The Stone Industry Education seminar program for 2018, sponsored by Stone World magazine and the Natural Stone Institute, started this year’s series in Austin, TX, hosted by Arizona Tile. The event saw more than 50 fabricators from the area come together to discuss different issues and solutions for their business. “The Texas event was a great way to kick off the 2018 Stone Industry Education series,” said Aaron Dahnke, education manager for the Natural Stone Institute. “With over 50 fabricators in the room, the discussions and networking were dynamic and fabricators gained a lot of knowledge about industry best practices.”

The morning seminar was led by Duane Naquin of Stone Interiors, located in Gatson, SC. Naquin discussed metrics with the group and also addressed different questions that the group had. Kelly Masters of Stonite Surfaces, located in Austin, TX, was looking for information on how to deal with skilled labor and trying to find good workers. “One of the things that we did, that worked really well for us, was using a temp agency,” said Naquin. “It essentially lets us try out the employee for 90 days to see if they are a good fit for our business. But to also retain the employees, we create a culture that they want to be a part of. We treat them well and we make sure they have safe working conditions.”

Chip Mau of True Blue Granite, located in San Antonio, TX, wanted to learn about how to make an effective and efficient remnant system. “You have to categorize them right now, it doesn’t matter what system you use,” said Naquin. “Take a day or two and spend time marking, labeling and putting a database together of your remnants. If you don’t know what’s in your yard, you won’t ever be able to use that material, especially if you have an opportunity to match a new slab with an old remnant.  We originally made a database on Microsoft access. This way, we can look up any piece that’s out in the yard and see if it matches any other pieces. We don’t want to get up and go out to the yard and looking around, guessing if it matches, or having to get a fork lift to move slabs around, it just isn’t efficient.”

Seth Sulser of JM Countertops in Pflugerville, TX, and Doug Anderson of Centex Countertops in Bryon, TX, both asked about scheduling. This question, along with many others was answered during Naquin’s speech about metrics and how they can help your business. “For us it starts with job costs and keeping track of those costs,” said Naquin. “We have a bunch of polishing pads and when the guy is done with his one, he comes to us and turns it in and gets another one. It then gets logged into our system. We can see how many polishing pads, or tubes of glue we go through in a week, month or year. Supplies run about two, to two and a half percent of our financials. If you start tracking your own metrics and see it’s running you closer to five percent, that’s an area where your business can save some money. You drive those costs down and it allows you to earn more money.”

Naquin went onto discuss how they track square feet per day, it allows him to look at the cost per job and see what each fabricator costs him per month. “This also allows us to try out a new polishing pad or something and see if it really is better and more efficient,” said Naquin. “Too often fabricators just believe what they are being told with how efficient something is, this system allows us to track that for sure.”

Afternoon session

In the afternoon, three groups were formed to discuss marketing and sales standards, business standards and technical standards. In the technical standards group, the big discussion focused on the new OSHA regulations that are happening and the changes that fabricators need to prepare themselves for. The new PEL will be 50 µg/m3 with an action level of 25 µg/m3. It was suggested by different members of the group to join the OSHA consultation service to have an OSHA representative tour your fabrication shop to point out any issues your shop may have with OSHA standards. The group also discussed the rise in popularity with miter joints with customers and the best ways to perform them.

The next Stone Industry Education Seminar on will be held on April 26 in San Diego, CA, and sponsored by M S International.