Tag Archive | "fabricators"

Kick These Old Planning Habits in the New Year

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Kick These Old Planning Habits in the New Year

Posted on 19 December 2019 by cradmin

According to InEight, a top producer of construction project management software, companies have four bad habits that should stop in the coming year. The overarching goal of project planning is to create a model that “best reflects what we believe will be a reality”. However, many software tools teach us bad habits that are better left in the past.

  1. Starting From Scratch – When you begin a new project with a critical path method (CPM) tool, nothing much happens. You are presented with a blank workbook in which to create a master schedule. Construction organizations are becoming increasingly concerned about losing project expertise through software and other employee conditions, such as retirement. Instead of starting from scratch, the right software will allow companies to achieve knowledge-driven planning with all new project schedules.
  2. Work-Driven Planning – Work-driven planning is a top-down scope that breaks a project down into deliverables and what is needed to deliver them. The work required is modeled by a CPM, but this work is often not the only ingredient in getting things done. A separation of scope and work to be done allows planners to report what matters most during the planning process. While getting estimates wrong is seen as one of the worst results in project planning, it can be just as bad to miss scope and detail in the planning phase. On the other hand, deliverable-based planning helps to explain what is being done in addition to how it is being done. This creates a model that “truly reflects and includes all of the scope we are being asked to build.”
  3. WAG Planning – WAG planning is an acronym for wild-ass guess planning. In the modern age, this simply does not suffice. Each project is a unique endeavor, but if you break it down far enough, there are enough similarities with past projects that you can find the commonalities. WAG planning only precipitates re-planning, which gets you nowhere in the long run. With the right software, however, you can benchmark similar projects based on duration, cost, sequence of work and common issues or risks. Historical benchmarks alleviate the need for WAG planning and let you get into calibrated planning, which allows for differences in location and the scope of a project.
  4. Planning Alone – Planning a project and coming up with an accurate estimate should not be a job for a salesperson alone. That is a tremendous amount of responsibility to carry for someone who is not involved in the work. Planning is not simply a “done-by” timeframe. It is important for the customer to know exactly when each step will be carried out. Rather than silo planning, strive for consensus planning. Your workers will be able to buy-into a project by giving details on what can go wrong and how long it will actually take.

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Guest Blog – Unique Grains vs. Flaws: Is the Customer Always Right?

Posted on 22 February 2018 by cradmin

By Abby Sanders of Stone Interiors

Across companies, industries and generations, one tenet of customer service has held strong almost universally: the idea that the customer is always right. Fortunately in the construction industry, at least when safety is concerned, we understand that there needs to be a compromise. Sure, the customer might demand that her dog stay in the home at all times, but we know all too well that we can’t have our installation crew tripping over a Shih Tzu while they’re navigating a home with a thousand-pound granite slab.

But what about situations that are less clear-cut? Things get especially complicated when dealing with natural stone, which is inherently unique from slab to slab. All fabricators have found themselves performing multiple home visits, ordering new slabs and even replacing an entire job after it’s completed, all to appease the whims of a client. When is the customer right, and when are they, (dare we say it), wrong?

Here are a few key questions you should ask yourself as a fabricator before scheduling your team to re-fabricate a job for a discerning customer.

Was your customer reasonably informed before they agreed to the installation?

This is a tricky one because it requires you to take an honest look at your sales process. Was your team available to answer the customer’s questions before asking them to sign anything? Were they given an opportunity to see the slab in person or, at least, see a photo of their slab before it was cut? Do your client-facing materials clearly indicate that there may be variations in the stone?

If your answers are “yes,” then you have likely done your due diligence to inform your client. But if they weren’t provided with all the information necessary to make an informed decision, they may genuinely feel that they have been misled and did not receive the product they expected.

Are you confident that the flaw doesn’t pose a safety hazard or compromise the life of the stone?

An experienced fabricator knows the difference between a fissure and a crack. But it’s important to ensure that whoever is making that call is knowledgeable enough to determine with certainty whether a flaw is purely aesthetic or not. If the job is already installed, visit the home in person to inspect the stone firsthand whenever possible (or assign an experienced, trustworthy representative to the task). Keep in mind that a determined homeowner may decide to get a second opinion and could challenge you if any representative of your company makes a false claim.

Would you be happy with the finished product in your own home?

This one should go without saying, but it doesn’t hurt to ask yourself this last question whenever a customer takes issue with your company’s work. Even if the new surface is perfectly safe and stable, you should still accept accountability if the work isn’t up to your usual standards. Even a superficial flaw may be noticeable enough that it impacts the overall look of the kitchen.

What to do when the customer is, in fact, wrong.

