Archive | September, 2015

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Fabricator Profile: Stone Design Concepts’ Four Tenets for Success

Posted on 28 September 2015 by cradmin

11377472_684596471673277_1340225815_nStone Design Concepts in Ottawa, Ont., Canada, prepared for expansion in advance, and the work seems to have paid off incredibly well. In the early 2010s, the company experienced rapid growth, and Ignacio Manso, then general manager, said the company’s ability to handle all of the new business stemmed from four major improvements that were implemented beforehand:

  1. Focusing more strongly on customer service
  2. Keeping a positive attitude
  3. Staying organized
  4. Delivering products on time and built to spec

Manso freely admitted that the company had problems with all four of the above tenets until a conscious effort was made to implement the new strategy, and it all started with adopting a positive attitude. In order to accomplish this feat a few personnel changes were necessary.

Stone Design Concepts is a fabricator of granite, quartz and marble countertops, stairs and fireplace surrounds, and the company works with many of the top brands of quartz surfacing, including Caesarstone, Silestone, Hanstone and others.

In addition to implementing the four tenets for success, Stone Design Concepts also prepared by bringing in new technology. The CNC machine came first followed by laser templating and new software, providing direct access for builders and reducing customer service calls by 80 percent.

Read more of this Fabricator Profile here: Stone Design Concepts

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INTERMAC Introduces the Master Saw 625 Doubletable

Posted on 25 September 2015 by cradmin

Intermac master saw 625 doubletableINTERMAC introduced a new system for automatic stone processing.  The Master Saw 625 Doubletable transforms slabs of marble, granite and composite materials into the finished product without requiring operator supervision, reports the manufacturer. The cutting and product finishing processes are combined into a single system. It performs all the functions of a bridge cutter in addition to the functions of a workplace. According to the company, the intuitive, user-friendly touchscreen interface makes the process very simple.

You may also be interested in this article about Park Industries CNC Saw/Waterjet Cutting Machine.

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Checking the Pulse of the Countertop Market

Posted on 24 September 2015 by cradmin

All countertop fabricators and industry professionals stand to benefit by keeping their fingers on the pulse of the market, and now that we are transitioning into the final quarter of the year, this is a great time to take a reading. A quick scan of the latest statistics and trend predictions shows nothing but growth in the industry. While this is quite a welcome situation for countertop professionals, it begs the question, “When does it end?” Fortunately, for now, we don’t see an end anytime soon, and the numbers all look very promising, especially when considering the positive outlook in our last housing-market report in June.

NBMDA Reports Increased Growth Confidence

Last month, the North American Building Material Distribution Association (NABMDA) released their Spring 2015 Quarterly Sales Trends Report, which provides insights, analyses and forecasts for the manufacturers and distributors of building materials. According to the latest findings, March and April were both very strong months, and 70 percent of industry professionals said that this was enough for them to plan on adding personnel sometime during the course of the year.

Building-material distributors experienced 10 percent growth in the month of March with a forecasted growth rate of 6 percent for boards and panels, flooring, hardware and storage for the rest of the year.

Housing Starts Highest Since 2007

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) reported in August that housing starts increased by 0.2 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.206 million homes, according to data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). However, this was just enough to mark the highest level of housing starts since October 2007.

The recent increase in starts is primarily because of the high demand of single-family housing, which rose by 12.8 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 782,000 homes.

“Our builders are reporting more confidence in the market and are stepping up production of single-family homes as a result,” said Tom Woods, professional homebuilder and chair of the NAHB. “Continued job and economic growth will keep single-family housing moving forward.”

Looking at housing starts by region, the highest gains were in the Midwest at 20.1 percent and the South at 7.7 percent. However, starts decreased by 3.1 percent in the West and 27.5 percent in the Northeast.

NAHB/Wells Fargo HMI at 10-Year High

Last week, the NAHB reported that builder confidence in new single-family homes continued its long and steady increase, which pushed the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Market Index (HMI) up one point to 62, which is the highest it has been since October 2005.

“The HMI shows that single-family housing is making solid progress,” said Woods, noting that there have been some concerns about lot and worker availability.

“NAHB is projecting about 1.1 million total housing starts this year,” said David Crowe, chief economist of the NAHB. “Barring any unexpected jolts, we expect housing to keep moving forward at a steady, modest rate through the end of the year.”

The HMI is based on a monthly survey the NAHB has been issuing for the last 30 years. The survey asks builders to gauge the current state of single-family home sales and the expected state for the next six months. In addition, the survey asks builders to rate the quantity of prospective buyers on a five-point scale from very low to very high.

In the September survey, two of three components used to calculate the HMI showed increases: Prospect traffic rose two points to 47 and current sales rose one point to 67. However, sales expectations for the next six months dropped two points to 68.

