South Carolina fabricator stresses craftsmanship
January 27, 2011
Since its foundation 23 years ago, StoneWorks of Hilton Head Island and Bluffton, SC, has placed a special emphasis on quality, organization and craftsmanship. Earlier this year, the family-owned company received acknowledgment of its commitment to the trade with its designation as a Marble Institute of America (MIA) Accredited Natural Stone Fabricator.
StoneWorks is the 35th Natural Stone Fabricator to have achieved accreditation. “We are incredibly honored to have received this illustrious designation, which is a direct reflection of the wonderful, professional staff and high standards at StoneWorks,” said owner John Baltzegar, III.
To become an Accredited Natural Stone Fabricator by the MIA, a company must have successfully completed three phases of application. Phase one was the completion of a lengthy application that required the applicant company to provide various documents and references which ensure that the company is in compliance with the 10 standards of accreditation as laid out by the MIA Accreditation Commission. Phase two required the company’s qualifying agent - the designated company representative responsible for filing and maintaining accreditation records for the applicant company - to pass an extensive exam. The exam tested the applicant’s knowledge and application of material usage, installation, fabrication, restoration, care and maintenance, administration, legal/contracts, and jobsite and shop safety. The third phase was a comprehensive site visit, which included a facility review, document review and one or more installation site visits.
A continuous production cycleThe fabrication shop at StoneWorks operates by a “continuous cycle of events” that is dictated by the schedule. Management is careful to avoid over-scheduling or under-scheduling in order to preserve the “rhythm” of that process. “Lots of effort is put in to a job on the front end before the first slab is ever cut,” stated the company. “Having all the details sorted out for the shop beforehand is crucial to our five-day process.”
Cutting of raw slabs is achieved with the use of two Simec FP625 bridge saws, and a dual-table Löffler LBZ CNC machine is used for all pieces requiring intricate edging, radius work or sink/appliance cutouts. “Our CNC machine has led to improved quality and consistency of our products,” explained Brian Baltzegar, Fabrication Manager. “It also has improved the quality of life for our employees. However, we made the purchase in order to support the system we already had in place. Supplementing rather than replacing was the key to its integration within our system.”
Although StoneWorks has invested in automated technology, it points out that handwork and craftsmanship “are still very much a part of the process.”
StoneWorks has also invested in technology beyond the fabrication shop. Two Dodge Sprinter vans are used by StoneWorks’ template team. Each van is equipped with a laptop computer, mylar plotter and a Proliner digital templating device. The vans serve as a mobile template office, as they allow the company to digitize, print and then physically check each template while at the jobsite. “The process eliminates errors as well as amazes customers,” according to the company.
In addition to the company’s showroom in Hilton Head Island, which has been a mainstay for a decade, a second showroom in Bluffton was opened three years ago. Interchangeable stock slabs are always on display in the showrooms, and each is individually decorated with coordinating props, such as sinks, cabinet doors and backsplash tile designs. This gives the clients an idea of how the stone can look when paired with the right accessories and lighting. When the material is no longer available, the slab is quickly rolled out, replaced and re-decorated.
Extensive lines of decorative tile are a major part of StoneWorks’ offerings. In fact, the majority of both showrooms’ floor space is dedicated to decorative tile, and clients often spend hours at either location making selections.