charts a NEW COURSE using robotics Mainland Stoneworks isn’t afraid to try something new. After charting a new course to survive the crash of the housing market in 2006, the business is again reinventing itself through the latest robotic automation technology available for the stone industry.
Success Brings Challenges
The shop became a victim of its The heart of the Robo SawJet More production, own success, and Bertelsman is durable KUKA Robotics began looking for a technological less overtime, and industrial robot, equipped way out. “We had gotten to with a high-pressure abrasive increased accuracy and where we were maxed out with waterjet and a 26HP directefficiency in the field. 25 percent overtime and turning drive saw. It is dual-table down work,” he said. “If we wanted system, allowing a slab to Changing Course to move forward, we needed to do something be cut on one table while another is being more efficient. We began to look for a loaded. “Once it was installed, we were Beginning life as a producing that very same week,” Bertelsman When the housing digital solution and came across BACA.” small cultured marble said. “It is efficient.” market crashed, we had operation with three A Robo SawJet was installed at the to do something different Mainland’s 20,000-square-foot facility employees and a few The Robo SawJet had another advantage over pieces of equipment, to survive. in Alvin, Texas, on July 31, 2017. The competing technologies. It could actually fit in Mainland grew into one investment has significantly increased the Mainland facility. Other machines required of the leading producers in Houston. In 2006, the company’s profitability, Bertelsman said. too much room to be feasible. that began to change after Mainland President “Once we did the cost analysis, it was a noKevin Bertelsman and his wife, Kristi, acquired brainer. More production, less overtime, and “The ultimate decision was the footprint the company. increased accuracy and efficiency in the field. required by the other machines,” Bertelsman More yields from slabs. It has saved us money said. “The footprint of the Robo SawJet “When the housing market crashed, we had to across the board. We can go out and sell.” was ideal, and we felt like it was the latest do something different to survive and started and greatest technology that was the most doing granite with one table and a rail saw,” Through the years, Mainland had moved to efficient.” he said. the use of bridge saws in the shop but they simply could not keep up with production Granite countertops quickly became the demand, he said. “The bridge saws were slow. mainstay of the shop’s production. In 2013, We were always having to repair them. You Increased Productivity the Bertelsmans shut down the cultured can’t nest. If you wanted to nest something, marble operation in favor of more lucrative you’ve have to almost cut it by hand. Now, A Robo SawJet can cut a standard 40-squarenatural stone, engineered stone, and solid we’re not having to. With multiple holes and foot kitchen countertop with sink hole from a surface countertops. cut angles, it comes in and fits like a glove.” slab in half the time of other machines. It can finish a job within 15-18 minutes. The cutting speed is paying dividends for the shop.
A Robo SawJet can cut a standard 40-squarefoot kitchen countertop with sink hole from a slab in half the time of other machines. “Our installers are more productive,” Bertelsman said. “The capacity of our shop doubled. Overtime went away. It allowed us to go back and sell. We were turning down work.” BACA Systems also offers its own Vein Match software, allowing shops to match veins from different parts of the same slab, preventing waste. “Vein matching and the nesting of parts being cut on the slab really increases our yield,” Bertelsman said. Mainland technicians were still resorting to the use of paper templates in the field before the company transitioned to the Robo SawJet. Now it runs a completely digital operation. “With laser templating, we’re much more accurate with our measurements,” Bertelsman said. “We do all of our cutout design in shop now. It saves us money and time.”
Material Savings The BACA RoboSawJet’s IDE Diamond Cutting Head offers consistent alignment. The accuracy of the Robo SawJet allows customers to save an average of 25 percent on material cost annually.
What it does is allow us to keep up with our schedule. The accuracy means work that once had to be done in the field stays in the shop, Bertelsman said. “Our biggest customers are cafeterias. One big cafeteria countertop area might have 60 different holes being cut out. We used to have to drill and cut all those in the field. One of the nicest changes is we can now cut it to match in the shop, and it works perfectly. It saves a tremendous amount of time during installation.” Mainland depends on the Robo SawJet for consistent production. “What it does is allow us to keep up with our schedule,” he said. “Right now, we’re doing about 500 square feet per day. We’re more constrained by the back end of our shop and the installation, not the cutting.”
It’s very, very easy to use and user-friendly. The Robo SawJet’s simple, intuitive PC-based operating software is designed to lower barriers to use by employees. Instead of having to depend on one or two experienced operators, other workers can step in to run the machine as needed. “It’s very, very easy to use and user-friendly,” Bertelsman said. “It can be programmed in the office or at the machine. You have flexibility. You’re not depending on just one person to do it all.”
They have great customer service with their responsiveness and interest in helping us with issues that come up.
Maintenance and Customer Service The KUKA robot itself is practically indestructible, needing almost no maintenance for 10,000 hours or five years. The Robo SawJet uses a durable H2O jet pump, designed to last under grueling 24-hour per day automotive manufacturing conditions.
The pump, which can last up to three times longer between rebuilds than Hypertherm pumps, costs less than half to operate than the KMT pumps used in other brands of sawjets. If there are problems encountered during the operation of Robo Sawjet, BACA technicians can remotely log on to the onboard computer to diagnose the problems. “They have great customer service with their responsiveness and interest in helping us with issues that come up,” Bertelsman said.
Future Plans In 2016, Mainland opened a state-of-the-art 45,000 -square-foot natural stone and solid surface fabrication facility in Winston Salem, North Carolina, to expand its reach into the eastern U.S. Bertelsman said he is considering purchasing a Robo SawJet for the next facility. Meanwhile, Mainland continues to depend on the Robo SawJet to drive production at its Texas plant. “We’ve been really happy it,” Bertelsman said. “It changed the way we do business.”
We’ve been really happy with it. It changed the way we do business.