Mitch Makowski, founder and co-owner of Solid Surfaces Inc. in Rochester, N.Y., said his introduction to solid surface was all luck, but luck has nothing to do with his success in optimizing the work flow of his shop.
In 1983 I was a remodeling contractor and I started working with Corian by accident," explained Makowski. "A kitchen dealer I was working for had a Corian vanity top that needed to be cut down and all of the dealer's experienced carpenters weren't familiar with it and were afraid to cut it. I just happened to walk in the door and they asked me to do it. I didn't know you couldn't, so I grabbed my saw. I just happened to be using the right saw blade and cut it with no problem."
A week later the same dealer had another vanity it needed cut; they called up Makowski and that was it. He became their Corian expert from that time on and anytime they had Corian work to do they gave it to him. "It was love at first cut and the rest is pretty much history," he said.
Now, Mitch, and his brother Mark, who joined up a few years later, run their own company that fabricates solid surface, natural stone and quartz (see Figure 1). Solid Surfaces Inc. has 80 employees, and services areas up to 4½ hours drive. The company fabricates an average of 400 to 450 sheets of solid surface a month, and about 150 slabs of granite and quartz surfacing in its 30,000-sq.-ft. shop.
At first the company only fabricated solid surface, and in 2002 they tooled up for stone fabrication in the building next door (see Figure 2).
Solid Surfaces Inc. handles both residential and commercial work, working for kitchen and bath dealers, big box stores and dealing directly with homeowners. It utilizes all of the latest and greatest technologies including CNC machines, V-groovers and digital templating systems, but more important than that, according to Mitch, is a well managed shop work flow.
Work Flow As A Key Element
"When you start dealing with volume, it's absolutely essential that you have a well established work flow plan in order to be competitive," said Mitch. "There is a direct correlation between your ability to put work efficiently through the shop and your bottom line. The two are interconnected. A poor work flow system leads to wasting time and money."
According to Makowski, a clear, simple work flow system is a must.
"You must have a way of easily seeing whether you are on schedule or not," said Makowski. "A well thought out work flow system will point those things right out."
With tightening margins, more competition and market pressures to reduce installed cost, a good work flow plan is the key to the future. "I really don't see manufacturers lowering the prices of sheet goods much more, especially now with the rise in oil and therefore in oil-based products," he said. "Fabricators' costs are also increasing. Costs are only going to move in one direction — up. The only place we're going to come up with savings is in the shop. That's why good work flow is essential. It's the only place where we will be able to eek out any kind of efficiency.