Plenty of customers request unnecessary or even impossible repairs. But some have a point. After considering the situation as objectively as possible, you may determine that the minor time or expense it takes to make them happy is worthwhile. If you can send a representative to answer questions and polish a new kitchen island, then you may have earned a five-star review that attracts new customers who more than make up for the additional resources you spent.

But if the time or expense is beyond what you feel is reasonable, then don’t be afraid to say “no.” In many cases, if you handle the situation in a professional, empathetic manner, you can help your customer put that small paint scratch into perspective without buying them brand new cabinets.  Prepare everyone on your team with key speaking points about the nature of natural stone and the inherent risks of an in-home construction project so that everyone feels confident speaking with disgruntled homeowners.

In the end, you have an obligation not only to your customers but to the future of your company and employees. Come up with a process that helps you determine when the customer is truly wrong, and your business will ultimately be more sustainable while still maintaining a reputation for quality and customer service.

Contrary to popular belief, the customer may occasionally be wrong after all.

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Coverings 2017 Announces Lineup of Appreciation Days

Posted on 06 March 2017 by cradmin

coverings-2017Coverings released the schedule of segment-focused Appreciation Days that provide enhanced learning and networking opportunities for builders, remodelers, architects, designers, contractors and fabricators. While programming for all groups will be held throughout the duration of Coverings, Appreciation Days are designed to feature tailored guided tours of the show floor, lunch, focused education sessions and more. Coverings 2017 will be held April 4-7 in Orlando, at the Orange County Convention Center.

Dates and programming highlights for the 2017 Appreciation Days are as follows:

Tuesday, April 4: Builder & Remodeler Day will kick off with a conference session at 8 a.m. entitled “Critical Changes to Industry Standards, Guidelines and Best Practices” led by Eric Astrachan, executive director of Tile Council of North America. At 11 a.m. the Builder & Remodeler tour of the exhibit floor, hosted by personalities Dean and Derek, will commence. Participants will see the latest in tile, stone and installation materials from around the world. After the tour, Dean and Derek will lead the roundtable discussion during lunch “Bringing the Indoors Out and Show Floor Trends” in the Appreciation Lounge.

Wednesday, April 5: Architect & Designer Day will feature several notable sessions including “Contract Magazine Presents: A Fireside Chat with John Czarnecki and Todd-Avery Lenahan” “Coastal Resilience – Rethinking Design for Extreme Weather Conditions,” and “Raise Your Profile: The Ins and Outs of Being a Brand Ambassador.” The first will feature Contract magazine’s editor in chief, John Czarnecki and industry leader Todd-Avery Lenahan in an intimate conversation about the business and power of design. The second session, presented by Architectural Record, will feature the magazine’s senior editor, Joann Gonchar, as well as architectural and urban designer, Ramiro Diaz, LEED AP. The third will feature three panelists discussing how they represent brands through publicity, social media and live events. Participants include founder and creative director of Kim Lewis Designs, Kim Lewis, blogger from Cozy Stylish Chic, Jeanne Chung and Blogger and NKBA Spokesperson, Patricia Davis Brown. Starting at 11 a.m., architects and designers will be invited to participate in the trends tour, led by Coverings’ Industry Ambassador, Alena Capra. Immediately following, at 12:15 p.m., attendees can join Alena for a roundtable discussion and lunch in the Appreciation Lounge.

Wednesday, April 5-Thursday, April 6: Contractor Days will span two days at the show. With many key sessions including “Introduction to Tile Industry Standards and How to Use Them to Your Advantage” and “How to Become a Certified Tile Installer.” Coverings has added four new contractor/installer session tracks: Contractor Advanced Business Topics; Contractor Beginner-Intermediate Topics; Thin-Tile Mini-Track; and En Español for Spanish-speaking attendees. The Contractor tour will take place on both Wednesday and Thursday at 11 a.m. followed by a luncheon in the Contractor Lounge. Happy hours with fun giveaways will be offered in the afternoon.

Friday April 7: Fabricator Day will commence with the session “Don’t Get Caught Doing What Worked Yesterday When Customers are Obsessed With What They Want Tomorrow” featuring James Dion, president and owner of Dionco Inc. This session will focus on what the new consumer’s expectations are and how to exceed them. The Fabricator Tour will begin at 11 a.m., highlighting new and innovative products from the marketplace. At noon, immediately following the tour, will be the Fabricator Luncheon and Roundtable discussion on building a culture and diversifying a business.

Learn more about the 2017 Appreciation Days, as well as the comprehensive conference program by clicking here.

