Stone World recently had the opportunity to talk with Laura Grandlienard, owner of ROCKin’teriors in Raleigh, NC, about the process of investing in a new piece of machinery, including important considerations and the installation.
SW: How did the process of deciding to get a new machine start? You wanted to increase capacity? Make work easier for your employees? Do different type of work? All of the above?
LG: We started the process in 2019, then Covid-19 hit and we hit pause to determine what kind of financial impact that would have. We didn’t want to take it lightly, if it really put a pause on luxury homebuilding. Fortunately, it was a relatively short pause for luxury builders who have been going gangbusters since mid-2020.
Our decision was based on the fact that we had limited capacity previously and were maxed out. We were at maximum capacity and efficiency with our staff. With the new machine, we are less dependent on labor if someone is out who specializes in a discipline, such as cutting sinks, and so forth.
SW: How long did it take you to make the decision to invest in a new machine, and what features were you looking for in a new piece of equipment?
LG: We explored all the options by attending conferences and trade shows. Once we cut the list down to a select few, we began visiting onsite to view machinery that would fit our business model. We researched all sorts of great machines. Some are beautiful for “big box store” fabrication because they are all about speed. But, that just wasn’t for us. We need the flexibility associated with ultra-compact luxury homebuilding and commercial office space. We felt like the Voyager XP [from Park Industries] was the best option for us because we can use it for various luxury natural stone surfaces and switch at any point on any given day to include the latest sintered stones. We can begin the day cutting marble, then switch to cutting quartzite and then end the day cutting ultra-compact stone. It took us about three months to make the final decision. It’s like falling in love; you know that’s the machine for you.
SW: What prep had to be done to your shop to get ready for the machine? Moving equipment around? Shutting down the shop? More working hours?
LG: We hired a general contractor, which enabled us to look at all the prerequisites, such as amplifying electrical, increasing water pressure, upgrading to CAT6 Ethernet cable for maximum Internet speed. We had all the supplies ready to go for our teardown. A month prior to the new machine arrival, our team took part in initial training. Park Industries hosted our entire team so that everyone could be cross-trained.
The actual teardown and removal of our previous machine meant that we needed to notify our clients so that they could prepare for the downtime. We selected the week leading up to the 2021 Christmas holiday. This process included hiring Bryant Crane of Morrisville, NC, to remove the old saw and install the new one once we were able to dismantle and prepare that working station. We worked 18 hours and had to take down cinder block walls, which required jackhammering because there was so much extra rebar! We timed the move out of our old saw by crane as the new machinery was arriving on an 18-wheeler. Park Industries arrived on Monday and stayed through Saturday, handling the install, advanced training and setup. When everything was ready, the crane lifted the new machine in place.
The biggest key for any business making this transition is to plan all the logistics well in advance. Planning is the key, especially when moving from all-manual to all-digital laser templating.
SW: How long did the process take to get the new machine in?
LG: One full week with Park Industries onsite with two technicians working with our team. There were two separate training sessions, plus ongoing support.
SW: How has it been since the machine has come in? Was there a learning curve? How long did it take? Was there any unexpected benefits to the machine that you didn’t anticipate?
LG: This has been a game-changer. Our entire processes have changed from templating to fabricating and so forth. It has been a seamless transition. We’re just getting used to new buttons and a new way of doing things.
Space in our workshop is now much more open. Our only frustration was that we didn’t have enough PSI water pressure with the town of Cary, NC. Our facility has many sustainable features and is highly respected by Cary leaders for our commitment to water reclamation. Because we recycle our water, we had to get Cary utility experts involved. Generally, Cary businesses receive 40 PSI water service, and we needed 60 PSI and a new water pump. So, there’s always a learning curve with things we may not have expected when a business undergoes a large-scale transition like this.
SW: Would you do it all again?
LG: We would definitely do it all over again. It has been a great experience. We’re off and running with great success, and our clientele is definitely pleased with our workload capacity to meet their needs. We highly recommend making the transition. Park Industries sales support really helped us from the beginning of the process to installation, and as we’ve gotten used to the new way of doing things.