Fig. 1- Just 10 seconds of labeling slabs will save you 10 minutes of looking.

Hover over photos to read caption

In the August issue of the Slippery Rock, the Publisher’s Pen touched on a subject that is of great interest and importance to fabricators seeking a path to prosperity. 

Fig. 2- Neatly stacked remnants and scrap. Not quite a “clean-room,” but pretty close.The subject was the differences between the two apparent paths that fabricators take in the attempt to find profitability.

Fig. 3- Some welding rod and $5 in steel tubing, transformed this shop cart for efficiency.The first path is the lower volume, higher value-higher price route. The other is the commodity, dealer/wholesale road with higher volume acquired through lower prices. 

Fig. 4- A “pull-away” stop-polish on the edge, at the seam.Most of us fall into one camp or the other, and I was immediately tempted to write an article arguing the case for the camp where I’ve pitched my tent.

But I realized that like the polarized politics of our day, I would be preaching to the choir that already sings my tune, while the congregation tunes me out.  

Fig. 5-  A ¼˝ Radius on back corners can save you money by helping eliminate damage to your client’s dry wall during countertop installation, and also reduce installer complaints.So, here are five cost savings strategies that will increase annual profits by thousands without changing what you charge, or changing your business model.

Labeling Slabs  

If your shop guys are receiving slabs in batches and storing them in racks or burying them on A-frames, chances are they are then spending time checking, pulling, wondering and asking “where’s the Jone’s material?” while it is staring them in the face. If the sawyer spends 10 minutes (and it’s probably longer in most shops) per job looking for slabs, that’s a 40 hour work-week and 800 bucks* in labor.  

By labeling those slabs (Lean Manufacturing gurus call this a visual control) when they are staged, the sawyer will have already seen the job name multiple times before it’s time to cut and will waste no time searching. (See Fig. 1)

Scrap Pallets, Buckets, and Bins   

Cutting counters out of slabs creates mountains of waste and if not planned, it will pile up like a snow drift in St. Cloud, Minnesota inside, outside, and beside your saw table.  

Eventually it will have to be moved and someone will handle it a second time! Picking through remnants, scraps and slivers after the fact will conservatively cost you an hour and a half of clean up per week. That’s almost 80 hours per year*. What could you do with $1,600? (See Fig. 2)

Mandating a policy where waste goes directly onto a pallet, bin, or bucket will not only save you hard cash, but it will make your saw area safer and your sawyer more productive. (Put your own price tag on that!) 

You might even consider turning a profit from your scrap with the unique Tomahawk  Stone Splitter from Braxton-Bragg. According to the Braxton-Bragg website, “The Tomahawk offers granite shops an economical concept in green fabrication and stone recycling. With a loss of approximately 30% due to wasted stone during countertop fabrication, the average fabricator loses around $5,000 per month, which is money thrown into our landfills. By using the Tomahawk Stone Splitter on waste stone, a whole new market opens up for designers utilizing natural stone applications.”

Reversible Tipping Carts  

Counters coming off the saw usually do so with the polished face up, but they go face down on the CNC or line polisher. If the staging area between these two steps doesn’t accommodate this reality, men are going to spend a lot time flipping or transferring pieces so they can be handled properly with a vacuum lifter. (See Fig. 3)

Let’s say the average kitchen has 6 pieces that must be transferred to another cart one at a time, that’s easily 15 minutes per job and it requires a lot of additional carts. By buying or modifying carts that can flip pieces, that’s another $1200 a year to your bottom line.

Stop Polish on Seams  

For those fabricators who polish the edge details at the joint after the seams are glued during install, bless you…your customers are getting a great service! But your installers are probably spending an extra 10 minutes per seam “blending” the edges and transition lines so they are straight.  It’s probably closer to 20 minutes per seam if your fabricators are rolling the transition lines back at the joint. Worst case scenario on a kitchen with 2 seams is 40 minutes per job!  That’s 160+ hours a year.  

If you demand that your CNC operator programs a “pull-away” (See Fig. 4) on the edge at the seam or that your fabricators stop polishing the last ½˝, you will save at least $3,000 per year in blending labor.  That’s real money!  

Radiuses on Back Corners 

Sharp corners and sheetrock stick together like silicone at the bottom of your customer’s new stainless steel sink. Just ask your installers who, daily, must maneuver 200 pound counters into tight corners. As such, it’s not surprising that this little innovation was suggested by one of our veteran field guys: putting a ¼˝ radius on the back corners of pieces that meet sheetrock.  (See Fig. 5)

I would have never believed it, but it completely eliminates the snagging of tight fitting pieces and makes their already difficult jobs a bit easier. Cost savings? I’m not really sure on this one. But having one less thing for my installers to gripe about is priceless!

The Bottom Line

If four or five fully implemented innovations can save over $6,000 per year without a price increase or doing three more kitchens, imagine what another 5 or 10 cost-cutting ideas could do for your bottom line!

That’s where you come in. I’ve shown some of my cards, will you do the same? If you’ve got ideas that you’re willing to share, email them to me and you’ll get the credit in my follow-up article next month!

*Cost savings figures assume a one kitchen (2 slab) per-day volume. Translate your cost savings accordingly.


Aaron Crowley is a stone shop owner, author, speaker, and consultant to mid-size stone companies. Contact him at