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Coverings ’17 Offers Free Educational Sessions for Fabricators

Posted on 08 February 2017 by cradmin

coverings-2017This year’s Coverings event is set to take place in Orlando on April 4-7. The World of Tile & Stone in Your Hands is the theme and Coverings has invited speakers who passionately care about their craft and are eager to share what they have learned from their own experiences. There will be a variety of free technical and practical education sessions created specifically for stone professionals.

Free Sessions for Fabricators Include:

Critical Changes to Industry Standards, Guidelines and Best Practices – Subjects such as changing industry standards and guidelines, improved testing capabilities, new products, technologies and techniques available will be discussed by a panel moderated by Eric Astachan of the Tile Council of North America.

Crossing the Bridge to Natural Stone Tile Installations – Chuck Muehlbauer, Technical Director of MIA+BSI, will discuss the similarities and differences between installing natural stone and ceramic tile.

Silica Exposure and Employee Safety in the Stone Industry – How the stone industry is addressing the OSHA silica rule change and what fabricators are doing now to reduce silica exposure for their employees. Speakers include: Jim Hieb, CEO of MIA+BSI; Mark Meriaux, Accreditation/Technical Manager of MIA+BSI; Jonathan Mitnick, Vice President of CCS Stone; and GK Naquin, President of Stone Interiors.

Stone Trends: A Historical Perspective – Vince Marazita, President/Owner of Stone Trends International will discuss the use of natural stone as a well-accepted building material.

State of the Industry – Impact of the Natural Stone Promotional Campaign – A panel moderated by Jim Hieb will discuss the how the campaign has received positive feedback.

Managing a Family Business – Tony Malisani, Owner of Malisanin Inc. will moderate a panel discussing the challenges and best practices of working in a family owned business.

Perspectives in Benchmarking – Duane Naquin, Owner of Stone Interiors will speak about the significance of understanding what metrics are important and how to measure your company.

Attracting More Designers to Your Showroom – How to Deliver CEU Courses – Sarah Gregg, CEU Administrator at MIA+BSI, and Rob Bacon, Stone Sales Specialist at Daltile will discuss how to expand your company’s reach to architects and interior designers.

Natural Stone Supplier-to-Buyer Manual: Creating International Standards for Importing and Exporting – The standards and guidelines of importing and exporting will be discussed by David Carnevale, President of Carnevale & Lohr.

Women in Stone Speed Mentoring & Leadership Workshop – Speakers at this workshop include: Kathy Spanier of Coldspring; Allyson Humphries of MS International; Kim Dunais of Miller Druck Specialty Contracting; and Lucy Sorentini of Impact Consulting, LLC.

Fabricator Appreciation Day Tour: New and Innovative Products from the Marketplace (Pre-registration required) – An interactive tour with speakers Tony Malisani and GK Naquin.

Fabricator Appreciation Day Luncheon: Build a KickA$$ Culture and Watch Your Profits Soar (Pre-registration required) – During this keynote address, building a team that creates a culture of success will be discussed. Learn how to outline your company’s mission and communicate that mission so everyone at your organization is on the same page.

For more information about Coverings educational sessions click here.

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Has Caesarstone Shot Itself in the Foot by Ignoring Fabricators?

Posted on 21 August 2015 by cradmin

combine_imagesCaesarstone has been making big news in the world of finance after its stock plummeted by more than 25 percent this month, most of which occurred on two key days: August 5 and August 19. This has left many professionals in the countertop industry, myself included, wondering whether the company’s aloof business model, which practically ignores fabricators roles in the sales equation, is ultimately to blame.

Caesarstone was founded in 1987, is based in Israel and has a large U.S. division headquartered in Van Nuys, Calif. It is known as one of the pioneers of quartz surfacing, putting quartz aggregate through the patented Bretonstone process. It is the only publicly-traded stock for a company exclusively dealing in quartz surfacing. Stock in the corporation is  traded on the NASDAQ as Caesarstone Sdot-Yam Ltd. (CSTE).

Overall, the last year seems to have been one of the company’s best to date. In May, the company opened its first quartz surfacing manufacturing plant in the U.S. just outside of Savannah, Ga., and it includes some of the most advanced technology available for producing engineered stone, as well as a showroom/”community center” for displays, events and meetings. Much of the company’s recent success, however, is attributed to a 2013 deal in which Caesarstone partnered with Ikea US as the exclusive supplier of non-laminate countertops in its retail stores.

Second Quarter Financials Released

On July 31, 2015, Caesarstone stock hit an all-time high when it closed at about $72 per share after remaining in the $60s range for most of the year. However, the company released its Q2 2015 financial statements on Aug. 5. By the time the market opened in the United States, the stock had already dropped by more than 6 points, and at the end of the day, it was down by more than 25 percent at 52.57 with 3.6 million shares changing hands. After another heavy day of trading on August 6, the stock closed even lower at 49.59.

