CNC Technology Aids in Large-Scale Fabricator's Success
After first establishing itself as a supplier of exclusive stone materials, UGMC of Santa Fe Springs, CA, has developed into a full-production fabrication and installation shop filled with the latest machinery and technological advances, including a range of equipment utilizing CNC technology. Its current production facility is more than 100,000 square feet in size, featuring a 6,000-square-foot showroom, a 47,000-square-foot fabrication shop and a 50,000-square-foot slab yard. The company, which is solely owned by Dave Yaghjian, additionally has two other locations with slab galleries and showrooms in Escondido, CA, and Banning, CA.
Twenty-three years ago, UGMC began as a wholesaler, predominantly importing Indonesian marble. This was during a time when Italian marble dominated the U.S. market, according to the company. UGMC has supplied material throughout the U.S. to major distributors for a range of prestigious projects, including the Bellagio Hotel, Mandalay Bay, Aladdin Hotel, Paris Hotel, the Mirage and the Luxor - all in Las Vegas, NV - in addition to the Four Seasons Resort in Dallas, TX; and the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Maui, HI.
Armstrong said that UGMC was able to reach its current capacity due to the dedication of its staff and customer service. Additionally, she noted the machinery and technology investments that UGMC has made through the years.
In citing some of its notable machinery investments, UGMC points to the CNC bridge saws as particularly valuable for the company. It currently owns a GMM Rotex CNC bridge saw as well as a GMM Litox CNC bridge saw, both of which were manufactured in Italy and supplied through Salem Stone of Winston-Salem, NC.
The GMM Rotex is a three-axis CNC bridge saw (four-axis including the head rotation), and it is capable of producing accurate non-parallel, orthogonal and oblique cuts as well as complex profiles and circumference cuts all with a blade. It is used for complex interior work, such as spiral staircases and other curved work. It features a rotating head rather than a rotating table, brushless motors and linear bearings on the X-axis slide.
The five-axis GMM Litox is an automatic CNC bridge saw capable of 360-degree head rotation and 90-degree head tilt. Both of the GMM CNC bridge saws utilize “Slab-Cam” technology, which uses an overhead camera to electronically display a real time image of the slab positioned on the table. The templates for any given project are simply “dragged and dropped” on the touch-screen to be viewed superimposed over the actual slab. Utilizing the touch-screen, the template can be positioned anywhere on the slab to include or exclude features from a particular area of the workpiece. Once the template is positioned, the saw will automatically cut the shape. Users can also nest multiple cuts to optimize the slab with a state-of-the-art “drag and drop” operation.
According to Armstrong, the GMM Litox was purchased in late 2007, a time when the company had just been awarded the Skyline Condominium project in Irvine, CA. “The timing of this acquisition could not have been more perfect,” she said. “There are 349 condominium units - each one with about 95 square feet of countertop space and about 55 linear feet of 1 ½- to 2-inch mitered apron detailing. Because this saw allows us to rotate the head 360 degrees, we were able to cut the island without wasting time moving it in different angles, which saves a lot of time. Plus its 90-degree head tilt capability allows us to cut the miter about 45 degrees on each exposed edge as well as each lamination piece in one step instead of cutting the straight edge and then having to tilt the head to cut the miter. Because it is totally programmable, every cut is precise, which is vital in achieving a seamless look in the miter detail.”
In all, the Skyline Condominium project including the public areas called for UGMC to cut and install about 42,000 square feet of material and 35,000 linear feet of mitered cuts, according to Armstrong. “This project alone has made the investment worth every penny,” she said.
Advanced cutting is also done using a Calypso Waterjet from Calypso Waterjet Systems, Inc. of Dallas, TX.
In addition to the CNC bridge saw models, UGMC also owns two GMM Tecna models, supplied from Salem Stone. These can be equipped with blades up to 725 mm in diameter and have a 30-hp motor.
CNC technology is also used for edge profiling. UGMC installed its first CMS/Brembana unit for this purpose in early 2004 with a 4-axis Speed Y2000 that has a 143- x 66-inch bed, a 26-position automatic tool changer with saw blade aggregate and ultra-reliable Fanuc control. This machine was an immediate success, dovetailing well with UGMC’s advanced “just in time” production scheduling. It was soon being run two and three shifts a day, often seven days a week. Realizing the potential for a reliable CNC as a production tool, UGMC installed a second CNC the following year. This was the larger 4-axis Maxima, which has a 143- x 98-inch machine bed, but is otherwise identical to the first Speed. The Maxima was needed for the ever larger kitchen islands required by high-end builders in Southern California. While production continued to climb, having the additional CNC capacity allowed UGMC a regular two-shift schedule with one operator easily running both machines.
For refinishing the face of stone materials, the company operates a Wizard Radial Arm from Park Industries. In addition to surface polishing, the machine produces honed, leather or antique finishes.
In the handling department, United Overhead Crane Systems are used in the cutting, fabrication and machining areas of the facility, and these are equipped with Manzelli vacuum lifters from GranQuartz of Tucker, GA. There is also one jib crane for each piece of CNC equipment and one in the lamination department. Also, there is one tilting prep table with rollers for each saw.
Water recycling is a priority in the plant, and UGMC has two Fraccaroli & Balzan water treatment systems in place for this purpose. The units are supplied by Salem Stone.