Looking at the regional HMI scores for September, the West and the South each rose by one point to 64, and the Midwest increased one point to 59. The Northeast, however, dropped by one point to 46.

National Remodeling Forecast Launched

Just last week, Qualified Remodeler reported that a new remodeling forecast was launched by John Burns Real Estate Consulting in Irvine, Calif. The company is considered a major analytics firm for the residential construction market, and its first official forecast predicts that residential remodeling will grow by 7.8 percent in 2016 to $300 billion.

The survey also breaks down last year’s remodeling statistics. In 2014, the remodeling market totaled $266 billion. Of that, $113.6 billion was for large projects (more than $5,000) while $146.1 billion was for small projects, and $5.9 billion went to disaster repair. In addition, $108 billion was spent on building materials by professional contractors while do-it-yourself (DIY) homeowners spent only $69.3 billion. Contractors also brought in $88.2 billion for labor and other services.

The new forecast, dubbed Burns Residential Repair and Remodel Spending, is being called the “first true forecast of remodeling activity” in the United States. The closest we have had to it is the Leading Indicator of Remodeling Activity (LIRA) from Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies’ Remodeling Futures Program and remodeler sentiment as tracked by the NAHB.

The John Burns forecast relies heavily on intensive data gathering from several sources, including the biennial American Housing Survey and a proprietary model using data from property-management agencies, rental-home investment firms and apartment-building owner surveys and in-house pricing surveys.

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Repairing High Pressure Laminate Countertops

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Repairing High Pressure Laminate Countertops

Posted on 23 September 2015 by cradmin

This video produced by Finish Repair, which seems to specialize in the repair of all kinds of materials including laminates, wood and marble, shows how a damaged high pressure laminate (HPL) countertop can be repaired. At first I was skeptical when I ran across the video, but I have to say the results looked pretty good, even when I took the video full screen.

The depiction here isn’t even overly promotional, just explaining the process rather than hyping the product being used. And, the HPL top that was being repaired was not just a primary color, but rather had a complex color. Maybe that made it easier? It’s hard to say without trying it out in person, but it sold me.

We’d be interested to hear if any of you have any experience with this process or any other processes for repairing laminate countertops. Drop us a line or post in the comment section.

You may also be interested in this video on how Wilsonart laminate is made.

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VT Industries Acquires Capitoline Products

Posted on 22 September 2015 by cradmin

VT Industries, Inc., a manufacturer of postformed laminate countertops, recently acquired Capitoline Products, Inc. Both companies have facilities in Rome, Ga. Capitoline Products is a  regional laminate countertop and decorative panel manufacturer. Both companies are family-owned and Capitoline services Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama and North and South Carolina. The integration of the two companies began immediately and will continue throughout 2016.

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New, Mobile-friendly Website Launched by Omni Cubed

Posted on 21 September 2015 by cradmin

OmniMobileOmni Cubed redesigned its website to improve functionality and the users’ experiences. The site now features fully integrated mobile compatibility for ease of access. Users can find what they are looking for with the improved parts and service navigation tool and Google Translate has also been added. The site will also lead users to customer service to help in locating older tool models.

You may also be interested in this article about Cosentino’s online design tools.

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Abrasive Resource Offers Starcke Zirconia Sanding Belts

Posted on 18 September 2015 by cradmin

Zirconia BeltAbrasive Resource introduced sanding belts made with a new zirconia blend material. The belts are suitable for use in cultured marble, solid surface, wood or metal applications. Starcke 341X is a zirconia-aluminum oxide blend available in grits from 24 to 120.  This new blend is known for its grain retention, long life and cutting efficiency because of the non-friable zirconia grain, according to the company.

You may also be interested in this article on Dynabrade’s Random Orbital Sanders.

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Effective Safety Planning Part 1: Establishing a Culture of Safety

Posted on 17 September 2015 by cradmin

No fabricator I know desires to put his or her employees at risk, but at the same time, many do not take all of the precautions recommended by workplace safety organizations, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The two major reasons for this are misunderstanding accepted safety protocols and cost. However, it is possible for fabricators to minimize risk in the workplace without digging into profit, and it all begins with establishing a written safety plan.

Avoiding Losses Through Safety Planning

When workers are injured on the job, the expenses for which employers are liable are very steep. In fact, occupational injuries cost U.S. employers about $170 billion in expenses and lost profits each year.