On the surface, the results of the Q2 2015 financial report do not seem too bad:

  • Revenue increased by 9.9 percent to a new high of $127.5 million.
  • S. revenue increased by 19.2 percent to $57.1 million.
  • Diluted earnings per share (EPS) rose by 27.5 percent to $0.65.

“We are pleased to report another quarter of solid financial results,” said Caesarstone CEO Yosef Shiran upon release of the Q2 financials. “Each of our major markets is healthy, even with the headwinds from currency exchange rates, and continues to present significant opportunities. We look forward to capturing those opportunities to continue driving long-term growth and value for our shareholders.”

A snapshot of Caesarstone stock performance over the last 30 days

A snapshot of Caesarstone stock performance over the last 30 days. Click this image to see a larger, more readable version.

After the stock price plummeted, financial analysts pointed out that top-line results were much lower than expected. Even though revenue increased to $127.5 million, investors were expecting it to be closer to $134.2 million, and management had cut revenue guidance by $20 million to a maximum of $505 million while analysts had projected the figure to be $521.5 million. Travis Hoium of the well-known Motley Fool stock-centric media outlet explained the drop in stock price to be a result of expectations getting ahead of performance, claiming there is “nothing to panic about for long-term investors.”

Caesarstone Under Attack

In the two weeks that followed, Caestarstone stock remained stuck in the low 50s, but on August 19, a prominent market-research firm, Spruce Point Capital Management, LLC., issued a scathing 54-page report accusing the company of manufacturing substandard products, lying about the quality of its quartz countertops and propping itself up on an unstable business model.

The report also states that it is Spruce Point’s belief that Caesarstone will continue to fall short of its goals to grow sales by 15 percent and maintain its share of the market among the rising competition in the quartz surfacing industry. The firm also notes that Caesarstone’s controlling shareholder has reduced its ownership from 79 percent to 32.6 percent.

Spruce Point went even further in its analysis by stating that it estimates the true value of Caesarstone stock to be in the range of $15 per share, which is 79 percent lower than its July 31 high. According to Spruce Point, the firm had Caesarstone quartz surfacing independently analyzed, and it claims the product contains less quartz than advertised, so rather than demanding a premium price, the company should be selling at a discount.

Shortly after this report was released, Caesarstone stock plummeted again, this time to $39.77, the lowest it has been since October 2013. By the end of the day, however, it had regained a couple of points to close at $44.61.

Caesarstone Issues Weak Response

Caesarstone responded to the attack the following day, stating that the Spruce Point report is misleading, includes inaccuracies and draws false conclusions.

“We stand by all of our previous public statements, regulatory filings and presentations,” said Shiran. “We are proud of the honesty and integrity with which we have operated our business and categorically reject any suggestion to the contrary.”

“We are a strong company with a powerful brand that produces high-quality and innovative products through an efficient operation and state-of-the-art infrastructure,” Shiran continued. “This has enabled us to consistently produce excellent business and financial results and we believe in the Company’s capability to continue to do so.”

Fabricators Influence Countertop Selection

We here at CountertopResource.com believe that Caesarstone may have pushed itself off a cliff by limiting fabricators’ roles in its business model. The company has, so far, relied heavily on celebrity endorsements and its exclusive contract with Ikea. While the company does work with spec reps, architects and designers, some claim it has seemed to largely ignore the fabricator.

Caesarstone’s largest competitors, Cosentino, DuPont and (dare I say Cambria, who seems to be losing favor of some fabricators as well for opening its own shops that compete with former customers), all work closely with fabricators. And according to the results of our 2015 CountertopResource.com Countertop Survey, the furthest reaching of its kind that we are aware of, our audience agrees that fabricators are influential in the decision-making process.

Even though we have yet to fully analyze and release results from our recent industry survey that received more than 500 responses, we thought one question was pertinent enough to share here. We asked, “How much influence do you feel fabricators have over what materials their customers choose for their countertop purchases.” Respondents had this to say:

  • 3.4 percent said fabricators just sell customers what they ask for.
  • 14.1 percent said fabricators have a little influence over what countertop materials their customers buy but mostly just sell them what they ask for.
  • 28.9 percent said the influence of a fabricator can sometimes sway what countertop material is used.
  • 26.2 percent said the influence of a fabricator can often sway what countertop material is selected by a customer.
  • 26.5 percent said fabricators have great influence over what countertop materials a customer chooses.
  • 1 percent said customers will almost always choose the material that the fabricator suggests.