The technology investments at UGMC go beyond the shop floor. For example, the company’s templating is done with the assistance of seven units of the Proliner digital templating system, manufactured by Prodim of The Netherlands. It also has two Allen Datagraph Plotters, which take the data gathered by the Proliner and create it into physical templates that can be placed over the slabs.
One of the company’s most successful advancements came with Moraware’s JobTracker management software, which assists with the scheduling and tracking of jobs. “As the business grew, the Excel spreadsheets that we so relied upon in the beginning could no longer support our scheduling system,” said Armstrong.
The selection process for choosing a management system was not simple, according to Armstrong, who said that UGMC had hired consultants to help them deal with the company’s growth. Part of their job was to consolidate all of the scheduling and tracking systems so that information would be centralized, and there would be no duplication in its record keeping. “We literally invested $100,000 between hiring a full-time programmer linking our estimating process to contracting to fabrication and installation,” she said. “After a full 12 months of trial and error, we decided to cut our losses and shelve this project temporarily.”
“We used this Moraware program through the height of our production in late 2006, where we were fabricating and installing at an average rate of 25 kitchens a day, and even if there is no such thing as a perfect system, this is as close as we can get,” Armstrong continued. “We rely on this system to schedule every step of our measurement, slab selection, field measurement completion, CAD completion, programming, cutting, fabrication and even which profiling equipment to schedule. If you want to know when a project is scheduled for installation, all you need to do is look in Moraware for the scheduled install date up to the specific crew assigned for the project. Historical data is available at your fingertips. For any warrant work, we can just click on to the job, and we will know everything we need to know so we can come up with the solution and plan of action. We can even tag ‘special clients’ - those that need more hand holding and attention.”
With the right machinery, technology and skilled personnel at the shop, UGMC even takes it a step further to ensure that the end result on jobs is satisfactory. “Every kitchen and bath is preassembled in our facilities and evaluated against our Quality Assurance (QA) guidelines before they are released for installation,” explained Armstrong. “Nothing goes out of our production facility unless they have been passed by our independent QA staff.”
According to Armstrong, members of the installation crew have an average of 10 years of experience. Additionally, the company has a convoy of vehicles that cover all of the major areas of Southern California.
In addition to fabrication, the company has a Design Services division. With two showrooms featuring an extensive product line and in-house senior designers carrying over 60 years of combined design experience, UGMC offers an added service to its retail clientele in which it provides a whole kitchen and bath package, marrying stone with glass and metal and resin products.
UGMC also has an Architectural and Engineering Service division, offering stone engineering, CAD drafting, computer rendering, stone consulting, stone installation and residential design.
Taking on what it considers to be the five categories of the stone industry - the builder market, the remodel market, custom residential, commercial projects and wholesale - Armstrong explained that the company’s production capacity has in the past been utilized best by the builder market. “However, foreseeing the slowing growth in the builder market, UGMC began a transition in 2006 with the investment in equipment and industry specialists to balance our portfolio,” she said. “This transformation is scheduled to be completed in 2010.”
In terms of strategic repositioning, UGMC has devoted the last couple of years to hand-selecting well respected industry specialists in the field of estimating, project management and fabrication expertise in order to compete in the luxury home market. “Our endeavor to improve the artisanship is paramount to the continued success in this arena,” Armstrong said. “We have nurtured relationships and trust of the premier general contractors such as Nelson Daniels Group, Lattanzi Group, JD Group, Mark Falcone, J Stuart Hillard and David Garinger and Associates. Our sustained success in this market is measured by on-time, on-budget delivery of every unique stone products without compromising quality.”
To further combat the downturn in the builder market, UGMC has made moves to strategically align with one of its competitors and anticipates that both can combine their strengths and better take on the stone industry. Specifically, in October of 2008, UGMC acquired one of the largest fabrication companies in Southern California, which has over 25 years of stone expertise.
The company currently has contracts with Home Depot, Lowe’s, and many well-recognized national builders. This acquisition allowed UGMC to expand its product lines by offering solid surfaces products such as DuPont Corian and LG Hi Macs.
In February of 2009, UGMC was approached by a well-established fabrication company based in the San Francisco Bay Area to entertain the possibilities of an alliance.
“This strategic alliance provides UGMC an instant physical presence in Northern California, with high end customer appeal and competitive pricing,” Armstrong said. “UGMC is in the midst of this negotiation as we speak.”
Sidebar: UGMCSanta Fe Springs, CA
Type of work: stone supplier, fabricator and installer for residential and commercial projects
Machinery: a GMM three-axis Rotex bridge saw and a GMM five -axis Litox bridge saw, both supplied through Salem Stone of Winstone-Salem, NC; two GMM Tecna bridge saws, supplied through Salem Stone; Calypso Waterjet from Calypso Waterjet Systems, Inc. of Dallas, TX; a CMS/Brembana Maxima CNC stoneworking center and a CMS/Brembana Speed 3 CNC stoneworking center - both from CMS/Brembana of Caledonia, MI; a Montresor Luna edger and a Montressor Lara edger from Salem Stone; two Pro Edge III edgers and a Wizard Radial Arm from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN; overhead cranes from Overhead Crane Systems, equipped with Manzelli vacuum lifters from GranQuartz of Tucker, GA; two Fraccaroli & Balzan supplied by Salem Stone; seven Proliners from Prodim of The Netherlands; two Allen Datagraph plotters, JobTracker management software from Moraware of Reno, NV
Production rate: capacity for 25 kitchens per day