Targeting a specific market

January 5, 2001
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Among the stoneworking equipment in Stone Dynamics' 30,000-square-foot facility are two CMS/Brembana "Micra" CNC machines.

Stone Dynamics is equipped with a state-of-the-art packaging line, which uses liquid foam to form a protective wrap for its marble and granite tops that are being shipped.
While working as a large fabricator of heavy glass tops for the furniture industry, Robert Lankford of Glass Dynamics found that there was a need for a domestic supplier of marble and granite tops for furniture manufactures. And he believed that he might be the man to meet this demand. As a result, Lankford joined together with Todd Foley and Analisa Vipperman Foley -- whose independent sales firm, Arch Vipperman Sales Co., Inc., already represented Glass Dynamics. Together, the trio formed Stone Dynamics, which began operations in April 2000.

"Over the years, importers were the primary source for supplying stone tops for furniture," said Todd Foley, Stone Dynamics' vice president. "These companies basically brought in products that were prefabricated overseas. They then packaged the material at a stateside facility and shipped it to the customer." But with the availability of CNC technology in the U.S., they saw an opportunity to manufacture stone furnishings domestically. "Our goal is to improve lead times, stock material for in-stock programs, and concentrate solely on the furniture industry," Foley said.

To achieve this objective, the company opened a 30,000-square-foot fabricating facility in Martinsville, VA. Production did not begin until July, according to Foley, who explained that they needed a few months to set up the shop. Currently, Stone Dynamics is equipped with two CMS/Brembana "Micra" CNC machines, one CMS/Brembana "Speed 3" CNC machine, one Park Industries Jaguar saw and one bed polisher.

Additionally, the factory is equipped with a state-of-the-art packaging line, which uses liquid foam to protect the products during shipment. Vacuum lifting devices are also at each machine, and an indoor crane system is used to unload containers.

"We made a good decision on the machinery," said Foley, adding that the company plans to add another CNC machine and straight edge polisher in the future. "We're doing around 1,300 tops per month." With 15 employees, Stone Dynamics runs a full first shift. "We have a partial second shift going now," said Foley. "Most of the furniture heavyweights are coming on board now."

According to Foley, the company primary deals with furniture companies in North Carolina. Among the "heavyweights" he referred to are Thomasville, Bernhardt, Century, Hooker Furniture, American Drew and Lexington Furniture.

Forming an alliance

When discussing the differences between the glass and stone industries, Foley said that finding the right supplier is key in the stone industry. "You really have to have a good supplier," he said. "Glass suppliers are domestic producers. You can get your raw materials stateside." But because a good portion of marbles and granites come from overseas, Foley said that he has found it is important to have someone you can trust to get quality material and meet the demanding time frame.

At this time, Stone Dynamics deals exclusively with a supplier in New Jersey. "They understand the furniture business," said Foley. "We struck a good partnership."

The marble and granite tops that Stone Dynamics produces are used for numerous pieces, including nightstands, dressers, bachelor chests and consoles. In order to continue its success, the company intends to continue to grow and increase its production rate. "[We plan] to be committed to supplying the furniture industry with a quality product at a competitive price. [We also want] to operate on shorter lead times -- six to eight weeks -- instead of 12 to 16, which the furniture industry has been used to."

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