The Magical Mystery Machine
March 20, 2012
It’s first thing in the morning, coffee still working its way through your system; the roll for today’s job is dropped on the floor. The paperwork tells you it’s a large basement, 30’ x 44’, 160 square yards with the stairs. Twelve-foot goods with a 4” x 4” pattern repeat. It’s a basement, concrete of course, with support poles to deal with. “Yeah, let’s get this beast cut, loaded and be on our way,” you think. Then you open the roll to make your first cut, and there it is, a 4” skew (Photos 1 and 1a).
The mill tolerance, depending on the mill, is between 1” and 1 1/2” inch in twelve feet. What to do? Well, first off you stomp around in circles, the air blue with curses. Once you got that out of your system, take a deep breath, call the mill, and remember to be polite; the mill wants this solved just as bad or worse than you. You know what Grandpa said, “You will catch more flies with honey than vinegar, although I don’t know what people want with all those flies anyway.” If you have the skill set to resolve this problem, it’s going to take you close to twice as long to install this job. Somebody has to pay for that. Granted, patterns take longer and need to be charged accordingly; that means more per yard. This one, however, is above and beyond the norm.
Usually what happens with something that far out is that the carpet is returned. The mill sends out a new piece. The customer is put off for a couple of weeks, none too happy I might add. You lose a day’s work, the mill has to eat 160 square yards of carpet, plus freight back and forth. A lose-lose situation for everybody involved. It’s even worse on large commercial jobs with hundreds of thousands of dollars involved, and thousands of dollars in penalties per day for not completing on time. Ouch, says the profit margin.
What’s a mill to do? Patterns are tough to make, especially tufted ones. They go through many processes from tufting, to dying, to drying, latex application, to secondary backing being attached. Then we have attached cushion back, Unitary, or many of the new backing systems where they are run through a coater; in each of these process the carpet gets pulled at various speeds and can be twisted or one side pulled faster than the other. The pattern suffers, the installer suffers, the end user suffers, and of course the mill suffers.
“Well, why can’t the mills make better, straighter patterned carpet,” you ask. For the most part they do; as for the rest, I suppose if they slowed the machines down to a crawl they could, but slower machines mean less carpet being made in a day. Less carpet being made means the mills have to charge more for the carpet that is made. It’s kind of a Catch 22.
Is there no one to save us from the horrors of un-installable patterns? Where are the heroes of yore? But wait, in our hour of need, from the wide open plains of Oklahoma ride the heroes we have for so long hoped. Who are those masked men? OK, I got a little carried away; they are not really masked. They are Kevin Hurst and Shawn Marshall, a pair of tremendously talented installers who grew up in the family floor covering business. These boys had carpet fuzz in their diapers. Kevin and Shawn understand patterns, how they go wrong and how to fix them. They have made a very successful career being the go-to-guys to install out-of-tolerance patterns that others, when faced with them, throw their hands into the air and run screaming into the night.
After many of years of dealing with unruly patterns and perhaps a few icy cold adult beverages that evening after wrestling with said unruly patterns all day, they pondered solutions. Other than getting down on the floor and molding the physical world to their will, of course. “There has got to be a better way!” The same words have been spoken by many great innovators, from Archimedes to Steve Jobs.
After many scribbled drawings on napkins to start (and more of the above mentioned icy colds), they found a better way. They formed a new company, Premier Carpet Solutions, in Dalton Georgia, to bring this new technology to the carpet-making capital of the world. This is the machine they built. I call it “The Magical Mystery Machine” (tip of the hat to the Fab Four). Kevin and Shawn refer to it as the Precision Pattern Placement Machine. (Photo 2)
With this machine they can take the above-mentioned carpet in Photo 1 and guarantee to reduce that skew to meet or exceed industry tolerances. Kevin told me he has even brought an 8” skew into tolerance. I know you’re thinking, “Yeah right, Hetts; I have a bridge in Brooklyn I can make you a heck of a deal on.”
This last week I had the opportunity to stop and visit the boys at Premier Carpet Solutions and see the Magical Mystery Machine in action. (Photos 3 and 3a)
These images show the same piece mentioned in Photo 1 with the 4” skew going into the machine. Yes, that’s a laser showing the square and straightness of this pattern.
Hocus Pocus, nothing up my sleeve. Hey Rocky, watch me pull this rabbit out of my hat. (Photo 4) Voila’, the same carpet coming out of the machine. Astounded? Yeah, me too! You know what a pain in the well, sitting area, carpet in the before picture can be.
I know, you’re thinking, “When is that coming to my town?” You have probably already worked with some material that was transformed by this system and didn’t even know it. Probably didn’t give it much thought, other than a passing, “Nice to have a pattern that’s not a steel cage wrestling match.”
Kevin and Shaun will soon put into effect a guarantee (if the mills agree) on every piece of carpet that goes through their system. They will guarantee the pattern to meet or exceed the standard tolerance of 1” to 1 ½” in 12 feet or they will pay to ship it back to them, fix it and ship it back to you. Watch for this sticker on your patterned carpet. (Photo 5) Or ask for it by name; “The Precision Pattern Placement” from Premier Carpet Solutions. I could be wrong, but I think there is enough aggravation that comes down the road all by itself with patterned carpet, even if it is straight; no use asking for any more with out-of-tolerance goods.
For more information on the “Precision Pattern Placement” process from Premier Carpet Solutions, contact either Kevin Hurst, firstname.lastname@example.org or Shawn Marshall, email@example.com.
As the pretty maiden swoons and sighs, “Who are those masked men that have saved us?” into the setting sun, we hear, “Hi ho, straight pattern and away!”