Last week, I attended a Digital Stone Expo at Park Industries’ home base of Minnesota. As Joan Schatz mentioned in her opening remarks, these events feel like a reunion, because we get to see old friends and make some new ones. At an event like this, the reception and the “hallway talks” are as important as the structured training. St Cloud in June is beautiful, so the reception at this event was held outdoors – very nice!
The Big New Thing
Because my flight was late, I missed the factory tour this time … those who made it learned that the Big New Thing to see was the Optimus, Park’s first robotic saw. I don’t cut stone (we sell software!) but I find it fascinating to hear fabricators talk about the trade-offs of cutting stone with different kinds of equipment.
Customer Base and Saw Preference
What I gathered from talking to fabricators at this event is that robots are amazing if you focus on a certain kind of customer. The biggest benefit is the ease of maintenance, but many fabricators still prefer the quality of cut that comes from a gantry-based saw. There are other manufacturers making robotic saws, but Park brings some interesting innovations – and their famed service. Because of all the options, buying a saw seems harder than ever to me. If you’re in the market for a new saw, I’d recommend talking with several of your peers – and make sure you talk with fabricators who have customers that are similar to yours.
A Range of Topics Covered
The structured presentations were particularly good at this event. Joan talked about re-engineering your processes as a key way to save on labor costs. Mike Schlough shared how Park Industries tracks macroeconomic factors to stay ahead of market changes (good news – people are still spending on homes and remodels!).
Scott Hanes shared his ongoing efforts to improve his business – he’s always making things incrementally better, often adding new software tools like BP Metrics to help. Geoffrey Gran shared a similar sentiment, including a new tool that he helped create called SpeedLabel (more on that in a future post!). Dave Scott shared his inspirational story of hardship leading to success. Dave serves very high-end customers in Montana and wowed the audience with tales of homes approaching a million dollars in stone – including a fireplace that will single-handedly pay for a new water saw!
As I’ve mentioned before, the events that Park Industries hosts are top-notch and well worth your time to attend. It’s a great place to talk shop (and talk business) with other smart fabricators who aren’t necessarily down the street from you. I strongly recommend signing up for a future event. Also, be sure to listen to the Mike Schlough and Rob Bromley episode on StoneTalk.