3. Storage Systems
The primary methods of storing slabs of natural and/or engineered stone are either to leave the slabs in the shipped bundle or break open the bundle and place the individual slabs on an A-frame or in a pole rack. The danger in not storing bundles properly is the potential for a serious domino effect. Bundles can "domino" when one tips over, knocking the next one over and so on and so on. This can be a deadly event, and has been a number of times in the last eight years.
If you are going to store bundles on your property, you should use some type of anti-tipping device to stop any inertia that could develop from multiple bundles tipping over. I have found 6-in.-diameter steel pipe, used in pairs, to be capable of eliminating the danger of losing mass quantities of bundles by spacing out the poles every four to six bundles. In this method, the risk factor goes down dramatically.
When it comes to storing individual slabs, I am a huge fan of the pole rack system vs. A-frames. The ONLY time I use A-frames is to show slabs in sequence when I do an individual layout of multiple slabs for a customer concerned with the overall appearance and relationship of the pieces to be cut from each slab. I offer this service to any customer using a stone with movement and veining in the slab so the customer is responsible for the final OK of the slabs.
4. Bar Codes
Computer tracking software is especially helpful in knowing where your excess scrap pieces are as well as the dimensions of each piece. Being able to have this information quickly is helpful when you have to make a small piece. With a tracking system you'll know what the size of each scrap piece is and what job it came from.
These types of systems and software are largely expensive systems -- we're talking a range of $20,000 to $30,000. Due to the natural progression of cutting-edge technology becoming necessary day-to-day technology, I would suspect there will be (if not already) systems becoming available to the industry that will be more affordable to the masses. And in 10 years, who knows what will be available!
5. UV Light Considerations
With the acceptance of more engineered stone by natural stone fabricator guys, like myself, the E-stone market share is growing within the industry, bringing more resin issues to the table. As with the E-stone, much of the natural stone side of our industry is seeing "resining" becoming a normal occurrence on most of the stone we buy. Due to this trend in hard surfacing, UV light reaction is a concern for many fabricators.
Many of the materials fabricators use have some sort of topically applied resin or, in the case of e-stone, polyester binders. Many of these resins react when exposed for long periods of time to natural sunlight. Here in Arizona, and many other fair weather states, just about everyone stores their inventory of slabs outside. Because of this, you should take precautions to protect your material investments and check with your slab distributors to find out what types of resins have been used on the stone. If your distributor doesn't know -- don't take a chance! Once the slabs are in your yard, keep them out of direct sunlight for weeks or longer periods of time.
These top five trends in slab storage and handling have been listed and defined through my own observations of the industry around me. While these trends certainly make slab handling easier, even if you don't have a high-tech system for storing, bar coding and handling your slabs, remember to think safety first and be organized.