I went to visit the International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta, which was an amazingly huge trade show. There were about 1000 exhibitors and probably over 10,000 attendees. Many of the large stoneworking CNC manufacturers and digital templating providers were there; it was good to catch up with friends in the industry.
In conjunction with IWF, I attended the ISFA countertop symposium. It was a panel discussion about the increasing overlap between woodworking and countertop fabrication. My favorite presentation was about trends and predictions in the industry – I had no idea that laminate tops still dominate, or how quickly quartz surfaces have grown over the past few years. You’ll be able to read about it in Countertops & Architectural Surfaces magazine.
In my spare time I was lucky enough to visit a few customer’s shops. It’s always helpful to see our software being used live and being able to chime in with an answer or a tip. Plus, we learn how we can improve JobTracker.
First, I went to see Stone Solutions, located in Marietta, GA. Stone Solutions was founded in 1999 as an installation company, and started fabricating their own material in 2003. They work with some large home centers, but while I was visiting they also had walk-in business.
Their office was really lean; it turns out that their salespeople are on the road most of the time. They make extensive use of smart phones – both for email and to access Moraware JobTracker. Over the course of a day, they come in and out of the office, but they’re always accessible no matter where they are.
Next, I visited Architectural Stone Accents in Atlanta. They’ve been working with us since 2004, so it was quite nice to finally meet them in person, and see the office and shop. The owners and several employees of ASA are originally from Brazil, and I really enjoyed overhearing conversations in Portuguese while I was visiting. Although I didn’t understand a word, it made everything sound great.
In addition to doing residential remodels and work for dealers and big-box stores, ASA has grown into some commercial projects, and opened a second location, in Alabama.
Finally, I went to Oldcastle Surfaces. Founded almost 30 years ago as Custom Surfaces, the company was recently acquired by Oldcastle, a diversified building materials and products company. In addition to the 100,000 sq. ft. shop I visited, they have multiple locations in Georgia, Alabama, and North and South Carolina.
Running a company this large and diverse has only been able to happen because of their continual improvement and adoption of new technology. Because of digital templates and access to Moraware from anywhere with a wireless data card, the templaters that work for Oldcastle hardly ever come into the office. Occasionally, they’ll need to deliver a sink, but they can go for months without being seen by the folks at the shop.
One of the jobs I saw being fabricated in the solid-surface division was a large commercial job for delivery – to China. That totally surprised me, but it turns out that for certain types of military or governmental work, there’s no substitute for high-quality American goods.
Thanks again to everyone who opened up their shops to me. I totally enjoyed the experience, we felt it was mutually valuable, and we’re going to figure out how to do more of this.