When your shop operates according to a sound safety plan, minimizing the impact on worker health and well-being, you can expect to experience several benefits, including all of the following:

  • Low premiums for workers’ compensation insurance
  • Decrease in direct medical expenses
  • Reduced overtime expenditures

When your employees are happy, healthy and safe, they are more apt to be on your side in all business endeavors. This indirectly benefits your company in a number of ways:

  • Higher quality products and services
  • Increase in productivity
  • Improved morale
  • Improved worker-management relations
  • Reduced turnover

The Purpose of a Safety Plan

While safety plans are great for spelling out company policy and letting everyone know about specific operating procedures in a variety of situations, the true purpose of a written and practiced plan is to help develop a culture of safety. Government agencies and private researchers have found that a company’s safety culture is the highest determining factor in the number of health and safety incidents experienced during working hours. Because of this, development of a strong safety culture in the workplace is vital in protecting employees and revenue at the smallest possible cost.

What Is Safety Culture?

Safety culture is a shared atmosphere in a workplace consisting of beliefs, attitudes and procedures that can shape the behavior of everyone in a company. Safety culture ranges from poor to strong, and it is created and nurtured by many of the following:

  • Standard operating procedures
  • Attitudes of management and employees
  • Moral values
  • Workplace myths and stories
  • Priorities of management
  • Personal and company accountability
  • Employee motivation and involvement
  • Job and safety training

In companies with a strong safety culture, everyone feels responsible for their own safety and the safety of others, and they deliberately practice all safety measures on a daily basis. In addition, employees in a strong safety culture will easily identify safety hazards, communicating their existence to supervisors. Supervisors, in turn, take all of the necessary steps to eliminate hazards promptly as they are identified.

Establishing and Improving Safety Culture

In most companies, strong safety culture begins with a strong and inclusive organizational culture, but improving safety culture also has the additional benefit of strengthening organizational culture because the process brings everyone together to meet a shared goal. Creating a strong culture of safety is not at all difficult because it directly benefits everyone, from the owner to new trainees, and no one is more aware of this than your frontline workers, which makes employee buy-in a simple matter.

Employees are more apt to jump aboard implementing safety procedures than they are to get behind initiatives focused on improving product quality, increasing productivity or expanding profit margins. However, building a strong safety culture indirectly improves quality, productivity and profit.

Getting employees to buy into safety improvements is simple when compared to top management buy-in. Many managers and supervisors resist under the idea that it will create more work and hurt productivity. However, it is essential to have all top managers aboard before safety culture can be improved. This may require one or more meetings in which planning is discussed and costs analyzed. In most cases, upper management can be swayed by educating them as to the bottom-line costs of safety incidents.

Tips for Building Safety Culture

  • Continue working on buy-in at all levels in the company. The goal is to create a community that fosters open communication and willing acceptance. Try to spell out the exact reasons for building a safety culture and how it will improve the business for everyone involved.
  • Build trust. Both workers and managers need to trust in the bigger picture and trust each other to make the workplace safe.
  • Perform a self-audit. An initial self-assessment will provide you with a benchmark that lets you estimate just what needs to be done to develop a comprehensive safety plan.
  • Form a committee. The most efficient and effective way to develop and implement a safety plan is by forming a focused safety committee.
  • Create vision and mission statements. These will guide every effort in establishing a strong safety culture.
  • Begin training. Key personnel should be given opportunities for general safety and health training.
  • Assign responsibility and hold people accountable. Specific roles in creating and maintaining a safe workplace should be clearly defined, and the people assuming those roles should be held accountable for following through with their duties.
  • Develop a system for receiving and discussing feedback at all levels in the business, and give recognition where it is due.

Next month we continue on the theme of Effective Safety Planning with Part 2: Establishing a Four-Point Plan.

Find more articles on safety in the countertop shop here.

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Weha Offers New 4-In., 5-step Dry Diamond Polishing Pads

Posted on 16 September 2015 by cradmin

WEHA dry polishing padsThe new diamond dry polishing pads from Weha are made with the latest multi-diamond matrix bond technology, reports the manufacturer. They are designed for polishing granite, marble, quartzite and other natural stone surfaces. The pads may also be used for wet polishing quartz surfacing and other engineered stone. According to the company, each of the five diamond step pads has its own unique combination of diamonds and matrix bond to gradually create the highest natural polish using only five diamond polishing pads.

You may also be interested in this article on Regent Stone’s Quartz polishing system.

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Diarex Super-Duty Fabrication Table Now Available from GranQuartz

Posted on 15 September 2015 by cradmin

diarex_super_duty_fabrication_tableThe Diarex Super-Duty Fabrication Table is now exclusively available through GranQuartz. The table is constructed of 2-in. steel tubing and has four double-locking swivel casters, making its design rugged, yet simple, reports the company. The surface of the table is made of a non-marking white rubber, but it can be replaced with other materials by using industrial adhesives or silicone to hold the alternate surface in place.

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