Over the past five years, the countertop/vanity market in France has grown by 20%. And to address the strong growth of natural stone kitchen countertops, the Gomet Co., which is based in Saint-Etienne, France, recently upgraded its facility with state-of-the-art stoneworking equipment, including a T-108 Evolution from Thibaut, S.A.

Because of its close proximity to the Montmartre Cemetary, which dominates the city of Saint-Etienne, the Gomet Co. had specialized in the memorial trade for many years after its foundation in 1936 by Michel Gomet. However, the company underwent a profound diversification of activities at the start of 1986, at which time Louis Gomet, a third generation stonemason who now heads the company, began working for the firm. Louis Gomet was in turn succeeding his father Claude.

Louis Gomet was more inclined toward fabricating granite for architectural use than for the monument industry. And after about 15 years, he changed the overall direction of the company. As a result, 70% of the company's turnover in 2002 was comprised of stone fabrication for the countertop/vanity sector.

But even with the increase in countertop and vanity business, the sales of memorials remains strong, one hundred monuments were sold and installed during 2000.

"This strategic reorientation is the fruit of our development into the kitchen countertop market," said Louis Gomet. "For the past five years, this niche has clearly grown, since we have progressed at a pace of 20% per year. We should reach a production total of 500 kitchens this year."

A total of 80% of Gomet's customers are kitchen designers in the Saint-Etienne region, who come with their customers to survey the inventoried materials. This represents a stock of 1,000 square meters of granite slabs in about 30 different colors.

Increasing production

To increase in production, Gomet knew that it would have to either increase its manpower or invest in new technology. Faced with a lack of manpower in the region, Louis Gomet chose the second option, and has equipped himself with the Stone WorkStation T-108 Evolution from Thibaut. "The T-108 will allow us to noticeably shorten our delivery times and help us increase precision," Gomet said. "Today, we hear a lot about numerically controlled machines. After studying in detail the advantages and disadvantages of such equipment, I sincerely think that I would get no benefit from such a machine. Insofar as we must template, fabricate and install the product, we do not have the time to produce much more. The T-108 Evolution will be used principally for bowl openings and polishing these openings and sinks, as well as for polished drain boards."

For all operations of sawing, milling and linear polishing, the workshop also is equipped with a Thibaut T-55 polisher and bridge saws from Bernat-Saufere and Denver. With the equipment in place, Gomet is confident that it will be able to pursue further development of the countertop market, while giving priority to quality over quantity.