Rocksolid Surfaces: Being efficient
Under new ownership, Rocksolid Surfaces makes strides in efficiency to keep up with customer demand
Rocksolid Surfaces has become a premier fabricator in Cleveland, OH, but the 40-year-old company got its start in the wood business. “Tom Rocks was the original owner of the company,” said J.B. Walsh, president of Rocksolid Surfaces. “It started with primarily making boats and doing millwork. I was playing tennis with Tom and he told me he had wanted to retire and asked if I wanted to work with the company and I told him I wanted to purchase the business.” J.B. Walsh runs the business with his cousin Jim; their fathers, as well as Tom, are advisors to the business. “We wanted to have them as advisors because they owned a manufacturing company years ago,” said Walsh. “They know how to run a business efficiently, and we felt it was important to get as much knowledge from them as possible. Tom also built a well-established company and we just wanted to come in and reenergize the company.”
The business produces roughly 20 kitchens a day, each about 40 to 60 square feet in size. It does work ranging from residential to commercial, big box, builders, kitchen dealers and retail — serving markets in Northern Ohio and a part of Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. “Big box is the largest part of our business,” said Walsh. “We are now trying to build up the retail and commercial aspects of our business right now.”
Currently, the market is favoring quartz, and sintered surfaces such as Dekton are also starting to take a bit of the market. “Dekton business out here is starting to pick up a bit,” said Walsh. “In general, Ohio is the last state to get the hottest trends that affect the markets in America and sintered surfaces are finally getting out here. It’s definitely popular for outdoor kitchens. We actually just donated an outdoor kitchen to St. Jude [Children’s Research Hospital] that used the material. But recently, we have also been selling more marbles compared to before. I don’t see natural materials going away.”
The 50,000-square-foot building houses roughly 100 employees. They currently have seven or eight two-man installation crews. Rocksolid Surfaces has two Titan CNC machines and a Hydroclear 90 from Park Industries in St. Cloud, MN, as well as an Intermac Master CNC machine. The company uses a dual-table Robo Saw from BACA Systems located in Orion, MI. They receive their tooling from GranQuartz and template countertops using a LT-55 from Laser Products Industries, located in Romeoville, IL.
Rocksolid Surfaces is also a Natural Stone Institute Accredited fabricator. “We were the first in Ohio to become accredited,” said Walsh. “It was received from the previous ownership. We think it’s extremely important to be accredited and it has led us to a lot of opportunities. There are about 100 fabricators in the area and we can set ourselves apart because of it. It allows us to be different. We also strive to be at the forefront of what is happening in the market. That’s why we choose to cut alternative materials and will continue to experiment with different materials.”
As far as popularity of edges in the Cleveland market, Rocksolid Surfaces is seeing a lot of waterfall mitered edges and eased edges. Also, the large fabrication shop isn’t immune to the challenges facing fabricators with the labor pool. “Obviously, our goal is the same as all fabricators, recruiting talent and keeping it,” said Walsh. “We haven’t found a successful system yet, but it is definitely a challenge we face.” One of the biggest ways the company has faced dealing with reworks is to order the material later in the process. “We have a limited amount of space here,” said Walsh. “We were ordering a ton of materials for projects that were months down the line and because they were just sitting here and getting moved around some of the slabs were getting these face scratches on them. So now we had to deal with this huge scratch. We now order the material much later in the process and that has saved us some headaches in our rework category.”
In the short term, the company hopes to become completely paperless. “This is one of the big things that drives me,” said Walsh. “When I took over the company it’s one of the ways I saw we could make this company way more efficient. There are obviously environmental benefits to it as well, but whatever it takes for our company to be more efficient, that’s what I want to do.
“Our long-term goal is that we want to grow 20 percent each year,” Walsh went onto say. “It’s something I believe our company can do and with that, we want to of course be the best fabricator in the area.”
More about J.B.
For someone visiting Cleveland for the first time, what do you consider a must see?
The lake is my favorite, but it is not open “year round”! Cleveland has so many “must sees” in my mind. From world-class museums, orchestra, theater, sports teams, and restaurants. Cleveland is a hidden gem in the midwest.
Outside of the stone business, what are some of your hobbies you enjoy the most?
I grew up racing sailboats all over the country and in college. I also enjoy power boating. Being on the water is my passion. I also very much enjoy tennis and coaching my son’s teams.
Most memorable experience since being a part of the stone industry?
The 2 charity events stick out the most for me. St. Jude’s and the Gary Senise Foundation.
Furthest place from Cleveland you have traveled?
Likely, Argentina. I was there for almost a month for an international manufacturing course in college. I have also made several trips to Europe and Africa in my career. I do not believe I have been to Asia, Australia, nor Antartica. 4 out of 7 continents is not too bad!