Advancing in the stone industry

March 10, 2004
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Artistic Tile and Granite, located in Albuquerque, NM, began as a small slab fabricating shop, and its operation now includes two buildings on its premises - one at 10,000 square feet and the other at 2,500 square feet. The facility has two bridge saws and an automated edging machine, with plans for two more edging machines to be purchased in the near future. For this fabricator, no job is too little. “Every job is just as important, from Mrs. Smith's little end table to larger jobs like the waterfall project we recently completed for the PNM [public service company of New Mexico],” said owner John Paulson.

Paulson began his career in the stone industry as an installer, but throughout the years has been able to construct an operation that includes the fabrication of natural stone along with other material. “Back in the late 1970's, I was in the ceramic tile industry as an apprentice and installer,” explained the owner. “I learned the trade working for various companies and eventually got licensed for ceramic tile, terrazzo and marble installation. I then went on my own doing little side jobs. From there I continued to stay ahead of the curve and went from ceramic tile installation to dimensional stone installation. During this time, I was using a local fabricator to polish my stone when I decided to start my own fabrication [shop]. I started out doing little slab pieces on fireplaces, tables and vanities, and as the years went on I got bigger and bigger.”

Starting small and slowly working toward the bigger picture has been a good strategy for Artistic Tile and Granite. It has allowed the company to make practical decisions when introducing new products and material. “In the beginning, we were a custom shop. We started out with all natural stone - granite, marble, slate and travertine. We decided to expand [the production] with engineered stone and we wound up being one of the first in town to get involved with it. Such stone like Silestone, DuPont [Zodiaq], Caesarstone and Legacy were available, and I chose the Silestone line.”

At this point, Artistic Tile and Granite does about 50% production and 50% custom fabricating. The main markets it covers are new construction and remodeling, but they are beginning to break into the commercial market. In terms of a production rate, the company averages about 15 to 20 kitchens a week, according to the owner. Right now, the company's biggest account is Home Depot, according to Paulson.

The machinery that Artistic Tile and Granite has on the premises includes two bridge saws and an edge machine, all purchased from International Machine Corp. (IMC) of Holbrook, NY. “I have the Zonato FPZ400 the FPZ500 bridge saws as well as the Luca 88 edge machine,” said Paulson. “These three pieces of machinery are the work force of the shop.” Also, two other edging machines will be up and running for the near future.

Paulson purchased these machines for a couple of reasons. “First of all, the people over at IMC were really knowledgeable in their machinery,” explained Paulson. “When I bought the Zonato FPZ400, they really delivered [in terms of productivity] and we had not one lick of problems, so I continued with that company and their machinery. I bought the second one [the FPZ500] this past year for this reason. Also, I run two shifts - a day shift and a night shift.” These shifts total 16 hours per day, and the machinery has held up and stood up against the abuse, according to the owner.

In total, Artistic Tile and Granite has 30 employees that include not only fabricators and installers, but also sales personnel. Hiring new employees poses a bit of a challenge for Artistic Tile and Granite. “In our marketplace here, there is no pool to pick from for myself or my competitor,” explained the owner. When a new employee is hired, the staff at Artistic Tile and Granite assesses the new hire's knowledge, and from there, they begin to teach the trade, according to the owner.

First, the employees receive on-the-job training to see what their capabilities are and then proceed with the CSI [Ceritified Silestone Installer] classes, according to the owner. “We have put on a few CSI classes for new employees instead of them going to Houston to train,” said Paulson. “All our fabricators and installers are cross-trained [in stone and engineered stone].”

Even with new machinery and a very competent staff, Paulson still faces challenges as a fabricator. “The first challenge is educating the consumer,” explained the owner. “Customers will go to a model house or a depot store or see what they want on television and they say, 'This is what I want.' I try to educate my customers as far as saying, 'What do you need?' After that, the next challenge is putting the customers' decisions into the fabrication process.”

End box

Artistic Tile and Granite
Albuquerque, NM

Type of work: Kitchen countertops and some commercial work in both natural stone and engineered stone
Machinery: Zonato FPZ550 and FPZ750 bridge saws from IMC; Luca 88 edge machine from IMC
Number of employees: 30
Production rate: 15 to 20 kitchens per week

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