In the 1990s, Val Blasius created a reputation as a ceramic tile and Corian countertop installer in the Vassar, MI area. The business continued to prosper until he was bringing in more work than he could handle. His son, Jon, was in the remodeling industry at the time, doing tile and Corian countertops out of the same shop. In 1993, Val hired son-in-law Mike Damm to help meet the demand the company was facing. A year later, Val hired his first-ever employee and shifted his focus primarily to Corian. Then in 1996, everything changed when the two companies dissolved and a new company, Blasius Inc., was formed from the partnership of Val Blasius, his son, Damm and his other son-in-law Dave Bogert. “As Corian continued to grow, we decided to pull out of tile,” said Bogert. “At the time, we were doing eight to 10,000 square feet of Corian a month.”
In 2005, the company moved into its current facility, which it added onto in 2012. Also around this time, it started to heavily invest in digital equipment, and to this day, continues to adapt to the current technology trends to be as efficient of a shop as possible. Blasius Inc. originally invested in a Park Industries CNC stoneworking center, as well as a Yukon bridge saw, Pro Edge edge polisher and a Wizard radial arm workstation for polishing – all from Park Industries.
“Eventually, we started adding Northwood machines and shortly after that, we got a waterjet from Northwood,” said Bogert. “After purchasing all the equipment, that’s when we realized it made sense to go all digital. That’s when we added a second CNC machine in 2014, and that really increased our production.” The company decided to invest in another 6,000 square feet to expand its facility, and around the same time, added a third CNC machine. A Robotic SawJet from Northwood was sold to the company in 2015. In 2016, they added their fourth CNC machine, and in 2018, they added two more machines, bringing the total to six CNC machines.
On top of all those machines, the company has a Fastback backsplash polisher, a Sasso 6.4 Splash flat edge polishing machine and a standard SawJet from Northwood. Additionally, Blasius Inc. receives supplies from GranQuartz, including ADI and N.W.I. tooling, as well as utilizing Slabsmith software and a Zoller Smile 3.0 machine to measure tooling.
“It’s amazing how much the Zoller machine has helped us out,” said Bogert. “We obviously have a lot of machines running here with a lot of tooling, and it has helped us really get the most out of tooling. We have an employee whose job it is to run this machine and keep track of our tooling, and he was able to quickly pick up this machine and start saving our tooling fast.”
The company produces 35,000 square feet of Cambria quartz a month, doing about 20 kitchens a day, which averages out to roughly 1,200 square feet a day. Blasius Inc. runs two 12-hour shifts — two shifts in the day and two at night — seven days a week. “By doing this, we gained 40% efficiency in our shop, but to be honest, doing Sundays was a tough one,” said Bogert. “We are 208 employees, all of them apart of a team, and we do our best to try to accommodate every employee. We understand that schedules need to be flexible and that things come up for our employees that they can’t work on a certain day, so we have to spend a lot of time planning out pretty far ahead.”
Headquartered in Vassar, MI, Blasius Inc. has a design gallery in Northern, MI, Fort Wayne, IN, and Ohio which totals 80,800 square feet of shop and design spaces. The company does wholesale, commercial and residential countertops and installation, with about 80% of its business being residential. A total of 15 installers are on staff that generally work in two-man teams, with a senior installer constantly training other workers. “Obviously with any operation, you’re going to run into problems,” said Bogert. “The key is to do little things to help slowly fix the problem — never turn away from them and assume they will go away. On top of that, sometimes you try a new idea and see if it works — sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t — but you can’t be afraid to try. We also have never been scared to move with the growth of our business, even though at times it can get a bit crazy here. But we have always strived to put customers first and if we make a mistake, we own up to it and do whatever it takes to make it right for that customer.”
Besides the Zoller machine, another product that has helped Bogert is Slabsmith. “We have a slab building that has 2,000 slabs inside of it,” said Bogert. “We take a photo of every single one in Slabsmith, and it has really helped us keep track of our remnants on the computer. Because of it, we are using, in general, a lot more of our remnants than we used to. It also catches any shading variation, or you can catch any problems such as seams. It’s great. It has really helped the business.”
Going forward the company plans to continue to produce good quality products. “We would love to shorten our lead-time to be under two weeks,” said Bogert. “What we are doing now is great. We have a great team and great people everywhere. We are happy to keep our customers happy, but we always look for ways to improve or get better or more efficient. So, moving forward, lowering that lead-time would be great.”
Machinery: a Yukon bridge saw, a Fastback edge polishing machine and a Wizard radial arm work station – all from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN; a Sasso 10.4 Splash flat edge polishing machine from Sasso USA of Palatine, IL; six CNC stoneworking centers, a SawJet and Robotic SawJet – all from Northwood of Louisville, KY; a Smile 3.0 from Zoller of Ann Arbor, MI; ADI tooling from GranQuartz, based in Tucker, GA; and Slabsmith software from Northwood Designs, Inc. of Antwerp, NY
Production: 35,000 square feet a month