Fabricator Issues and Solutions
Moderated by Tony Malisani of Malisani Inc. in Great Falls, MT, the Atlanta Stone Industry Education Seminar drew a group of fabricators who came to share experiences and listen to how their peers deal with various issues that arise in a stone fabrication business
Last November at the Natural Stone Institute/Stone World magazine Stone Industry Education Seminar, hosted by M S International in Atlanta, GA, fabricators from around the southeast came together to discuss different problems they face in the shop and solutions for them. The forum was led by Tony Malisani of Malisani Inc. in Great Falls, MT. One of the issues the fabricators addressed was handling the legal obligations for their business, in regards to a succession or emergency plan, if necessary.
“As an owner, what happens to your business if you suddenly are hospitalized or can’t make it to work?” asked Malisani. “Do you have anything in place for who does the purchasing, or the scheduling, or the repairs, or paying your employees? It’s important now to figure these things out, so if an emergency happens, your business is prepared.”
The group went on to discuss the pros and cons of increasing or decreasing your customer base. While most fabricators would argue that getting more customers is the goal, there are times where you either take on too much work or you take on work that isn’t worth the hassle and you could end up losing money on the project. The conversation then went to the other challenge of business that has picked up. How do you find additional employees? The most popular method according to the group for attaining new employees was by word of mouth. Most fabricators tended to believe if they have a really good worker who recommends another possible employee, the potential employee would be good at the job.
“As you start to look at taking on other jobs or looking for possible employees, it’s also important to remember your costs,” said Malisani. “If you don’t know your costs, or where most of your money is going, your business can’t fully grow.” The group went on to talk about ways they track job costs and overhead costs. While some use software such as QuickBooks, others use Excel sheets. While each fabricator had a different way of keeping track, it was stressed that detailed cost analysts are one of the best ways to see where your business is losing money and one of the quickest ways to fix your financial standing.
In the technical breakout group, discussion turned to the learning curve of some of the newer machinery and equipment, as well as digital templating. One fabricator shared a story about how only one worker in the shop knew how to run the CNC saw and during the work week his wife went into labor. They were not able to operate during that time because no one, including himself, knew how to run the machine. Since then, he has taken the time to learn each position himself, in case he needs to step in and fix a situation, he has also started having employees cross train.
The group also discussed issues with cutting ultra-compact surfaces and the best way to cut it. While some recommended different blades and tooling to cut it, the general consensus was to make relief cuts in the material and cut very slow, and use a lot of water. Some fabricators warned of the long times it takes to cut the material and stated that you need to dedicate a separate time for cutting the material because it will slow down your entire workshop flow.
The next Stone Industry Education seminar, where you can come and ask your questions, is being held in Austin, TX, on Wednesday, February 21st. The entire 2018 workshop schedule can be found at www.stoneindustryeducation.com.