Stone Industry Perspective: Fabricators Helping Fabricators
Think of the Stone Fabricator’s Alliance (SFA) as the world’s largest fabrication shop. Our “shop floor” is composed of thousands of talented men and women, all in the trenches, getting dirty and collectively fabricating more stone than anyone else in the world.
As an online forum, the SFA provides day-to-day information crucial to the nuts and bolts of the fabrication business, on demand and nearly in real time. When this power’s leveraged, you find a variety of answers to almost any concern you may have, often by others who have already encountered the same issue and can offer a solution, or at least some candid insight.
For example, let’s say you want to know about this great new saw that you’ve been hearing so much about. If you call the company, they will indeed tell you how great it is, how you can’t live without it and that you should buy two right now. Call an SFA member who has been using this same saw and you will most likely get a more realistic appraisal of the equipment, from someone who has put the saw through the paces of real world use, as opposed to a rep looking to make a sale.
When you can openly discuss machinery, tooling, software, business concepts and fabrication techniques with others that can offer valuable unbiased insight, consider the fewer headaches that you will experience rather than going through the time and expense of figuring things out on your own.
When I started my stone business in the early nineties, this didn’t exist. Nor did the internet really. As a result, we had to figure a lot of things out by trial and error, resulting in an incredible waste of money and time. Methods and technologies change, and even now I still find myself asking the members about new products. In many cases, I can get answers to machinery issues from the forum faster than I can from the manufacturer.
Beyond the forum, the SFA hosts several workshops throughout the year, in various member’s shops around the country. These are designed to be informal and relaxed gatherings where you can experience another shop’s methods of business up front and personal, choosing only what interests you, all the while networking with like-minded individuals in the reality of the shop floor, not a classroom. This year they will be held in Nevada, Illinois and Texas.
In addition, each year at the TISE and Coverings trade shows, the SFA hosts “The Cage”. An interactive venue where you can try new products, hands on.
Lastly, the SFA offers its annual Tour of Italy, now in its 10th year, where by the grace of our generous sponsors you can experience unparalleled access to Italy’s finest machinery, tooling and stone suppliers. It’s one thing to own a piece of machinery from a company; it’s quite another to have toured their factory, understand its core values from behind the scenes, not to mention dining with the company’s owner over the finest cuisine in the world. After a solid week of this, you return with a much broader and informed view of the industry. Priceless education for the mere cost of a plane ticket. Members often return on their own afterwards, particularly during the Verona Marmomac show, making the SFA booth their “home base,” and rekindling the friendships and business contacts made earlier during the tour.
I believe in the value that trade organizations bring to the stone industry. We are fortunate to have the Natural Stone Institute fighting in our corner, and organizations like the Rockhead Group promoting better business practices, both with the highest sophistication and professionalism.
The SFA is a different animal, while certainly not unsophisticated, we nurture more of a get ‘er done mentality, and we make no apologies for it. We are the ones cutting the material, gluing the edges and getting soaking wet behind a polishing pad.
We are fabricators helping fabricators. We are the shop floor. Visit us at stonefabricatorsalliance.com or on Facebook.