Creative Countertops increases efficiency in its stone shop
Creative Countertops of Poulsbo, WA, runs a small shop with a few pieces of equipment, but with an efficient workflow in place the company is a top producer in its region
For some fabricators, expanding and growing the business means getting new machines, leasing out a larger plot of land and building bigger shops. But Bill Wyman, who has a philosophy of doing more with less, has been able to propel his fabrication business to one of the top performing in the area — being voted the number one countertop shop for four years in a row by readers of the West Sound Home & Garden magazine.
Wyman first began fabricating solid surface countertops with Meyer Laminates in Wilmington, NC, 25 years ago. The company produced one kitchen per day to supply cabinet shops and Lowes customers with Formica brand solid surface, “Surell.” In 2001, he moved to the Seattle area and started his business, Creative Countertops, located in Poulsbo, WA, in late 2002.
“Being separated from Seattle by the Puget Sound, we were the only local solid surface fabricator in the area,” said Wyman. “I would prefer to get as much work done with as little overhead as possible & have managed to keep the company debt to less than 5% of Sales. I began fabricating Corian kitchens by myself in my garage and then hiring a helper to install it. After getting a 40-unit new housing project, I rented a small 1,100-square-foot shop.”
In 2007, the company moved to a larger facility to fabricate quartz and granite using a Matrix bridge saw. Now, Creative Countertops has become the largest countertop shop on the Peninsula, providing granite, quartz and solid surface countertops to area residents. In 2015, the company added a tile department with a sales person and two lead tile installers and two tile helpers.
Their granite and quartz shop spans 3,600 square feet, while the Corian shop is 900 square feet, the tile shed is 500 square feet and its showroom is 1,800 square feet. The granite and quartz department has two, two-man crews, the tile has the same, and the Corian department has one, two-man crew. The facility runs one shift, but they are just starting to have two workers come in two hours early and two others staying two hours late to load and unload the CNC machine. In total, Creative Countertops has a total of 21 employees.
Creative Countertops’ success comes from planning the shop’s workflow and storing finished tops. “We have four portable metal A-frames, where we keep two in the shop to load finished tops and each morning with the forklift, each install truck offloads their empty A-frame and loads up a full A-frame with all the tops for the day’s job on it,” said Wyman. “I put in a custom water filtration system with trenches and pits, two 1,100-gallon underground tanks and two 1,100-gallon above-ground water tanks, and now we recycle all the water. I put in three times the lights as a standard warehouse, so the fabricators can see their work better.”
Production Manager Jason Rebman also preplans the workflow so that all of the tops for the next day’s jobs can be cut, run through his Marmo Meccanica LCV 711 edge polisher and then transferred onto a custom-welded worktable that keeps the hand polishers busy and efficient. “We streamlined the office environment with a custom-made Access database that reduces data entry,” said Wyman. “The templator and the installers receive their daily worksheets on their tablets or smartphones. Also, preplanning the production schedule well in advance maximizes what we can produce. There’s a limit of 20 under-mount sink cutouts per week, so if we have more sinks than that, some need to be cut the week before.”
Additionally, Creative Countertops uses Slabsmith software to improve the layout with its customers. After a photograph is taken of each slab, the thermal printer prints a label with a barcode so the CNC operator always cuts the correct slab. It has helped his business immensely.
Bill & Jason have travelled to Brazil w/ Cosentino to tour quarries & granite factories multiple times. They have imported containers of Granite from Brazil for better pricing. “We stock over 200 slabs of granite for customers to choose and that also helps our yield,” said Wyman. “We mostly bring in bundles of six, and after we cut a job the leftover pieces go back onto the A-frame to be used on the next job. We have a large slab rack where all sold slabs are tagged and ready to go into production.”
Creative Countertops also stocks and stores sinks and faucets in two 20-foot containers that they made shelves and bins for. The company is also building a stockroom to store supplies. Currently each of the installers turns in a monthly requisition list with all the supplies they expect to need the following month. On critical items, they always try to have a backup on hand in case it fails. They keep spare water pumps, grinders, water polishers and the like.
The company installs between 8 to 10 - 70 square feet of residential kitchens per week in granite and quartz — averaging about two kitchens per week in Corian and multiple tile installs weekly. Besides the Marmo Meccanica 711 LCV edge polisher, the company has a LT-55 Laser Templator from Laser Products Industries and a Sabre CNC machine from Park Industries. After visiting Coverings in Chicago in 2016 they found the best solution to increase production. “We installed the Park Sabre CNC just over a year ago, and we’ve doubled production to 10 kitchens per week,” said Wyman. “A great reason we chose the Park CNC was their parts guarantee. If a part fails, call them to order, and if the part is not at my door in 24 hours, the part and the shipping are free.” Creative Countertops receives its tooling and accessories from GranQuartz and Braxton Bragg.
Creative Countertops does primarily residential work, but occasionally it receives large commercial jobs, including several 300-unit military barracks and a 50-unit hospital. Moreover, the company has done work for the high-end retailer, Nordstrom, a few banks and restaurants.
With more than 1,000 granite and quartz remnants, Wyman designed custom racks with treated lumber that allow customers to walk down and view them better. “Many shops just pile all of their remnants on a wall out back and nobody can see them, much less get them out,” said Wyman. “That’s been a great profit center, as the material is already paid for and we do three to five vanity tops each week from remnants. Each has a reduced price, flat rate and are the same price.
“I’ve streamlined the sales process where we use a standardized form to take down customer information and then plug that information into a custom-made Excel spreadsheet,” Wyman went onto say. “An average bid takes five to 10 minutes with me, and together with one other estimator greets 20 couples a day — taking their information and sending their bid within 24 hours.”
Looking into the future, Creative Countertops hopes to continuously improve and become even more efficient. “We just doubled the granite and quartz production and it took a little while to upgrade the information flow throughout the company,” said Wyman. “We are also trying to reduce paperwork by having job information, layouts to be sent onto the installer’s tablets and smartphones.”
Type of Work: Residential and commercial