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For the third year, Stone World Magazine rolled out its Stone Fabrication Workshops to meet a need for high-quality industry education. These one-day intensive sessions took place in Seattle, WA; Oakland, CA; and Las Vegas, NV, in May, and future sessions are planned for later this year in the Southwestern U.S. and the Northeastern U.S.
Timely and expanded contentA new course curriculum was developed for the 2007 Stone Fabrication Workshops, and it was based on specific issues raised by North American stone fabricators. Each presenter made extensive use of visuals, showing “real life” examples of stone fabrication shops and techniques to offer participants an illustration of the points being raised during the various sessions.
The first speaker at the event was Kevin Padden, who has nearly three decades of experience in all facets of the industry, and who has spoken extensively at trade shows around the country. Padden began his session by discussing the optimum strategies for shop layout and expansion. Considering the growth that many fabrication shops are currently experiencing, Padden made a concentrated effort to explain to fabricators what they need to consider when adding new machinery to their operation. Padden’s presentation continued with an explanation of requirements for air and water treatment within the shop. This topic not only included information on the types of systems and how they function, but also how the infrastructure of a shop needs to be developed for proper air and water treatment.
The presentation concluded with a discussion of the various safety issues facing a shop in today’s marketplace. Padden discussed material handling as well as OSHA issues. Specifically, he detailed the “Top 10” OSHA violations commonly cited in stone fabrication shops. To assist shops in becoming OSHA compliant, Padden distributed a CD with the various OSHA forms a fabrication shop needs to have on file in the event of an inspection.
Offering solutions to challengesThe next speaker was Fred Hueston, an industry-recognized expert and educator who has appeared on a range of television and radio programs as well as in consumer and professional magazines. Hueston’s presentation addressed two ongoing challenges that fabricators are facing in regard to materials -- working with resin-treated slabs and working with engineered stone (quartz surfacing). In his discussion, Hueston spoke about particular issues in working with these materials, which have become particularly prevalent in the marketplace over the course of the past few years, and he offered specific solutions to these various challenges.
Hueston’s presentation also included a look at the various templating methods being used in the field today by stone fabricators. This began with a rundown of the various materials and methods being used when making physical templates, and continued with a discussion of digital/electronic templating. Attendees were particularly interested in Hueston’s discussion on the various digital/electronic templating systems, as he broke down the systems by type (photo templating systems, laser templating systems, etc.)
Finally, addressing an issue faced by virtually every fabrication shop in the market today, Hueston’s presentation addressed the problems and solutions that arise with hand tools. This discussion addressed maintenance issues, how to utilize hand tools for maximum efficiency, power concerns and more. Throughout, Hueston gave attendees specific tips that they could use in their shop.
Looking at advanced technololgyThe third speaker was Mark Lauzon, a stone fabricator and administrator of www.stoneadvice.com, a popular site that offers advice for fabricators. Lauzon’s presentation began with a discussion on purchasing and implementing CNC technology. Speaking from his own experiences over the past few years, Lauzon discussed the true costs of purchasing and operating a CNC, the shop requirements for housing a CNC and the “learning curve” for operating a CNC. He also discussed how the nature of his shop and its production changed after adding CNC technology.
Continuing in the technology sector, Lauzon discussed “The Digitally Integrated Shop,” where all aspects of a stoneworking operation -- marketing, sales, templating, programming, machinery, inventory control, etc. -- are digitally linked. With a broad range of visuals to illustrate his points, Lauzon showed how even small- to mid-sized shops can become digitally integrated.
Lauzon’s presentation ended with a step-by-step explanation of top/seam polishing. With slides of each step in the process, Lauzon walked the attendees through the specific methods on how to polish a seam, and he answered a range of practical questions during the session.
Networking opportunitiesThe final session of the Workshop was an “Open Forum” with all three speakers. This allowed attendees to raise topics of their own for the panel, as well as to expand on the points raised during the day’s presentation. These lively question-and-answer sessions also allowed the fabricators to learn from each other, as they compared their own experiences with specific issues in the shop.
After the Workshop, attendees were able to speak with the presenters as well as the event sponsors -- many of whom are also considered to be industry experts -- at a Networking Reception that included complimentary cocktails and snacks. Attendees also mingled with the speakers and sponsors at the continental breakfast before the Workshop as well as the luncheon, both of which were included with the Workshop admission fee.
Positive feedbackOnce again, the attendees at the Stone World Fabrication Workshops were overwhelmingly positive with their feedback on the event. Positive ratings were reveived from experienced fabricators with decades of experience as well as relatively new stoneworking professionals.
In filling out the attendee survey, most participants awarded the Workshop with the highest possible marks. “The workshop added much knowledge to my base,” stated one attendee at the Seattle Workshop, who reported having 10 years of experience in the trade. Another attendee at the same Workshop stated, “The personal experiences they shared helped explain their points and demonstrate their knowledge.”
Similar feedback was received at the Oakland session. “I appreciated the enthusiasm the speakers had, and their honesty,” stated one participant. “Everything about the entire workshop was beneficial and educating,” stated another.
Of particular note, the CNC presentation was praised by a range of industry veterans, including specific stone fabricators with 15, 18 and 23 years of experience, among others.
The positive feedback continued in Las Vegas, where one fabricator stated: “Everyone had specific things that you could take from the seminar and use today.” Yet another commented: “It helped me make my decisions in buying new machinery.”
Future 2007 Workshops are planned for Los Angeles/North Hollywood, CA (September 10); Anaheim, CA (September 11); Phoenix, AZ (September 13); Washington, DC (November 5); Newark, NJ (November 6); and Boston, MA (November 8). For more information on the Stone Fabrication Workshops, visit www.stoneworld.com/fabworkshops.
Remaining 2007 Stone Fabrication Workshop Dates
September 10 -- Los Angeles/North Hollywood, CA
September 11 -- Anaheim, CA
September 13 -- Phoenix, AZ
November 5 -- Washington, DC
November 6 -- Newark, NJ
November 8 -- Boston, MA