Stone Column

Oh, what a feeling!

July 1, 2007
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Not too long ago, I received an e-mail from a public relations firm representing Toyota, saying that they wanted to lend Stone World one of their Toyota Tundra trucks for review. As a quasi-construction magazine, Stone World has been placed on many periodical lists used by public relations firms, and as such, we get a lot of misdirected e-mail from “mainstream” construction-related companies. Since I couldn’t discern a relationship between Toyota trucks and the stone industry, I chalked this e-mail up to Stone World’s presence on some sort of list, hit the “delete” button, and went on with my day.
A few days later, the same public relations firm followed up their inquiry with a voice mail message. Clearly, they were specifically targeting Stone World Magazine, and not just members of a general publication list. They told me that they wanted to deliver me a Toyota Tundra truck (the big one), and keep it for a few days for my review.
Intrigued, I agreed to the offer. A few days later, two guys showed up at the Stone World offices in New Jersey, and handed me the keys to this massive truck. I felt like I was the winning contestant on a game show or something.
I quickly made an appointment to show off “my” new truck to a local stone fabricator, eager to get his opinion of the vehicle and its viability for countertop installation crews. Moreover, I was proud that our little industry caught the eye of a giant like Toyota. Now, this wasn’t the first time that the stone industry has mingled with the mainstream. (Need I remind the readers about my New York Times interview a few years back?) But it was further reinforcement that people are sitting up and taking notice of the work that we’re doing as a trade.
I drove home that day beaming like a proud papa, with the windows down and the radio up. (I fully expected to hear “We are the Champions” come blaring through the speakers, but I guess you can’t have everything.)
Of course, once the thrill wore off, it occurred to me that the growing profile of our stone industry also has some negative consequences. Two that immediately come to mind are increased competition by newcomers and increased regulation by government agencies (specifically OSHA).
In terms of the first issue, it is up to the individual fabricator to decide how they want to deal with the increased competition, but it’s there, and it is growing. I can honestly say that every region of the country is going to see some new faces who are looking to capitalize on the growing popularity of granite, and who feel that selling on the basis of price is the way to go. Some fabricators may want to try to increase their shop efficiency and somehow reduce costs so they can meet the lowest price on the market. Others will concentrate on quality and craftsmanship and pursue a clientele that does not buy solely on the basis of price. This topic is the focus of one of this issue’s Fabricator Case Studies (page 64), and it is also addressed in the Stone Fabricator Forum (page 94). Clearly, people are devising strategies to deal with a marketplace that is becoming more crowded than before.
With regard to governmental regulations, it seems that the stone industry is being scrutinized by OSHA more than ever. With more and more stone fabrication shops out there, this industry is no longer operating in secret, and OSHA inspections are increasing in frequency. Fortunately, there are plenty of sources out there where a fabricator can learn how to prepare themselves for an OSHA inspection. On page 106 of this issue, we recap a presentation by OSHA Compliance Assistant Specialist Jonathan Worrell, who discussed the agency’s processes. He also detailed an alliance that OSHA has established with the Marble Institute of America to assist in industry education and compliance. In fact, the two organizations already held a presentation on OSHA compliance for stone fabricators in Cleveland, OH, last year, and another one will take place in New Jersey this month (see page 21 for details).
Education on OSHA for stone fabricators is also available at trade shows such as StonExpo and Coverings, and it is an important component of the Stone World Stone Fabrication Workshops (www.stoneworld.com/fabworkshops), so there are plenty of opportunities to get yourself prepared.
Oh, about the Toyota Tundra. The fabricator told me that the truck would need some retrofitting before it could be used in his business. But in my opinion, given the truck’s power and ground clearance, it would make for one sweet quarry vehicle.

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