As labor markets continue to dwindle and the need to run a safer shop is more important than ever before, Egon Hinss, the national sales manager of Breton USA, explains how fabricators can start the automation process in their shop. Hinss has 20 years of experience in the industry and has been with Breton for the past six years.

SW: Why should fabricators be looking into automation of their shop?

EH: The world is changing and finding skillful and reliable employees to work in the stone environment is getting harder and harder every year. Also, the workforce is changing. People are more tech savvy. You can almost say automation is the new hand grinder. As companies grow, it’s not always the solution to just add more employees. If you need to get more production, adding equipment is a smart way to go and it’s a safe way. With automation, you are removing that human element — making this a safer industry.

Let’s say I am a completely manual shop. What is the first step toward automation?

EH: There is no real easy answer to it. Whenever we get this question, we ask, “What are your needs and goals?” and we evaluate that. To generalize the first step most fabricators make is to get a saw and automate their sawing process. You want to look for something that’s similar to our Genya or Smart-Cut. A saw that is very easy to run manually, but you can also do it semi-automatically or fully automatically. You want to look for equipment that gives you a lot of flexibility, because when you’re adding automation, this now allows you the chance to do more complicated work such as miters or curved cuts. So you want to look for something that has all those features and those bells and whistles. Then of course, it’s a bonus if you can estimate where you will be in five to 10 years and pick a piece of equipment that is scalable so that it can grow with you. CNC routers are not quite as popular as they used to be because the edge detail has become a little bit simpler. But certainly, if that finishing work or sink cutouts or polishing is a necessity that is a way you could go as well.


Fabrication and automation with Egon Hinss of Breton USA

To listen to the entire interview with Hinss, make sure to check out the Stone World podcast.


Let’s say I want to jump right into this. What is the process for becoming a fully automated shop?

EH: It requires a lot of careful forethought. Automation is definitely not for everyone. In order to do it properly, you need a detailed study of what your business is and what your market is. That’s where we come in with our team of engineers. If you know what it is that you are producing now and toward the future, we can sit down and study your process and the type of work you do and implement that automation. It does require a lot of detailed work.

Does it make more sense to be fully automated if I do more commercial work than residential, or vice versa?

EH: It works for both. But if you’re doing a lot of custom work, where you are getting a job for a kitchen that is $100,000 to $200,000, those jobs usually come with very fragile materials that are very complicated cuts. Those types of custom jobs you want to do on a more custom basis. So what some customers decide to do is run two lines. They will completely automate their more higher production, higher standard processes. Then have a separate line for their custom work. 

To listen to the entire interview with Hinss, make sure to check out the Stone World podcast. Click here <<