Stone Column

Stone Column: Learning from others

April 1, 2005
/ Print / Reprints /
ShareMore
/ Text Size+
For the first time ever, the subject of our “Re-Emerging U.S. Stone Industry” feature is not technically a member of the stone industry. In fact, the company -- Counter Intelligence of Silver Spring, MD -- is strictly a fabricator of Silestone quartz surfacing, and they produce a staggering 35 kitchens per day (page 36).

Now, before you stone “purists” out there begin writing us the requisite hate mail, I think it's important to understand why this type of article is important at this day and age, and why we made the trip to their facilities outside of Washington, DC. First of all, quartz surfacing -- whether it is Silestone, Zodiaq, CaesarStone or otherwise -- has made such inroads in our industry that it would be foolhardy to ignore the fact that it exists. Many fabricators who have been working with natural stone for decades now also fabricate quartz surfacing to fulfill the requests of their customers.

Conversely, many fabricators who had historically specialized in laminates or solid surfaces have eventually moved into quartz surfacing and ultimately into natural stone. One example of this can be found in our feature of East Coast Associates (page 110), which we visited in Virginia. This company made the move into natural stone less than a year ago, and they entered the business with the professionalism they had learned over the years working with homeowners. And many other fabricators that are included in the “Fabricator Case Studies” section of this issue also fabricate both natural stone and quartz surfacing.

The simple fact is that there is significant crossover between natural stone and quartz surfacing, including fabricating techniques, machinery, tooling, templating and so forth. But there are also practical lessons to be learned in terms of simply operating a countertop production facility. This is particularly important for newer fabricators who know the ins and outs of stone fabrication, but have not necessarily had to face some of the customer service issues and follow-up that is part of running your own business.

As I toured Counter Intelligence's operation, I was quite impressed by the level of sophistication it maintains. From beginning to end, a project is carefully tracked by customer service representatives by computer, and it is cross-checked at each stage -- all with an eye on making sure that things are done right, that communication between all parties is clear, and that the customer will ultimately be satisfied. I suppose I shouldn't have been all that surprised, because you need some system of organization if you're doing 35 kitchens per day, but it was nevertheless impressive.

This is not, of course, to say that this level of customer service is absent from fabricators of natural stone. In fact, most fabricators also have a keen eye on customer satisfaction -- probably more than most contractors that deal with homeowners (although I still shudder to include stone fabricators in the general category of “contractors”). It is just nice to see the bar for quality control raised so high. In a time when competition is perhaps more difficult than ever, and when there are more fabricators than ever in the marketplace, it is important that the level of quality for stone fabrication is never compromised -- on any scale.

And there are many tools for quality control out there. In addition to sophisticated computer systems for templating, estimating, project tracking and inventory, there are resources for fabricators that require nothing more than the ability to operate a pencil. The Marble Institute of America is offering a package of forms that fabricators can use for each of their projects -- from jobsite checklists to homeowner satisfaction forms -- these documents were taken from fabricators around the country, and offer a comprehensive system for ensuring customer quality.

Like every industry, the stone business continues to change. Rather than bemoan these changes or long for “the good old days,” it is in the fabricators' best interest to keep an eye on what is going on in the field and to maintain stone's reputation as a premium building material.

Did you enjoy this article? Click here to subscribe to Stone World 

You must login or register in order to post a comment.

Multimedia

Videos

Image Galleries

November 2013 Stone Products Gallery

Take a look at some of the latest stone industry products.

THE MAGAZINE

Stone World Magazine

April 2014 stone world cover

2014 April

In this month's issue of Stone World, check out an extensive preview of Coverings 2014, which will be celebrating its 25th anniversary in April. Also learn more about various types of limestone that were used to build private residences.

Table Of Contents Subscribe

Contemporary Stone & Tile Design Magazine

CSTD_Spring2014_Cover.jpg

2014 Spring

This issue of Contemporary Stone & Tile Design includes our annual focus on Kitchen and Bath design

Table Of Contents Subscribe

Training Program

How formal is your training program for new employees?
View Results Poll Archive

The Stone World Store

How_To_Polish_&_Restore_Mar.gif
How to Polish & Restore Marble Flooring

This video will show you step-by-step how to resurface and polish marble flooring from grinding and removing lippage and scratches to achieving a highly reflective polish.

More Products

Italian Trade Commission Coverings exhibitor preview

Italian Trade Commission logo 2

The Italian Trade Commission is presenting a large group of the most innovative and internationally renowned Italian suppliers of dimensional natural stones. We hope your busy schedule will allow you to join us for a “genuine” espresso in booth N. 4045 and explore the exciting Italian natural stone resources offered by our exhibitors. Check out Italian stone producers exhibiting at Coverings 2014 here!

  

Stone Industry Education

stone industry educationStone Industry Education is sponsored by Stone World Magazine and Marble Institute of America. The SIE events will help you: strengthen your skills, build your business, and  increase profit in your shop.  Check out stoneindustryeducation.com to register for upcoming fabricator and installer seminars.

STAY CONNECTED

facebook logo Twitter  YouTube