Fabricator Case Study: Managing a disciplined work crew
July 1, 2006
Although Lake Cumberland Marble & Granite has only been in operation for the past two years, its founder, Doug Day, has almost three decades of stone industry-related experience under his belt. Day has been working in the stone industry for the past 27 years, and only recently decided to open a fabrication shop in Somerset, KY. â€œAt age 15, I started working with Italians doing ceramic and marble installations,â€ he said, adding that he also started doing countertop fabrication at this time.
In 2004, Day launched Lake Cumberland Marble & Granite out of a 9,200-square-foot facility that relies on machinery from Regent Stone Products of Virginia Beach, VA.
â€œWe purchased the Express 3200 bridge saw from Regent Stone Products, which is a great dollar-for-dollar investment,â€ said the owner. â€œThis saw will do everything that a start-up or existing fabrication shop could need, unless you are producing major amounts of custom copy.â€ For edging, the company purchased a Marmoelettromeccanica Master 3500 edging machine, also from Regent Stone Products.
The company employs a total of six workers. â€œThey are specialized, but not any employee can execute [all of the different fabrication tasks] because there are weeks and sometimes months of training required,â€ the owner explained. â€œI have been in the business for 27 years, and learn something new every day. If you are a fabricator, you know you can't watch a video or have your employees watch one, and expect them to be an expert in the field.
â€œIn hiring new people, because of my being an army brat, I look for disciplined people that have a family and responsibilities,â€ he continued. â€œIf they have been in the armed forces, that is a plus [because] they know what being on time and completing a mission is about.â€
Employees of Lake Cumberland Marble & Granite train for a 90-day trial period. â€œBy that time, you [should have learned enough] to be able to work in this field,â€ explained Day. â€œIf not, you should not keep [them as employees] because they will cause you problems and cost you money, regardless of how much you would like to keep them.â€
The company's production rate averages four to six kitchens per week, and it fabricates custom countertops, as well as handling a retail business and the installation of ceramic tile and marble. Lake Cumberland Marble & Granite manufactures natural stone only, and principle markets include remodeling and new construction. A total of 70% of the company's production is cut-to-size work with the remaining 30% being tiles.
The company purchases slabs from local distributors on a per-job basis. â€œI feel that unless you have deep pockets, why tie up your cash flow,â€ said Day. â€œMost distributors give you 90 to 120 days on as much material as you can produce with good credit. So, take advantage of their warehouse, and use it to your advantage.â€
As a fabricator, Day finds it difficult to establish a reputable name in the stone industry. â€œThe biggest challenge today, in this business, is that so many people think that if they buy a bunch of expensive machinery, they are now granite fabricators,â€ he explained. â€œWhen in fact, that is so far from the truth. If you don't know this business or have time and money to spend, you need to think about what you are getting into. If you're in this business, then you know the most experienced people in this trade make mistakes every day and that it costs a lot of money.
â€œThe best advice I can give [to other fabricators] is to always check your template twice and cut once,â€ Day continued. â€œTeach your employees the proper way to handle what they are working with, from a shower curb to a kitchen with an undermount sink cutout. Remember, the most important installation is a happy, satisfied and paid-in-full customer.â€
Day also said that to strive in this industry, a company has to keep up with the changes by attending trade shows, reading industry-related materials and by being involved with the Marble Institute of America, which he cites as a great source for information.
Lake Cumberland Marble & Granite Somerset, KYType of work: Remodeling, new construction, custom countertops
Machinery: Express 3200 bridge saw and a Marmoelettromeccanica Master 3500 edging machine from Regent Stone Products of Virginia Beach, VA
Number of Employees: 6
Production Rate: 4 to 6 kitchens per week