Why is it that some stone fabricating shops consistently deliver defect-free products with smooth, perfectly shaped edges, while so many others struggle to achieve the same level of quality and consistency, even when they use state-of-the-art processing machines? There can be several reasons, but in virtually every case, the answers are fairly straightforward and simple.
The most cost-effective method in the marble and granite industry to produce consistent, finished edges — rounded or more intricate compound/complex profiles like triple pencil or ogee — is to use automated edge polishing machines. The accuracy, repeatability and speed of a sophisticated, time-tested edging machine that has a production rate of up to 100 linear ft. per hour will out-perform manual laborers, provided the machine is operated and maintained properly.
There are six primary "secrets" to consider if you're having problems in achieving quality edging results at a reasonable cost per linear foot. These secrets are based on our experience after many years serving the stone processing industry.
- Use Only Skilled, Trained Operators
The best way to assure your equipment produces top-quality results is to have only trained, skilled personnel running the machines. As with more technical equipment, the problem is seldom with the machine; it's generally the operator. Don't assume you can grab anybody in the shop, put them on the machine, and get the same results as with a skilled operator — it's not going to happen.
In edge polishing it's extremely important that the operator knows how to process each of the materials he encounters. Different materials may have different requirements, such as different feed rates or processing pressures — all in order to achieve the desired results. In fact, a skilled operator can tell by the sound of the polishing action whether the machine and its components are functioning correctly and if you'll get a perfect or flawed edge.
When a machine is first delivered, it is desirable to have as many people as possible trained in its operation and maintenance, including the owner and/or shop foreman. What often happens is one person is trained and, if he leaves the company, a second person is assigned the job who may know about 80 percent of what the first operator did. Then he leaves and a third person who knows even less takes over, lowering the skill level even more. The answer is to invest in timely training seminars by the manufacturer to ensure you always have trained operators on hand.
- Practice Scheduled Maintenance
To minimize downtime and repair costs, and to maximize your equipment's longevity, schedule regular maintenance, including keeping the machines clean, a sure indicator of proper maintenance. Remember, a clean machine works better and lasts longer.
Normal maintenance as recommended by the manufacturer can increase each machine's life cycle up to 50 percent; and meticulous care can more than double each machine's expected longevity. Under normal conditions, and even with regular, routine maintenance, a machine should probably be extensively refurbished every seven to 10 years. These estimates are based on years of experience as a machine tool supplier and rebuilder.
Stone processing machines operate in a demanding, harsh environment with lots of water, moisture and abrasive dust, and they process one of the hardest materials in the universe. So the equipment is subject to extreme wear and tear. Yet too many shop operators ignore basic maintenance requirements — regular lubrication, keeping oil reservoirs filled, regular washing and checking moving parts for functionality and wear and tear, especially rollers and belts.