John Banta, one of the owners of Montana Tile & Stone Fabricators, is the third generation of his family in the stone and tile business. His grandfather started the Craftsman-Art Tile Co. in Lancaster, PA, in 1929. When his father took over, it was renamed Banta Tile & Marble. Subsequently, Banta and his brother, Jeff, gained control of the business, and the two of them have run it for 30 years. “When granite and marble became a go-to finish in residential building around 1980, we decided to jump in and learn by trial and error,” said Banta. “Now, 35 years into it, we’re still learning.”
In 2002, the brothers decided to relocate to Montana to start Montana Tile & Stone Fabricators, partnering with an existing company, Montana Tile & Stone Co. Now, 13 years later, the company currently runs a state-of-the-art, digital shop that works with contractors, kitchen and bath dealers, designers, architects and homeowners.
For the most part, Montana Tile & Stone Fabricators is involved with all facets of custom residential work, but they do some commercial and condominium projects as well. They are considered a relatively small shop with only 12 employees who are specialized, although each worker has a variety of skills, and the company strives to have some redundancy in all positions. There is a training program in place for new hires. “We prefer to train so that new employees can learn our system and become integrated to it,” said Ari Kaufman, General Manager of slab fabrication. “That’s not to say that we know everything — we’re always open to new ideas and new technology. And, if the right person comes in with a knowledgeable background, we’re fine with going that route.”
The company will often travel as far as required to serve their customers. “Being from such a large state with such a small population, we can find ourselves working in a variety of areas throughout the state and surrounding states,” said Kaufman. “We try to work as close to home as possible, but can find ourselves quite some distance out as needed.”
For machinery, Montana Tile & Stone uses a CMS/Brembana 5-axis CNC stoneworking machine and a CMS/Brembana Sprint bridge saw from CMS North America of Caledonia, MI.
Additionally, they use a Pro Edge automatic edge shaper and polisher and a Wizard radial arm work station — both from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN — as well as a Wood’s Powr-Grip power tilter from Wood’s Powr-Grip of Laurel, MT.
For tooling, the company relies on an assortment of ADI products, purchased through GranQuartz and Nicolai products, bought directly from Nicolai.
Recently, Montana Tile & Stone Fabricators invested in digital technology for both templating and its cutting and milling processes. These investments were made for a variety of reasons. “We wanted to be able to increase production within the size of our existing shop as well as to run as lean as possible,” said Kaufman. “The machinery has enabled us to do that, and the addition of a 5-axis CNC milling machine has allowed us to become rather creative both in specialized projects and having the ability to improvise with more common routines. When we went digital, which has been the biggest recent advancement in fabrication, we found that the EPhoto photographic 3D digital system from ETemplate Systems made the most sense as far as integration with our equipment. It’s been revolutionary in our shop and has stood up to the test of time. We’ve considered laser technology, but there are some aspects of the system we have that we really appreciate. For now it’s ‘why fix something that isn’t broken?”’
But there are some issues to be met as a fabricator in today’s market. “Our biggest challenges are managing the expectations of our diverse clientele; staying current with industry trends, both in available materials and machinery; keeping up with the scheduling of projects in the volatile world of construction; and finally, planning for the unpredictable future,” said Kaufman.
As for the company’s future, he is optimistic. “Our goals are to keep up with technological changes in machinery and trends in the stone and surfaces industry,” Kaufman said. “This will allow us to increase production and service the growing demands of our market.”
Montana Tile & Stone Fabricators
Type of Work:
mostly custom residential work with some commercial and condominium projects
a CMS/Brembana 5-axis CNC stoneworking center and a CMS/Brembana Sprint bridge saw from CMS North America in Caledonia, MI; a Pro Edge automatic edge shaper and polisher and a Wizard radial arm work station — both from Park Industries in St. Cloud, MN; a Wood’s Powr-Grip power tilter from Wood’s Power-Grip of Laurel, MT; an assortment of ADI products, purchased through GranQuartz and Nicolai products, bought directly from Nicolai and an EPhoto photographic 3D digital system from ETemplate Systems of Raleigh, NC
Number of Employees:
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