Fabricator Case Studies

Embracing change to sustain a viable business

July 5, 2011
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With a history that dates back more than 60 years, Hoffman Fixtures Co. (HFC) in Tulsa, OK, has experienced many transitions through its years in business. The company began its operation in June of 1949 when founder Cecil Hoffman set up shop in his garage. He started by making custom restaurant, soda fountain, bar and store fixtures after World War II. With a successful business plan intact, HFC continued to evolve through the decades — expanding to larger facilities and adding laminate, solid surfacing and, eventually natural stone, to its product offerings. Today, the company operates out of a 30,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility, which processes 500 square feet of natural stone per day as well as 200 square feet of solid surfacing.

“By the mid-1950s, Cecil was so busy he called upon his son, Elden Hoffman, who was working as an oil field accountant in southern Oklahoma, to join him in the business because he was making the move to expand from his garage to HFC’s first official fabrication shop in Tulsa, OK,” said Joe Hoffman, Sr., Chief Executive Officer. “Upon Elden’s arrival, he immediately began exploring new products and ‘new’ surface material of that time. Plastic laminate was his choice to pursue.

“Cecil and Elden constructed their own post — forming equipment to manufacture the ‘new’ rolled edge laminate countertop, which soon became the surfacing of choice by builders, remodelers and homeowners,” Hoffman went on to say. “Over the next 20 years, HFC grew at a steady pace — along with the population of Tulsa — by moving twice into larger facilities.”

Hoffman explained that he began working for HFC just as Cecil was retiring. “I started out working as an installer, then shop production manager, before eventually becoming sales manager in 1982 — eventually purchasing the company from Elden in 1990,” he said.

Branching into stone fabrication

In 1982, HFC primarily focused on the production of laminate and solid surface countertops. “Laminate and solid surfacing continued to be the surface of choice in Tulsa, and HFC continued to have the majority market share of that business in both residential and commercial applications,” explained Hoffman. “In the mid-1990s, the popularity of natural stone was beginning to grow to the point that I decided to add it to HFC’s product offering and began selling installed jobs by outsourcing the fabrication. By 2002, the volume had grown so large that we were out sourcing to three and four fabrication shops to keep up. At the same time, my son, Joe Hoffman, Jr., had graduated Oklahoma State University and started working for the company full time in February 2002 as its Accounting and Purchasing Manager.”

Hoffman explained that Joe, Jr. was well versed in the fabrication and installation production aspects of the business before moving into management. Once his son was on board, Hoffman took the plunge and HFC opened its own stone fabrication facility. “Starting with just a bridge saw and a single-head line polisher, the volume continued to grow to become the largest product category in HFC’s offering,” he said.

Around this same time, HFC also joined the Artisan Group — a national organization of independent granite fabricators that have joined together to offer the Artisan StoneTM Collection, the first and only brand of granite wholly owned by Artisan Group, which has a comprehensive life-time warranty. The group also offers Heritage WoodTM countertops and Kohler® sinks and faucets.

“We joined Artisan Group because it gave us a chance to be part of a large buying group,” said Hoffman. “It offers a pooled knowledge base with like businesses that are not always competing with us. This group really is a top-notch bunch of companies who never turn down a request for knowledge and/or assistance. Also, the Artisan brand has grown into a recognizable brand of quality products and fabrication — particularly in the commercial arena.”

Expanding work space

The company continued on its path of transition and growth when it moved into its current 30,000-square-foot facility — complete with a 3,500-square-foot showroom — in August of 2008. It has previously been operating out of three separate buildings.

Another large step for HFC came in October of 2008 when it merged with Aztec Marble. Jamie Myers, the company’s current Chief Operating Officer, became the first non-Hoffman family stockholder of HFC.

“The Aztec merger added one of Tulsa’s largest Cast Polymer [cultured marble] operations under our umbrella,” said Hoffman. “In March of 2010, we purchased the assets of Phoenix Fabrication, LLC in Oklahoma City. That operation has been transformed into a sales, template and installation facility supported by the fabrication facilities in Tulsa.”

In addition to the 30,000 square feet in the main fabrication facility, HFC has an additional 15,000 square feet dedicated for its Cast Polymer plant. The sales and warehouse facility in Oklahoma City measures 15,000 square feet.

