In 1995, Michael and Matthew Schott started Onslow Stonewoks as an extension of an existing glass company. They now employ 23 full-time and 10 part-time workers, running in two shifts, at their 14,000-square-foot facility in Swansboro, NC.
The Schott family has a long history of stone working. In the late 1800s, brothers Nicola and Emidio Scioli emigrated to and settled in the town of Cliffside Park, NJ, where the family’s granite quarry was operated on the Palisades Cliffs. The Schott brothers’ grandfather worked at the quarry as a young boy, and in turn, he took the time to pass the family’s traditions on to the boys. In 1995, Michael and Matthew Schott started Onslow Stoneworks as an extension of an existing glass company. At that time, an opportunity arose to fabricate some prefabricated panels, and from there, the business exploded into custom kitchens in just a few months’ time.
The company produces all types of stone products, as well as all major brands of quartz and solid surface materials for countertops, showers and flooring. Its newest line is Neolith large-format sintered panels for commercial and residential shower panels, which are mainly utilized for countertop and exterior rain screening applications. Principle markets include eastern North Carolina, northern South Carolina and southern Virginia for installed residential products. For commercial projects, the company services the Florida to Washington, D.C.-area.
“Currently we’re producing an average of 750 to 900 square feet of countertop products weekly for internal company installations,” explained Michael Schott, CEO of the company. “Averaging 1,000 square feet monthly of custom, cut-to-size countertops for shipping to satellites, and approximately 500 square feet of quartz and marble products, the company manufactures for several regional and national tile distributors.”’
Onslow Stoneworks employs 23 full-time and 10 part-time workers, running in two shifts, at their 14,000-square-foot facility in Swansboro, NC, which was custom-designed and engineered for stone fabrication. Additionally, they have three full-time granite countertop installation crews and two full-time tile installation crews.
“I remember cutting out, to scale, colored construction paper replicas of all the equipment and forklifts and workstations we had at the time and would have in the future,” said Schott. “I literally moved scaled pieces through receiving, fabrication and loading to foresee any problems with choke points. We invested about $75,000 in 12-inch concrete equipment pads, 18-inch-thick concrete pads for gantry cranes, underground water and air receptacles and full electrical service installed for equipment we didn’t intend to purchase for several years. It was a little tough then but is sure paying off now.
“Of utmost importance to me was safety,” Schott went on to say. “I wanted a facility that was well lit, drained and ventilated. We constructed the building with lower, 16-foot ceilings and wood rafters so we could sheet it with a bright white waterproof coating and waterproof lights so we can keep our plant clean. We have one full-time employee who does nothing but keep the facility clean and OSHA-compliant. It allows us to concentrate on growing the business instead of growing the facility.”
For machinery, Schott relies on several different brands. A Construal CR Plus CNC and Construal CE625 bridge saw from Feist Machine Service in Bayport, NY, do all of the dimensional cutting, and a Matrix bridge saw, directly from Matrix in Chino, CA, is used primarily for cutting grooves for rods and samples. A Park Industries Wizard machine, from Park Industries in St. Cloud, MN, is used for milling, and because of the increased interest in leathered finishes, the company invested in a Feist Machine Service Manual Plane Polisher to achieve face finishing needs. A Martini Water Curtain Air Scrubber, purchased through an auction, helps to stay compliant to all air quality issues. Additionally, a Gorbel bridge crane and gantry cranes, also purchased via an auction, with a Dal Forno Vacuum S series lifter, from Feist Machine Service, helps move material through production.
“The CR Plus CNC bridge saw was installed two weeks ago by Feist Machine Service,” explained Schott. “It has helped us keep up with production of our marble and quartz tile accessory products. We are rolling out our standard size vanity line shortly for distribution through our Builders Countertop Program throughout the Southeast, where the CNC capabilities really come into play. Additionally, from Feist Machine Service, we are currently awaiting our shipment of a Farnese Excel Miter saw, as there has been a big increase in mitered and drop edges being specified for our commercial projects, and two Fab King work stations to help keep up with the vanity program.”
For tooling, the company utilizes Viper and Hurricane diamond blades, purchased from Braxton-Bragg in Knoxville, TN. They use profiling wheels from Marmo Meccanica, core bits from Cyclone and Alpha face polishing pads — all purchased from Regent Products in Virginia Beach, VA. For templating, they use Mylar plastic template and material handling, transportation and installation supplies, which are supplied from GranQuartz of Tucker, GA.
A large, recent advancement for the company was the acquisition of its first LT-2D3D Laser Templator. “When the crash of 2008 occurred, we made the decision to build our infrastructure to a level that could handle 10 times what we were producing then, and as the market hopefully returned, we could simply plug in the technologies as needed,” explained Schott. “We invested in our own servers and had software written that made our entire process paperless; everyone in every location could access all of the necessary information. The last piece of the puzzle was digital templating. We had an idea of what it would do for us as far as just the templating, but what we didn’t realize is how we could integrate the digital layouts as a production tool. We use the shop sheet tools that the 2D3D generates automatically in the background to track all the pieces as they move through production.
“We actually don’t use our barcode system for tracking anymore. It is so much more efficient for us, as anyone who looks at a piece has all the information pertaining to it without having to be linked to a computer,” Schott went on to explain. “This has been a significant aid in keeping continuity between production shifts and with installation crews. We have realized a 70% reduction in templating time which has allowed us to template up to five kitchens per templator per normal day.”
Still, there are always challenges that need to be met. The obstacles the company faces have evolved over the past seven years. From 2008 to 2010, the main issue was getting the pricing low enough. “Customers who were stuck with house inventory put quality and customer service low on the priority list,” said Schott. “It was all about the cheapest price. It took a while for us to educate the public on the various pricing games that were flying around at that time, but eventually with a bit of a rebound in the market, the commitment to quality and service has once again paid off for us big. Our obstacles now for us are more internal. Managing the growth and adhering to a comprehensive growth strategy is what drives us daily. We’re very fortunate to have compiled the team we have.”
As he looks ahead, Schott is anxious to complete the rest of his equipment installations so the company can reduce manufacturing costs. “We found that our sales management process was fragmented and didn’t conform to our needs anymore as we grew,” he explained. “We have invested a lot of time and capital revamping our process and will be rolling out our new one by year’s end. It is much more comprehensive and will fit our needs as new locations open and new sales staff joins the team.”
In the long term, Schott views his business as being successfully open and fluid, as the market and world conditions rapidly change. “A tangible goal is to hit the $8 million mark in top line revenue,” he said. “At that time, based on our current and projected margins, we will have hit a critical mass point for us. We will be investing in an enterprise level of Stone Profit Systems which will be the over-arching operating system for the company. We have worked with Fabricators Choice software on this and we would be looking at a $40,000 upfront investment for the software with about a $24,000 per year operating and maintenance cost. Our projections have us there by the end of next year and we look very forward to hitting that mark.”
By: Sara Garafalo
Article originally appear on StoneWorld.com