Increasing stone production with robotic technology
While Solid Surfaces Unlimited has served other industries through the years, the stone sector has become its primary market and the company has invested in state-of-the-art equipment to meet the demand
Solid Surfaces Unlimited, based in Sterling Heights, MI, has been serving mid and southern Michigan for more than three decades. Cesar Rastelli initially established the company as a cabinet business 40 years ago, and in the late 1980s began manufacturing solid surface products. While the company still operates a solid surface shop a block away from its stone fabrication facility, it only accounts for approximately 20% of its business today.
“In 2005, we got into stone,” said Giovanni Rastelli, Cesar Rastelli’s son. “We saw the market trending that way. A lot of our accounts were asking for it.”
At this time, Solid Surfaces Unlimited made the move to its current location, which is designated for fabricating natural stone, quartz surfacing and compact sintered stone. Giovanni Rastelli, who grew up in the business, manages the operation.
“When I was 16, I started sweeping floors and taking out the garbage,” he said. “As stone was getting popular, my dad put me in charge of this side of the business.”
According to Rastelli, the company processes quartz surfacing over natural stone three to one. “The past couple of years, we have been getting more and more business,” he said. “We weren’t able to keep up.”
The solution to Solid Surfaces Unlimited’s problem was to invest in a BACA System’s Robo SawJet. The dual-bed machine was installed in the spring of 2018.
“It’s crazy fast,” said Rastelli. “It has absolutely increased our production and removed our ‘bottle neck.’ We have completely cut out cutting on the night shift.
“I was thinking about getting a CNC saw,” he continued. “My dad and I wanted to check out the robot so we went to one of BACA’s seminars. It gave us a whole different outlook. BACA being local was a big deciding factor. They want us to succeed as much as we do.”
At the time ofStone World’svisit, Solid Surfaces Unlimited was producing 2,500 square feet a week in its stone shop. Additional machinery that helps with the fabrication process includes two Northwood CNC stoneworking centers, as well as a Yukon bridge saw and Pro Edge III edge polisher – both from Park Industries. The company purchases its blades from GranQuartz, uses tooling from GMR and Tyrolit and polishing pads from Rock Star Diamond. It also uses Manzelli vacuum lifters from GranQuartz to move slabs around the work area, as well as Terminator products, and has a water recycling system.
Rastelli explained that they also have been utilizing Slabsmith software for the past six years. “We mostly use it for exotic jobs,” he said. “We can have the slabs for the jobs get approval ahead of time from the customer.”
Solid Surfaces Unlimited is focused on the kitchen and bath side of the business, said Rastelli, adding that the company also works with some builders and sells wholesale to the trade. “We have a lot of dealers and we have built a long-time trust with them,” he said. “We cut back on the home center work because it became too much of our business.” The company does supply Silestone for Home Depot and also has become certified to cut Dekton. “We have been doing it for a few years so it doesn’t scare us now,” said Rastelli, explaining they only cut it with the waterjet.
In addition to its selection of natural stone, Solid Surfaces Unlimited also carries Vicostone and Viatera Quartz products. “We are doing a lot of white and gray marble-looking [material],” said Rastelli. “Quartz seems to be what everyone wants.”
To maintain organization, the company devised its own labeling system. “Remnants are all barcoded by size and color,” said Rastelli. “We can use remnants for other jobs.”
When Stone World stopped by Solid Surfaces Unlimited’s shop last spring, the company employed close to 50 workers and was looking to hire several more. With its diverse capabilities and investing in advanced technology, the company can continue on a successful path and evolve with the stone industry.
Solid Surfaces Unlimited
Sterling Heights, MI
Type of Work: Primarily residential
Machinery: a dual-table Robo SawJet from BACA Systems of Orian Charter Township, MI; two CNC stoneworking centers from Northwood Machine Manufacturing in Louisville, KY; a Yukon bridge saw and Pro Edge III edge polisher – both from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN; Slabsmith from Northwood Designs of Antwerp, NY; blades and Manzelli vacuum lifters from GranQuartz, based in Tucker, GA; tooling from GMR and Tyrolit; polishing pads from Rock Star Diamond of Kent, WA; Terminator products from Continental DIA Diamond Products of San Carlos, CA; and a water recycling system
Production Rate: 2,500 square feet per week
Number of Employees: close to 50