Take a stroll around Artitalia's Montreal plant and you're likely to see quite a variety of jobs: solid wood and veneer displays, laminated particleboard shelves, steel racks, hotel furniture and large molded plastic displays.

Artitalia is willing to use any material to meet the customer's requirement. Production director Carmine Gaudio says there may be as many as 30 jobs in the plant at the same time all completely different.

"That's part of the business," he says. "We can go from hardwood to laminates, or MDF to melamine, depending on demand."

Many clients furnish Artitalia with their basic needs and the company provides shop drawings for their approval. They may ask for specific materials, or Artitalia will suggest a material.

Artitalia's 400 employees make store fixtures and displays for many of the largest retailers in North America. There are five companies in the Artitalia Group, including metal and plastic fabricating companies. All are at the main location in Montreal, except nearby International Visual Group, a division that handles plastics.

About 25 percent of all the workflow moves through the Auto V Grooving AVG-48-UM-FT machine, which was purchased two years ago. It was intended to deliver a better-quality piece in less time. The machine can V-groove on pieces as thin as 1/8 of an inch or as thick as 1 inch.

"It's a plus for us," Gaudio says. "We can get more work and have a better-looking piece, with fewer operations."

In the groove

In the past, if Artitalia produced a base for a fixture, it would cut five different parts, one top and four sides. The company would laminate only the top, then fix the four sides, and then laminate the four sides by hand.

"Using this traditional method," says Gaudio, "all the black lines of the laminate joint are visible and the adhesion of the plastic laminate would never be as solid as a machine laminate process."

With the V-groove method, Artitalia starts with one panel, V-grooves the four perimeters, folds and glues. The end result has no black line showing and the adhesion on the four-sided panel is 100 percent.

According to Gaudio, Artitalia adapted much of its particleboard and MDF construction procedure to accommodate the V-grooving process. V-grooving is done after machining is completed, and just before assembly.

"Once you V-groove the pieces you have to be careful, because if you bend it too many times, you could chip the underside," he says. "We try to make the V-grooving our last operation."

Artitalia can V-groove drawers, display bases, columns, slatwall, dropover shelves and acrylic panels. The V-groover cuts right up to the tape, and keeps the joint tight.

"When you close it, you don't have any gap," Gaudio says. "It's very precise. It will only cut through your material."

Selling tool

In some cases, the V-grooving capability helps Artitalia sell a job. One customer, a well-known footwear maker, asked for a sample that was smooth all the way around. Artitalia suggested V-grooving whitewashed OSB samples, and that led to the job.

"With V-grooving, we save time and it provides a better quality piece," Gaudio says. "We were looking for a machine that could cut different sized pieces, and a machine where we could save time. Anytime you buy a machine, you're always looking to improve your company and make it stronger. That's what we were looking for and that's what we got."

Machining and assembly

Machining is done on one side of the plant, and assembly on the other. Equipment includes a multiple-head feedthrough slatwall machine, Schelling panel saw, V. Alberti Format Super CN CNC boring machine and Biesse Rover 35.

A Boere Elite widebelt sander, IDM Activa edgebander and three Altendorf F45 sliding table saws are also used in the machining section.

Because it does so many colors, Artitalia laminates most of its materials here. Some clients want bases that look like metal, and Artitalia uses Chemetal metal laminates, which can be cut on the V-groover. "The market is so varied, the demands are different, so everything is custom made," Gaudio says. "We offer a lot of colors, and we often have to match a color for a client."

Artitalia does all finishing, including application of lacquers, stains and solid colors."

The company started five years ago with 10 employees. It now has 80 employees just in the wood department. Overall, business was up 20 percent in 2004.

Why has Artitalia been successful? "We are able to design and innovate and we can offer wood, metal and plastic production in house," Gaudio says. "We also have experience in manufacturing overseas, so the customer benefits from lower production cost either from mixed production or a total import program.

"We can also do the whole fixture in one location. We can offer flexibility on the quality of the product. We have a lot of clients who are amazed at what we can do here."

Have something to say? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.