As far as Keith Overton is concerned, the company he works for is an IT (Information Technology) enterprise that just happens to fabricate Zodiaq and natural stone countertops. That is because the goal at Stoneworkz' new 100,000 sq. ft. stone processing facility in Orlando, Fla. is on running an operation that is 100 percent fully automated.
They are nearly there.
Actually, the Orlando plant is the second of two Stoneworkz locations. The original facility is located in Dallas , Texas and employs approximately 35 people. Founder Michael Burress first opened shop in 1998 as a fabricator of Granirex engineered stone. After DuPont purchased the Granirex factory in Canada , modified the product and renamed it Zodiaq, Stoneworkz became an integral component of that product's fabrication network.
In 2000 Stoneworkz opened a second plant in Orlando , and in August of 2003 moved into its current location. In addition to processing stone countertops for other fabricator/installers, the company supplies material to home centers. The stated goal of the company is to provide high quality countertops quickly and at the best possible price.
"Projected capacity for the facility is 35 fabricated kitchens per eight-hour shift," explains Overton, "and we currently produce about 15 jobs per shift. Turnaround time right now is at five days, but our goal is three."
Reaching that goal translates into a mind-numbing 175 fabricated jobs per five-day week - and that is only for one shift.
With so much material going in and out every week, one would think the slab storage yard would be massive. In reality, it only takes up one corner of the shop. That is because Zodiaq slabs are stored on wooden A-frame racks which, in turn, are stacked three high on a heavy-duty metal racking system.
"We keep a pretty large inventory of Zodiaq on hand because the lead times for bringing material in are so long," says Overton. "Natural stone slabs, on the other hand, are readily available from local distributors on a just-in-time basis, which means we don't need to have a lot of inventory on hand."
At the present time pallets are pulled from storage by a forklift, which delivers the material to one of two computerized beam saws. In the future, this phase of material retrieval will be computerized using a system similar to the one described below.
When each slab is delivered to the beam saw, its good side is photographed electronically, thereby providing a digital fingerprint of the pattern and any imperfections. "One reason we take a picture is to make it easier for the operator to nest the pieces of the countertop prior to cutout," explains Overton. "The dimensions of the digitized template are fed into the nesting software, and are checked visibly by the operator, who has the option to move cut lines around to avoid blemishes or to take advantage of color veining."