Cutting to Size to Customize

The following is a preview from the July 2018 issue of The Scoop, the quarterly printed magazine for Dal-Tile team members. The issue was mailed to team members' home addresses and will be posted in PDF format to myMohawk later this month.

When Dal-Tile introduced its leading-edge Panoramic Porcelain Surfaces™ into the market last year, the new extra-large format porcelain products offered customers a chance to "go big" with slabs approximately 5'x10' in size — ideal for countertops, wall cladding, flooring and other applications.

Now, the new FlexFitTM Size Solutions program offers customers additional flexibility using these innovative porcelain slab products — through a cut-to-size program that offers multiple sizing options, giving customers many new possibilities for their projects and enabling Dal-Tile to further grow its countertop business.

"In addition to applications for full slabs, through FlexFit we can now cut any of the Panoramic Porcelain Surfaces products in either the Elemental Selection or Industrial Selection collections into seven different-sized standardized pieces, ranging from 21"x21" to 63"x63" squares and 15.75"x31.50" to 31.50"x126" rectangles," said Ben Redding, director of Countertop Operations and Sales.

Redding said the seven standard FlexFit sizing dimensions were developed to minimize waste, as well as provide another advantage. "They're unique sizes that aren't offered within our standard tile collections," he added. "Since they are modular, they can be used in patterns and unique design applications."

Plus, for complete customization, the FlexFit program will cut slabs — both the 6mm and 12mm thicknesses offered — to any sizes the customer needs, if custom sizes are required for their projects. Customers can request quick quotes through a single This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. email address, and unlike the few others doing it within the marketplace, Dal-Tile provides quick turnaround on these orders — providing the ready-to be installed, custom-cut pieces within a few weeks.

"The key advantage we offer is very short lead time for both standard sizes and custom jobs for the customer," Redding said. "FlexFit allows them to benefit from having a superior thin porcelain product and receive it already cut to pre-selected sizes."

A different kind of cutting
Cutting of the slabs is managed by a team that already has extensive expertise: the Dallas Bullnose plant, whose team members are typically cutting rounded radius edges on tiles to add a feature that gives an elegant, finished touch.

The specialized slab cutting equipment was installed in the Bullnose plant in April, and the team quickly got up to speed on how to operate it — even though there was an immediate challenge to overcome.

"This is a system that's used to cut natural stone and quartz; it had never cut porcelain. We quickly spotted and corrected a big issue," said Merritt Williams, Bullnose plant manager. "We could tell just by looking at the cuts that the blades were a bit too aggressive, and we would need to use 'softer' blades (composed of a different alloy and more diamonds), to make much cleaner, more precise cuts."

Williams said using the FlexFit computer-controlled system, Bullnose team members can cut around 50 porcelain slabs a day. In addition to cutting into sizes, the team also uses its fundamental know-how by cutting a slight bevel on the sides of each piece to remove all sharp edges.

Dual affirmation and expanding it further
The reaction in the market from customers to the FlexFit program has been extremely positive. "Installers like the fact that they don't have to logistically move a panel around, and the design community really likes the new sizes," Redding said. "We're even seeing some customers inquire about some unique opportunities that we didn't even think about, which will help this grow, too. With FlexFit we're already enhancing our groundbreaking porcelain slab offering, by enabling them to customize it."

Because of the size of the slabs, safety is paramount; movement requires two operators.
Williams and Redding compare cutting blades used within the FlexFit system and the Bullnose operation.
Williams and Dallas Bullnose teammates Taje Evans, Mario Johnson, Breanne Baray and Joseph Wagoner with a completed cut-to-size project. In addition, Dario Zanchin of equipment vendor Breton (in red shirt) has assisted the team with training on the FlexFit cutting system.
The cutting operator enters information about the sizes of pieces the porcelain slab will be cut into; the system precisely verifies the exact dimensions of each cut, factoring in the width of the blades making the cuts.
The system meticulously cuts the porcelain slab pieces into either the standard sizes offered through the FlexFit program, or into custom sizes specified by the customer.
After moving to exit tables, operators place the cut pieces into standardized-sized crates for the specific standard sized pieces or onto A-frames for the larger sized pieces. Operators will also modify crates for special custom cut pieces.

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