Investing in equipment

Equipment in the shop includes a dual-table Northwood SawJet, which utilizes a waterjet pump and cutting nozzle from KMT Waterjet Systems of Baxter Springs, KS. The SawJet as well as a Northwood CNC stoneworking machine were purchased in August of 2009 from Northwood Machine Mfg. of Louisville, KY. The CNC is equipped with ADI tooling from GranQuartz of Tucker, GA, and vacuum pods from Blick Industries of Laguna Beach, CA.

“The change to a digital shop — with the addition of the Northwood SawJet and CNC router — is directly related to how we have survived the current economy,” explained Hoffman. “Efficiency is key to controlling costs and producing enough volume to stay alive in these trying times. The capability of digital equipment has opened up market growth — particularly in the commercial segments. It very simply allows us to compete for jobs of virtually all types anywhere in the U.S.”

Additionally, slabs are cut on a Yukon bridge saw from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN, and the most recent investment in the shop is a Park Fastback flat edge polisher. The machines are equipped with the Terminator brand of blades from Continental DIA Diamond Products of San Carlos, CA, and Rival polishing pads from Granite City Tool Co. of Waite Park, MN, are used for hand polishing. Vacuum lifters from Wood’s Powr-Grip Co. Inc. of Laurel, MT, are utilized for slab transportation around the facility.

Overall, HFC maintains a staff of approximately 55 employees, including seven stone shop fabricators, two to four solid surface fabricators, one to two laminate fabricators and five production workers at the Cast Polymer plant. Moreover, there are six installation crews based at the Tulsa location and two in Oklahoma City.

For templating, HFC uses the LT-55 Laser Templating System from Laser Products of Romeoville, IL. “We made the decision to go with Laser Products at the same time that we purchased the Northwood equipment,” said Hoffman. “This product has been instrumental in the change to digital technology because of its accuracy and ease of use.”

Marketing its products

According to Hoffman, 50% of the company’s surfacing sales is natural stone and quartz; 20% is solid surfacing; 20% is Cast Polymer bath surfacing, tubs and shower pans; and 10% is laminate surfacing and accessories such as plumbing fixtures and cabinets. As for its market, work in the surrounding areas of Tulsa and Oklahoma City is mostly residential, while it does commercial work nationwide. Some recent projects include: ONEOK Ball Park in Tulsa, the Tulsa Convention Center, the Pediatric Dental Clinic in Tulsa, Mercy Hospital Administration Offices in Oklahoma City, the Tulsa Spine and Orthopedic Institute, the Mayo Hotel and Lofts in Tulsa, the Federal Credit Union in Oklahoma City and the Quik Trip convenience store chain. “We have a five-year ongoing contract to supply all countertop surface for stores throughout the U.S.,” said Hoffman.

Despite difficult economic times, HFC has managed to remain successful. Hoffman credits the acquisition of Phoenix Fabrication as a contributing factor. “It provided an instant and ongoing customer list to build on while developing HFC as a viable brand in a new larger market,” he said. “This new market has been an integral part of our success during these challenging economic times we are experiencing. When we look at how much the Tulsa business revenue is down, less the added Oklahoma City business — due to the economy — by adding the Oklahoma City revenue, it has virtually replaced the lost Tulsa business and provided a much larger growth opportunity going forward.”

Hoffman Fixtures Co.

Tulsa, OK

Type of work: primarily residential in the Tulsa and Oklahoma City areas; commercial nationwide

Machinery: a dual-table Northwood SawJet and Northwood CNC stoneworking center — both from Northwood Machine Mfg. of Louisville, KY; a waterjet pump and cutting nozzle from KMT Waterjet Systems of Baxter Springs, KS; a Yukon bridge saw and a Park Fastback flat edge polisher -- both from Park Industries of St. Cloud, MN; Terminator brand of blades from Continental DIA Diamond Products of San Carlos, CA; Rival polishing pads from Granite City Tool Co. of Waite Park, MN; vacuum pods from Blick Industries of Laguna Beach, CA; LT-55 Laser Templating System from Laser Products of Romeoville, IL,vacuum lifters from Wood’s Powr-Grip Co. Inc. of Laurel, MT; and hand tools and accessories from Granite City Tool; ADI tooling from GranQuartz of Tucker, GA

Number of employees: a staff of approximately 55 employees, including seven stone shop fabricators, two to four solid surface fabricators, one to two laminate fabricators, five production workers at the Cast Polymer (cultured marble) plant, and six installation crews based at the Tulsa location and two in Oklahoma City

Production rate: 500 square feet of natural stone per day as well as 200 square feet of solid surfacing.

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