Solid Surface Fabricators Association, which keeps us on the cutting edge of production technology and product knowledge.”
Fisher feels that the biggest challenge for fabricators today is meeting customer expectations. “We achieve this through having a state-of-the-art shop and well-trained salespeople,” he said.