This is a story about the Giumenta's, a hardworking and dedicated Italian family with a flourishing business spanning three generations; no easy feat. Keep reading to find out how they mastered the art of lean manufacturing while simultaneously combatting the skills gap in their metal fabrication shop.
Nestled into a quaint industrial complex in Gowanus Brooklyn is one of the best kept secrets in custom architectural metalwork and HVAC products. It is so good in fact – the secret has been preserved for three generations.
Three generations of Giumenta’s have been the lifeblood needed to sustain a successful custom fabrication shop founded on four core principals of “Quality, Honesty, Respect, and Continual Improvement,” explains Stephen Giumenta, Vice President and Design Engineer at Architectural Grille.
Let’s take a trip back in time. The Giumenta’s immigrated to New York in 1912 from Messina, Italy. The family was filled to the brim with artists and industrialists, and soon forged a path in the metalworking industry. Entrepreneurial family blood, perseverance, and adaptability led Federico Giumenta to found Utility Brass & Bronze in 1945. The company specialized in ornamental and hand crafted ironwork including metal railings and casework. With the help of his three sons, Michael, Federico Jr., and Anthony, business began to boom.
Guidance from his father and mentor, in addition to 40 years of hands on experience and a degree in Architectural and Mechanical Design, propelled little Anthony, the youngest of the three sons, to transform Utility Brass & Bronze into the company it is today, Architectural Grille. Anthony, along with his sons Anthony Jr. and Stephen, are currently involved in the day to day operations of the prospering company.
Architectural Grille is a state of the art manufacturing plant specializing in custom linear bar grilles and perforated grilles in a wide selection of finishes. Additional products include decorative panels and screens, drain covers, vent covers, HVAC products, radiator enclosures, sunshades, awnings, signage, lighting, plus a whole host of additional custom metalworking goods.
“Unfortunately other than our family history and our bounce back from Hurricane Sandy, we really fly under the radar,” explains Stephen Giumenta. Well, if flying under the radar means serving some of the most high end commercial and industrial clientele including Disney and Turner Construction, then sure, these guys “fly under the radar.” If you know what we mean.
Lean and Mean
To carry on its ethos of continuous improvement, Architectural Grille has developed, alongside top machinery manufacturers, custom machinery solutions to keep its shop in tip top shape. Stephen Giumenta takes a particularly strong interest in maintaining the latest and greatest equipment to ensure the Architectural Grille factory is as lean and mean as possible.
In addition to a laser cutting machine, a Waterjet, CNC punching machines, FOM and Kaltenbach saws, Architectural Grille has added TigerStop automated positioner and pusher equipment to its lean manufacturing arsenal throughout the facility.
The company has 4 TigerStops and 1 SawGear on an array of applications including a DeWalt chop saw for processing wood in the shipping department, a Kaltenbach automatic steel saw, a FOM Panda 400 aluminum upcut saw, and additional aluminum mitering saws. The TigerStops and SawGears eliminate measurement errors. Parts are cut accurately again and again to the thousandths of an inch without the need of a tape measure or manual gauge or clamp.
“We cut linear bars and they need to be precise,” explains Richie Cammarata, Production Manager and Shop Foreman at Architectural Grille. Richie has been with the company for 10 years and knows what features to look for when buying machinery.
“Accuracy is really what we look for in our products. Everything we do is for the most part custom, every job and every order can vary dramatically from the previous job, so it’s important that we can cut the different dimension needed as quickly as possible. We primarily process aluminum, brass, bronze, and stainless steel. The majority of what we cut starts at around 22 foot lengths. We cut to length as much as we can for grille components, and the TigerStop helps us to do so with minimal waste,” explains Richie.
Giving Back to the community
The possibilities for customization are virtually endless at Architectural Grille, thanks to its arsenal of high tech manufacturing automation. It has allowed the company to expand its creative offerings. Take for example it's limited edition collection of Frank Lloyd Wright screens.
Stephen explains, "After seeing Falling Water I was hooked and knew that somehow I wanted to help the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation continue his legacy. I have since visited many of his buildings including his home and studio in Oak Park. In all the books and in all the houses I visited there was a profound use of screens, where Mr. Wright created a method for you to see or not see what he wanted, using these screens. I presented the idea to the foundation over 10 years ago, my goal was to allow today’s architects, designers, and homeowners, to utilize Mr. Wright’s screens in their projects, whether it be for HVAC , privacy screens, or even wall art."
Last year Architectural Grille was given the green light by the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. "We are now the only officially licensed metal manufacturer who can reproduce Mr. Wright’s designs, which is very exciting as it has been something I have wanted to be a part of since my childhood. Not only are we continuing Mr. Wright’s legacy, but the proceeds from these products will go back to the foundation, for education, and restoration of Wright’s structures across the country."
Skilled Labor Gap Challenge
Not everything is as easy as pie for the Giumenta family though. Manufacturing in today’s environment can present a number of challenges.
“The biggest challenge that we face as a manufacturer today is finding skilled and dedicated employees. So when buying new equipment it is important that it not only work great it needs to be easily learned by our operators and new employees,” explains Stephen.
Stephen Giumenta elaborates, “I found TigerStop at FABTECH Expo years ago. When my OEM stops needed to be replaced I knew TigerStop was the company I was going to use. Simplicity in set up and ease of use was the main factor for us to go with TigerStop.”
Richie lays it all out in his charmingly thick New York accent, “It’s really easy to use the TigerStop machines. After a couple of hours, if you have a head on your shoulders, it’s not hard to grasp.”
It doesn’t matter if an employee has been trained to use a tape measure or not, TigerStops automatically convert fractions to decimals and vice versa. All the operator has to do is type in desired lengths and press start. The stop quickly moves to position for repeatable accuracy again and again. Not only has Architectural Grille cut down on wasted material, it has increased quality control.
A Thriving Family Business
But machinery aside, what’s the secret sauce needed to maintain a thriving family business over multiple generations? We asked Stephen this question and his answer was perfect: “There is no real secret.”
Stephen further elaborates, “we work hard and take care of our customers and employees. We feel that even if we make the best product in the world, if our service and support aren’t at the same level, we aren’t doing the right thing.”
Stephen explains that excellence in every single department is needed. “So not only do we continually improve our products and manufacturing processes, we improve our front office, back office, customer service, accounting, shipping, facilities, you name it. We strive to improve every aspect of our company so we can continue to lead the industry in our market, and ensure that our employees are proud to work here.”
So there you have it folks. The Giumenta's have mastered the art of air flow and their recipe for success can be broken down to the four core principals their business is built around: “Quality, Honesty, Respect, and Continual Improvement.” Buon appetito!
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