If you had a crystal ball, what do you think it would tell you about the future of granite countertops? Nicholas Draper of Granite Source, Inc. in Chantilly, VA thinks it would say the future is in automation, and he has some pretty convincing data to back it up.
Take his operation, for example. Two locations, 100 employees, the equivalent of 100 jobs per week. Here’s the interesting part: The company has no showroom, no receptionist, no advertising and one salesperson. All the information for most orders is captured via an automated form on the Internet. Rarely do Granite Source personnel speak to the customer over the phone.
“When the customer realizes they are paying more money to talk to us on the phone, they get what we are doing,” explains Draper, who founded Granite Source, Inc. in 1998.
“That said, we run into resistance from our customers all the time. There are still some K&B dealers that believe their customers are somehow different and they have to talk to someone at the plant about the job. We think 75-80% of the jobs can be completely automated. The rest is custom, and we can help them with that.”
Draper says the biggest challenge is teaching his customers how to submit a complete order. “That’s where the system falls apart,” he says. “When the data is entered properly we can turn around a project very quickly. The system is predicated on having a lot of boxes checked. If it doesn’t happen then there is some frustration.”
Lest you think that Draper’s customers are somehow different than yours, check out the demographics: Granite Source works with kitchen and bath dealers, builders and commercial contractors. Fifty percent of their business is new construction (residential and commercial) and 50% is remodels. They only do stone countertops and they don’t work directly with the homeowner. The market area is all of Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. And, they have to compete with $18/sq ft pricing.
“There are pockets in the country where the pricing is higher,” Draper explains, “but the large metro areas will all eventually fall to this level.”
Helping Customers Make Good Business Decisions
Draper says his company excels at better stone utilization and fewer return trips to the job. “Most companies today are in a dollars and cents situation,” he says. “I don’t have any control over the market and it doesn’t do any good to complain about it. The answer is to find ways to be more efficient and cost effective.”
And that’s where automation comes in. Digital templating, computerized equipment and Moraware JobTracker all play a critical role.
“This model is proven to work in a recession,” he says. “We’ll see if it works in a recovery. If you are in a situation where construction is running the show instead of accounting then it has the potential to become an emotional decision. Accounting may see they are saving $14,000 per week, but the superintendant doesn’t like writing $150 checks for service calls, and may actually convince the company not to use us on the next development. At that point it’s no longer a business decision.”
Want to know more? At Moraware, we make software for countertop fabricators. CounterGo is countertop drawing and estimating software. JobTracker is scheduling software that helps you eliminate the time you waste looking for job folders. RemnantSwap is a free place to buy and sell granite remnants with fabricators near you.