Reformatting to meet market demand
September 3, 2009
For a company that was formed to take on the commercial sector in greater Louisville, KY, the owners of TruRock LLC, Cory Lay and Jamie Watts, have had to shift gears to better position themselves in the marketplace. “Basically, our original business plan was to specialize in commercial and multi-family projects,” said Watts. “With the current state of the economy, we have used the same high-production and efficiency techniques we use for commercial work and translated them into our residential offerings.”
Lay and Watts have a combined 28 years of experience in the industry, specifically prior to TruRock when Watts started a stone company that Lay had worked for. When Watts sold that company, he and Lay created TruRock in 2003. “We basically started out doing commercial work, but the economy has forced us into other work,” said Watts. “[We do] a lot more residential. We have dealers now, and do pretty much anything.”
Although business has shifted directions, TruRock has maintained its original priorities. “We pride ourselves on efficiency and quality,” said Watts. “We don’t believe that one has to sacrifice to improve the other.”
With those principles in mind, the company has found much of its success stemming from the machinery it has invested in. “What we’ve tried to do because of the way the market is, is to eliminate as much overhead as possible,” said Watts. “Our machinery has allowed us to become more efficient and more creative.”
The shopThe 18,000-square-foot shop houses a Northwood CNC and a Northwood SawJet - both from Northwood Machine Manufacturing Co. of Louisville, KY, and the SawJet utilizes a waterjet pump and cutting nozzle from KMT Waterjet Systems of Baxter Springs, KS.
“They’re the cornerstone of our production,” said Lay. “The capacity we’ve raised up to, there’s no way we could’ve done it without those machines. We essentially have five to six employees producing. Without the machines, we’d need 10 to 12 guys.”
Additionally, the shop utilizes a Marmo Meccanica LTT 621 polishing machine for round and flat edges up to 6 cm in thickness. A Denver Slot bridge saw from VIC International of Knoxville, TN, is also in place for cutting slabs, and the company has a Matrix contour CNC that provides vanity bowl cutouts and various light CNC operations. “Matrix went out of business, which caused us a little trouble, but Northwood stepped up to help us out with any repair issues,” said Lay.
Gorbel overhead cranes are used to maneuver slabs around the shop.
Beyond large machinery operations comes other advanced technology in the facility. An LT-55 Laser Templator from Laser Products of Romeoville, IL, is used for templating, and Alpha CAD/CAM in conjunction with StoneVision - a proprietary software of Northwood - are utilized to create TruRock’s approval drawings, transpose material layouts and create all tool-paths for the company’s three CNC machines.
“We create ‘build as’ approval drawings for each job,” said Watts. “I will send a file and/or photo and virtual folder for each job, including pictures and digital templates. We’re trying to be more full service than our competition, and it gives us an advantage.”
Setting itself apartTruRock has 15 workers, including Lay and Watts and its own installation crew. “We wear many hats here,” said Watts. “Jay James is our in-house IT manager, and he handles all of our ordering and production tracking. Cory handles in-house production and drafting management, and I handle sales, installation management and PR.”
The company offers all-inclusive pricing on any available edge treatment, any cutouts and any radii or bump outs. “Our customers’ price only increases if the square footage increases,” said Watts.
“We know exactly how much labor it takes to fabricate a given job or project,” he continued. “That allows us to give our customers realistic turnaround times and installation dates on approval. I get a production update daily that tells me how far we are from approval to install.”
An optimistic futureWith a capacity to reach $325,000 per month in production - based on a single 8-hour shift per day - TruRock is currently averaging $200,000 to $250,000, but remains positive. “We will continue to navigate through the growing pains of a company on the rise,” said Watts. “The challenge is doing so while keeping our current lead-times and quality in check.
“Now with the economy the way it is, there’s actually some positives,” he continued. “A lot of companies go through business recession, but it just forces us to look internally and see how we can better our company. When things comes back, we’re going to be in a better position.”
In the long run, TruRock would like to expand into other markets. It is currently doing so in the Lexington, KY, market by keeping pace with its original business plan to both concentrate on commercial work and develop satellite locations in less oversaturated markets. “We would like to do this at a moderate pace and continue to create angles in the marketplace by offering services our competition does not,” said Lay, adding that the company has been experimenting with other products, including engineered stone, recycled materials and high-end wood products, but has yet to release them.
The company was recently awarded work for the new Louisville arena, which will involve inlaying the team’s logo of the cardinal head on suite tops. The cardinal symbol will feature Red Dragon, Absolute Black and Inka Gold. Recently completed projects by TruRock include doing restoration work for the French Lick Hotel and Casino, work for the West Baden Hotel and other local hotels.
Sidebar: TruRock, LLCLouisville, KY
Type of work: residential and commercial
Machinery: a Northwood CNC and a Northwood SawJet -- both from Northwood Machine Manufacturing Co. in Louisville, KY; SawJet utilizes a waterjet pump and cutting nozzle from KMT Waterjet Systems of Baxter Springs, KS, for the Northwood SawJet; a Marmo Meccanica LTT 621 polishing machine; a Denver Slot bridge saw supplied by VIC International of Knoxville, TN; a Matrix Contour CNC; Gorbel overhead cranes; an LT-55 from Laser Products of Romeoville, IL; and Alpha CAD/CAM in conjunction with StoneVision -- a proprietary software of Northwood
Number of Employees: 15
Production Rate: capacity to reach $325,000 per month, but currently averaging $200,000 to $250,000