According to these results, nearly 83 percent of respondents believe that fabricators are important to the decision-making process when it comes to material selection. Again, our opinion as an organization joins others that believe ignoring this may be adversely affecting Caesarstone, and any other company who fails to take the role of the fabricator into account. However, we can’t help to believe that it is also a little something more, as we have discovered the company has an abysmal F rating with the Better Business Bureau, an organization most companies do all they can to appease.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below, or drop me a line at [email protected]

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Regulating the Countertop Industry: Make Your Voice Heard

Posted on 27 March 2014 by CRadmin2

The proposed change in the silica dust exposure limits by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that was announced August 23, 2013 has been big news in the countertop fabrication industry, but it is not be too late to provide input. The open debate began on March 25 and is slated to run until April 1, so there is still time to have your voice heard.

Although the executive vice president of the Marble Institute of America (MIA) has stated that MIA considers itself partners with OSHA and strongly believes that safety in the workplace is of utmost importance, the organization is fighting against the proposed rule change. The MIA has also put together a comprehensive resource detailing how fabricators can educate themselves about the dangers of silica, how to prevent and control worker exposure, how to prepare for the rule change and how to prepare for a visit from OSHA.

The MIA has stressed that the ultimate success of this effort lies on the ability of those in the natural-stone industries to speak with a unified voice, and it appears that a new, yet possibly controversial, avenue to react to the change has just been presented by the National Institute of Occupational Safety (NIOSH) through the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

On March 18, an article detailing the hazards of silica specifically from engineered stone countertops was published by NIOSH on the CDC website. This was the same date that hearings on the proposed silica rule change opened. The article details how silica exposure may lead to the incurable disease silicosis, but it has also given fabricators fuel for the debate and presented an invitation to help the them and OSHA learn more about how silica exposure is currently being handled.

While the seriousness of silicosis cannot be argued, the article only cites studies conducted in Spain and Israel, and the NIOSH admits, “No reported cases of silicosis in the U.S. have been linked to quartz surfacing materials.” However, several recent OSHA inspections have documented overexposures from both natural stone and engineered stone fabrication facilities. It is these overexposure reports that have led the MIA to call upon all fabricators to ensure that they comply with the standards according to the law. If fabricators can show that they are taking the proper precautions, the administration will be more apt to delay or halt the proposed change.

In addition, the NIOSH has issued a statement admitting that very little is known about how the quartz countertop segment of the industry is dealing with the hazard of silica exposure. It is calling for quartz fabricators to voluntarily submit a request for a Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) so that the hazard can be more closely studied in a state-of-the-art fabrication facility.

At present, it is unknown whether any fabricators have stepped up to the task, but if none have so far, it is quite understandable why they haven’t. No one wants to invite a wolf inside his or her home, but this may be an opportunity for the quartz countertop industry to show that adequate measures are already in place and are very effective. This could show the government that the countertop industry can regulate itself and protect its workers without the need for further or stricter regulations.

While many would be inclined to believe that inviting the NIOSH into their facilities is an invitation for trouble, the possibility does exist that this may benefit the company and the industry as a whole. We are interested to hear the opinions of quartz fabricators about volunteering for HHEs and the possible benefits and drawbacks of voluntarily submitting to an evaluation. For further information, fabricators may visit the HHE program Web page.

In addition, fabricators should be aware that there is still time to enter public opinions on the matter and that post-hearing comments may be made up to 45 days after the public hearings have transpired. For more information on how to voice your opinion on the matter, visit the OSHA Web page on silica and click on the tab labeled Public Participation. Also, feel free to comment on this blog page or email us at [email protected] to provide us with feedback on this important issue.

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Fabricator Profile: DeSavino & Sons

Posted on 12 March 2014 by CRadmin2

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The founder of DeSavino & Sons was Nicholas DeSavino, an Italian immigrant who supported his family with a woodworking business in Pennsylvania. In the 1980s, DeSavino began to offer Corian solid surface countertops to his customers, and eventually, the demand grew so high that cabinetmaking and woodworking fell by the wayside.

Around the year 2000, DeSavino realized that natural stone was going to spike, so he opened a stone-fabrication shop to complement his existing solid-surface facility. Around this same time, his three sons took over the business.

When the recession hit, the company didn’t feel the sting right away. Their steady supply of rural customers continued to order as usual, but the work eventually dried up, and the company had to expand its market area to stay afloat. Today, DeSavino & Sons focuses on working with dealers in the southern portions of New York State.

Read more of this Fabricator Profile here: DeSavino & Sons

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