Investing in advanced machinery
Based in Columbus, OH, Hytec Tops, LLC fabricates various materials, including natural stone. The company recently relocated its facility in Columbus, where it has added a builder showroom. And with a new shop and location, Hytec Tops is now beginning to expand its horizons within the industry. Although the company will continue to work with natural stone, it is also beginning to add the production of engineered stones -- such as DuPont Zodiac -- to its workload, according to owner Ron Mercer.
Mercer began his career as a sales representative for Wilsonart -- a laminates company. He then decided to continue his work in the fabrication field by starting his own business -- Hytec Tops. Previously working as a sales representative has kept him in the loop with connections he has been able to carry over. â€œI do a lot of networking with my old comrades,â€ said Mercer. â€œWe do a lot of sharing of information.â€
Like many other fabricators similar in size and production capacity, Hytec Tops specializes in residential kitchens. â€œMainly, the type of work we do is residential countertops,â€ said Mercer. â€œThe commercial jobs that we do never total more than $20,000 per project.â€ On average, Hytec Tops will complete anywhere from 12 to 15 kitchens a week.
In order to meet the demands of its clients, Hytec Tops has two primary machines for cutting and stoneworking, and has ordered two others that are expected to arrive soon. â€œWe have one Gravellona Macchine Marmo [GMM] bridge saw that we purchased in June 2003 with one more on the way, a CMS/Brembana Maxima CNC machine with another one on the way, and ADI diamond tooling,â€ explained the owner. â€œWe are still 'gun shy' in the stone industry, so I make sure we are over capacity [with machinery]. I am trying to give myself some security.â€
There are a lot of benefits that Mercer has found with the relatively new CMS/Brembana Maxima CNC machine. With this machine, the size of the bed allows someone to get up on the bed, according to the owner. Mercer also benefits from the strength and integrity that he feels the machine endures. â€œThe Brembana has also sped up production, especially on complex countertops and edges by giving a better overall quality,â€ explained Mercer.
It took about two months for the two employees at Hytec Tops to learn to run the program, according to the owner. It wasn't too difficult for the company to learn the machine, but it took some getting used to. They had to learn to rely on the machine's automated capabilities and take full advantage of its capacity, according to Mercer. It has also decreased the amount of manpower that it takes to fabricate a kitchen countertop. â€œBefore, if I was asked for an ogee edge kitchen countertop, I would actually price it higher based on how busy I was, because I knew I was going to have a guy tied up for a day or two,â€ explained the owner.
Currently, the company has a total of 26 employees, with 10 working specifically in the stone sector of its business. â€œI hire employees through word of mouth. They tend to come to me,â€ explained Mercer. â€œWhen a worker is hired, I have an experienced guy training the new employees.â€
When it comes to interacting with the customer, Mercer wants to educate them so that they have an understanding of the fabrication process. He lets the customer see his facility and equipment before and during the fabrication process so that they have an understanding of the progression that the company goes through on each project. â€œThe customers are the biggest challenge that we face,â€ explained Mercer.
Another challenge that Hytec faces is getting quality people for its labor force. â€œI took a different route,â€ said the owner. â€œI chose machinery and material handling instead of just trying to get employees. That's part of the reason I bought the second machine. I could have put in a second shift and kept up with the 12 to 15 kitchens we produce a week, but I know that I can use less people in one shift and produce the same amount plus have a security factor; if one machine ever went down I would have a back-up machine.â€
End boxHytec Tops LLC
Type of work: Residential countertops, some commercial work
Machinery: Gravellona Macchine Marmo (GMM) bridge saw, CMS/Brembana Maxima CNC stoneworking center, ADI diamond tooling
Number of employees: 10
Production rate: 12 to 15 kitchens per week