Cutting Edge Countertops devising a plan of growth
Coming from family owned business backgrounds, the three owners of Cutting Edge Countertops in Perrysburg, OH, have devoted their time and energy to expanding the company’s one location to five
Cutting Edge Countertops of Perrysburg, OH, was established in 2006 by Brad Burns, Brian Burns and Jeff Erickson, all of whom are still active in the business today. From the start, their mission was to create a countertop company that delivered quality products with exceptional customer service.
All three of the founders come from a family owned business background. Brian and Brad Burns grew up working at Burns Electric in Tiffin, OH, that was started by their grandfather in 1964. “The evolution of a small electrical store grew into a full-service supplier of lighting, appliances, cabinets, countertops and flooring with a small construction arm,” said Brian Burns. “When struggling with quality and service from several countertop suppliers in 2004, the idea of getting into the countertop business was born.”
Erickson was also part of a family owned business with his father at Erickson Glass and Stone. He brought his manufacturing experience to the startup, along with deep-rooted relationships, to get the business out of the starting blocks quickly.
Strategizing location and logistics
Perrysburg, OH, was selected for the company’s headquarters based on the availability of a large facility, as well as the logistical placement to move in all geographical directions. In 2012, Cutting Edge Countertops expanded into the Michigan market with its first satellite service center in Brighton. In 2016, they further grew through the acquisition of a company based in Macomb, MI, which also held locations in Wixom, MI, Noblesville, IN, and Indianapolis, IN. After completing a large expansion project in Perrysburg in 2018, they closed their Macomb facility and opened a new showroom in Troy, MI.
“We reached a point in the original facility that restricted additional capacity,” said Brad Burns. “In order to allow us to keep growing, the decision was made to invest in the new facility and equipment. The original facility was an efficiency burden for many years, as we bulged the footprint. We kept our work in process outside on a concrete pad and had to defrost everything during the winter months just to work on it. In order to unload a truck, we would have to shut down half the shop. Where we used to load all the install trucks out of one overhead door, we now have a designated door for each truck.
“The new shop took about two years to design,” Brad Burns went on to say. “Our goal was to include a lot of comfort items for the employees and to be expandable as business continued to grow. Those that have seen it have commented on the amount of foresight and effort that went into planning the new facility. At the end of the day, we have the ability to do more work, much faster, at a much higher quality in the new shop with a massive amount of expansion possibilities at our fingertips.”
In the beginning of the expansion process, the three owners’ priority was to make a list of all the things they didn’t like about their current facility and brainstorm on how they could solve these problems without any constraints. “As we started having a building concept drawn, we hired our design|build contractor, Rudolph Libbe, to begin to value engineer our needs and design a building that fit our budget and long-term goals,” said Brian Burns. “As it happened, we ended up breaking ground in September of 2017, and we had one of the worst winters — causing some massive delays to the schedule. Then, the severe storms on the East Coast pulled all of the utility workers away from the area, so we struggled to get permanent power to the facility. Nevertheless, we were able to get the warehouse and the shop up and running in April of 2018 as we were continuing to finish the office space by mid-June. The rest of 2018 was spent figuring out how to walk again in larger shoes. All the big stuff was set, but all the little stuff — hammers, carts, supplies, shelves — had to be figured out to make sure people weren’t wandering all over the place looking for what they needed. In the end, there isn’t much we would go back and change if we did it all over again.”
The Perrysburg, OH, facility totals 95,000 square feet of covered space. This includes 14,000 square feet of offices, a 4,000-square-foot showroom, a 12,000- square-foot indoor slab showroom, a 26,000-square-foot slab warehouse, a 27,000-square-foot fabrication shop and 4,000-square feet for a maintenance and compressor room, as well as an 8,000- square-foot shipping area. The Wixom location, which performs measuring, installation and sales, is 7,500 square feet. The 16,000-square-foot building in Troy is reserved for sales, while the 18,000-square-foot facility in Noblesville does measuring, installs and sales. The company also has an 8,000-square-foot building in South Indianapolis for sales.
