Inspiration Design Center investing in digital fabrication equipment
After the economic crash of 2007-08, entrepreneur Jon Ryan was able to change and expand his business to accommodate a new market
Genz-Ryan, a small family owned and operated business that services clients plumbing, heating and air conditioning needs, was severely hit during the Great Recession of the late 2000s. About 95% of Genz-Ryan’s revenue in 2006-08 was from new home construction. Inspiration Design Center was created as a new brand to help market Genz-Ryan’s 13,000-square-foot plumbing-only showroom, which was opened in February of 2006, solely as a selection center for its new construction business.
With new home construction in the tank, the owners of Genz-Ryan were searching for new sources of revenue — still with the plan to keep Inspiration Design Center around the builder/remodeler market. “A new plan was hatched in 2010 to launch Inspiration into bathroom remodeling as a general contractor, focusing only on bathrooms that could go from start to finish in one week, in under $10,000,” said Jon Ryan, owner of Inspiration Design Center. “Early success resulted in many one-week bathrooms being sold, and the entry into kitchen remodels, too. Problems resulted from the challenge of being able to efficiently scale the remodeling business, the notoriously long sales cycle and the army of ‘Chuck-in-a-Truck’ remodelers and DIY’er competition.”
Around 2009, Inspiration Design Center wet its feet in the countertop industry, subbing out the measure, fabrication and installation. Within a year, the company had taken up the measure and installation, then in 2012, the decision was made to own their own fabrication center — using the unutilized warehouse space and refurbished equipment. “Business continued to scale and increase during 2012 and 2013, with countertop fabrication becoming the lion’s share of Inspiration’s business mix,” said Ryan. “Inspiration’s customer mix began to shift away from retail customers to new construction builders, leveraging the long-term relationships of Genz-Ryan’s plumbing and heating customers, and focusing on more production-based builders (50-100+ units/year).”
As of the end of 2017, Inspiration’s customer mix was approximately 20% big box stores, 60% builder/remodeler, 5% retail countertops and 15% kitchen and bathroom remodeling. “Inspiration is a Sage Surfaces partner in 22 Lowe’s stores in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Iowa,” said Ryan. “Through 2018 and 2019, there will be significant growth in the big box business through our Sage partnership, and our new Home Depot partnership, retail countertops and kitchen and bathroom remodeling. We have four branches in the Midwest, located in Fargo, ND; Rapid City, SD; Sioux Falls, SD; and Des Moines, IA. Our branches are service and sales centers located to service our big box business in those regions, growing into other B2B segments in the area as part of our multi-year development plan in each market.”
Becoming a fully automated shop
The company currently manufactures natural stone, quartz and ultra-compact/sintered material. They also have a small solid surface shop. They currently produce between 3,500 square feet to 4,500 square feet a week but have the production capacity of 8,000 to 9,000 square feet a week. “In September or October 2016, a decision was made to invest in all new fabrication equipment, the first of which was a dual-table BACA RoboSaw, which was installed in November 2016,” said Ryan. “Three new Park Titan 2800 CNCs were installed in February, April and August of 2017, along with a Zares II system to complement a new tooling management program. Along with all-new equipment, bridge cranes with power assisted vacuum lifters were added to each bay in fabrication. The new equipment, infrastructure and tooling management plan increased efficiency by more than 200%.
“The duel functioning bed on the BACA saw has increased our output exponentially,” Ryan went onto say. “Our daily goal is to minimize downtime on the robotic arm, we always want to see it moving. The next efficiency opportunity is at our CNC machines. Our goal is to have the quickest table change out times possible for each table. We adapted a ‘pit crew’ mentality when doing these change outs. We use Andon lights as a visual indicator to the rest of the shop to show that help is needed at the tables for g-code change outs. We have also concentrated a lot of training and efforts to maximize square footage on g-code’s sent to each Park CNC machine.”
One of the main reasons the company can have this much success with their equipment is because they have 10 LT-55 laser templators from Laser Products Industries in service. “[Because of this product], we’re able to expand the geographic area we service because everything can be measured and documented digitally, and then transmitted back to the office with 100% accuracy and within hours of completion of the measure,” said Ryan. “It has helped our business grow in two ways. We can cover a larger area, with relatively low cost and with a relatively short training period for our measure techniques. We can train to a modest level of proficiency within a few days, a week or two at most, even with someone who has little industry experience.”
On their machines, the company also uses a 16-inch Pearl, P5 Reactor Pro 2 saw blade on their BACA saw, purchased through GranQuartz. Their CNC tooling is from Terminator/Continental Diamond products and the majority of the shop consumables and supplies are purchased through GranQuartz. “I would say that the investment we made in digital manufacturing was the single most important step we took as a company,” said Ryan. “We’ve been able to upstream most of our programming and decision making in fabrication. The new equipment has allowed us to simplify our manufacturing process, and reduce onboarding time of new stuff. Also, we can focus on hiring people who are good for our culture, rather than how much industry experience they have. We can also produce a product with consistent and predictable quality.”
The company’s fabrication facility is about 6,000 square feet and their slab showroom is another 7,000 square feet. The showroom, which is kitchen and bath as well as countertops is 13,000 square feet. The company runs one shift, Monday through Friday, between eight to 10 hours depending on volume. As work load necessitates they can add a flex shift, mostly with existing staff, that can add an additional 200 to 500 square feet a day. They have approximately 100 employees currently.
In the Twin Cities, they have six installation crews, all are employees. They also have installation crews in their branch offices in Fargo, Rapid City, Sioux Falls and Des Moines. All of their installation crews are employees of the company and not subcontracted.
Ryan became the sole owner of Inspiration Design Center and Genz-Ryan on April 1, 2017 with the retirement of his brother and business partner Bob. “Over the past 16 months, the main focus has been to bring together a senior leadership team with one focus, one vision, and to leverage the assets of three previously independent business segments, Genz-Ryan new construction, Genz-Ryan service and replacement and Inspiration Design Center, to one unified company.”
Inspiration Design Center currently produce 85 kitchens a week, each one roughly 50 square feet. “Our fabrication crew is amazing, dedicated, passionate, knowledgeable — a great group,” said Ryan. “Our plan in the future has us averaging 25% growth per year for the next 10 years, with a larger growth percentage in the next four to five years. We look to solidify our presence in the greater Midwest, fully capitalizing on opportunities that exist in our current brand offices. We want to make sure that our customers and prospective customers know that we’re committed to being solid and reliable partners for them as they grow, we want to grow with them.”
Inspiration Design Center
Technology: RoboSaw, BACA Systems in Orion Twp, MI; Three Titan 2800 CNCs, Park Industries, St. Cloud, MN; 10 LT-55s from Laser Products Industries, Romeoville, IL
Number of Employees: 100
Production: Approximately 85 kitchens a week, averaging 50 square feet a kitchen