It was early in 2018 that Andy Phillips, our MD here at AG, found himself on a visit to a major, high-end quartz supplier – Caesarstone of Israel. On the same trip were a number of directors from other worktop fabricators. Out of conversations on that trip has emerged something completely different and rather unexpected, which we hope will be an increasingly useful tool over the coming years.
I think that trips to suppliers, especially trips overseas, with time to eat, drink and socialise, can be amazing opportunities to get to know customers and competitors. Conversations with competitors are generally restricted to slightly stilted meetings at big trade exhibitions, or phone calls with anguished appeals due to breakages or buying errors – “Do you have an off-cut of Pantstone Quartz Nostril Green 30mm – must be at least 1850 by 870mm?” Actually sitting down and talking more deeply about our businesses, concerns and challenges, and hopes for the future – this is a rare treat.
Some of the guys on the Caesarstone trip – we teased Andy they all looked a bit Reservoir Dogs even then!
Coming out of that Caesarstone trip, and shortly to be officially launched, is a new trade body – the Worktop Fabricators Federation, or WFF. There have been a lot of more formal meetings and conversations leading up to this point, and some of the heavy legal stuff needed to put the whole thing together as a properly founded entity. And the birth of this new body has already been registered as a happening in our industry Natural Stone Specialist magazine ran a recent piece which can also be seen on the Stone Specialist website
Why would you talk deeply and openly with trade to competitors? There is unanimity that it is a good idea – as one member of the new Worktop Fabricators group has put it, “There’s never been enough sharing of information within our industry, which we see as a real obstacle to growth. Having little or no contact with our competitors blinds us from what the rest of the industry is doing, and from crucial insight, which can aid our specialism as a whole.”
There are actually two big positive reasons that immediately come to mind, and possibly many more. The first is health and safety.
Our industry is not a safe one – or it is not an easy one to make and keep safe.There are three obvious areas of danger. 1) The mass of our raw material – which can crush and destroy if falling, and puts a real toll on backs and limbs just to handle it. 2) The tooling we use to cut and shape the stone – the kind of saws and other tools that would make James Bond blanch. 3) Dust particles may be the least obvious danger – but they can be the biggest killer.
Any company that takes the safety of its employees seriously is going to value any and every bit of information that keeps our workshop teams and fitting crews out of danger. Collaborating with other worktop fabricators on Health and Safety makes perfect sense.
The other issue is quality. In an industry that has diversified and developed as quickly as ours has, there are many different levels of quality standards on offer. Talking to our serious competitors – the worktop fabricators whose offering and customer service is of a high standard – is important in a marketplace where all of us have been undercut on price by operators whose quality, service and after sales care leaves a lot to be desired. We hope that the WFF will be a powerful tool in setting standards of performance and practice for our industry – standads that will help all of us win the trust and loyalty of our customers.
As Andy Phillips has put it:
Over the past 10 years Affordable Granite has been continuously evolving, developing quality systems, and responding to developments in employee Health and Safety. This continuous investment differentiates us from our competitors and improves the service we deliver. There are many companies offering worktop fabrication, and many different approaches to the investment we believe is essential if the industry is to evolve.
Over a year ago the idea myself and four other like-minded fabricators determined that there was tremendous benefit to be had from a trade association focusing on the mechanised production of solid stone worktops. I can see only positive things from interactions within the industry, driving best practice and professionalism, and giving our customers the reassurance that they are working with a competent company that is committed to constant improvement.
So watch this space…!
When it is officially launched early in 2020, Affordable Granite will be a proud to be a founder member of the Worktop Fabricators Federation. The federation will be supported by the country’s top suppliers who will also have the opportunity to influence and improve the industry through their work with the organisation.
We are Affordable Granite, the leading granite installer in Surrey, Sussex and across the South East. We are committed to the highest standards in our product itself, but also in our customer care and in the Health and Safety of our staff. For questions, queries and quotes connected with any aspect of worktop installation or kitchen design, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01293 863992 or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org/ .