Equipped for fabrication
Cutting Edge Countertops fabricates a variety of surfacing materials, including natural stone, quartz, recycled surfaces and compact surfaces. The company currently installs approximately 35 to 45 projects per day, but they have built in significantly more capacity in the shop than what they are presently installing. Current machinery capacity is setup to produce about 3,000 square feet per day and the facility is setup to install another production line that would increase capacity to 4,500 square feet per day. In 2018, Cutting Edge Countertops quadrupled its operating space in Perrysburg and invested nearly $4 million into machinery and equipment. “We were at a point where we couldn’t stop production in the old plant long enough to move the old equipment into the new plant, so we replaced it all,” said Jeff Erickson. “This simplified our production process by having all the same machinery in both production lines. Not only are the new machines faster and more accurate, employees are easily trained since once you learn one, you know how to run them all.”
The company operates two CMS Brembana Formax Jet 36 PLT cutting lines — featuring semi-automatic shuttle tables, a 16-inch cutting blade, and a 5-axis waterjet head with vacuum manipulators and electronic servo-driven intensifier pump. Additionally, the equipment lineup includes five CMS Brembana Speed 44 Large Format 4-axis CNC router machines, a GMM Tower backsplash machine, a Maya 600A semi-automatic bridge saw, two 25-cubic-foot redundant water filtration systems from Water Treatment Solutions and a material handling system from Bohl Engineered Handling Systems. For templating, the company relies on 12 LT-55 digital templators from Laser Products Industries. Cutting Edge Countertops has a total of approximately 165 employees, running three shifts five days a week with 13 to 15 installation crews, depending on the season.
Companywide, Cutting Edge Countertops does roughly 35% big box, 20% retail, 20% kitchen and bath dealer and designers, 15% residential builders and 10% commercial work. “Most of our work is residential, as there are a lot of single-family homes throughout our large geographical area,” said Brad Burns. “Commercially, we recently completed the Perrysburg Mercy Hospital project, a historic museum at our famous Toledo Zoo, as well as a bunch of projects at Cedar Point. We also just finished a large 328-apartment complex renovation in Columbus, OH, where we tore out old countertops and installed granite tops in four to five units in the same day.”
Looking at the future
In the short-term, the company just wants to get better at serving their customers in existing markets. “We feel like we are a great option for countertops, and there is a lot of work to do within our existing footprint to take our business further,” said Brad Burns. “Long-term, we want to continue to expand into other markets within a 250-mile radius of Perrysburg. We’ve built one of the most advanced and efficient countertop manufacturing facilities in the country, poised for growth through a hub and spoke model. Fully built-out, our facilities would be capable of producing over 9,000 square feet per day. That’s over 200 projects per day. We are focused on building the company with a high level of involvement from everyone willing to participate. Participative management is our way of life and allows us to be scalable and keep growing profitably.”
In order to attain all of this growth and success, the company’s core operating focus and mission is that they want to not only be the best countertop provider to their customers, but they want to be an outstanding place for their team to come and enjoy what they do. “We all strive for five-star reviews and happy customers,” said Jeff Erickson. “The first step is from Jim Collins – ‘Get the right people on the bus.’ We have a huge focus on hiring, nurturing and retaining the right people for our bus. Cutting Edge Countertops has a driving motivation to invest in developing its staff and just recently launched Cutting Edge Countertops Leadership Academy, which has an inaugural class of over 20 emerging leaders. When leadership is revving from all levels, customers feel it and they know we care about their needs.”
For fabricators looking to expand, Cutting Edge Countertops shares the most important part in planning. “The more time you spend up front, the better the end results will be,” said Brian Burns. “We concluded the project only $5,000 over budget, mostly due to a last-minute requirement to boost first responder radios from within the building. Without proper planning, not only will you run over budget, but you may have regrets afterwards and wish something was different and now you have to live with it.”
When Brad, Brian and Jeff started the company in 2006, they had large goals and expected to grow, but they are always challenging themselves to grow in the right ways. “We experienced a lot of success leading up to the recent expansions,” said Brad Burns. “In the last three years, we have made some sensational changes to the company, but it has not been without some discomfort. Change is hard, and when you are making massive changes to multiple areas of the company at the same time, it’s even harder. We are excited to have stability again throughout the organization where we can take advantage of all the great things we now have in our tool belt. Now we are concentrated on making countertops and having raving customers.”
Cutting Edge Countertops
Type of work: Big box stores, retail, kitchen and bath, residential and commercial