Brief in counters: by David Coster
David Coster, Director of Advanced Stone & Masonry Supplies, which sells Stain Proof and Tenax products, talks to Daniel Waters, the Managing Director of The Waters Group, the stone equipment, tools and consumables supplier to stone companies in the UK and Ireland.
David: As a supplier of tools and equipment it probably doesn’t matter to you which materials your customers are using, but do you have a preference for natural stone, quartz, sintered stone/ceramics?
Daniel: Personally, I have three kids, so I would go for quartz because it’s scratch resistant and doesn’t stain. As far as selling tools is concerned, probably quartz as well because it’s consistent. You can specify which tools will be best for a range of products. When the kids have eventually left home I will be having natural stone in my kitchen.
David: As a tool supplier, do you think finishes are better straight off a CNC or do they need hand finishing?
Daniel: If it were my kitchen top – and I’ve said I would choose quartz – I would want it straight off the CNC because it’s clinical. It has clean lines. But if it was natural stone I would go for a hand finish because you’re not so bothered about a clean line.
David: When it comes to templating, do you think it’s best to make a physical template or use digital templating?
Daniel: Having sold both digital templaters and materials for physical templating in the years I have been at Waters Group I would say digital templating is best these days when most people are using CNCs. I have trained people on digital templating and it’s so accurate for going straight on to the CNCs we have in the industry now.
David: It’s more environmentally friendly.
Daniel: Yes. And it’s more cost effective.
A question I always ask the fabricators is whether they love or hate their customers. Your customers are those fabricators. So do you love your customers or hate them?
Love some. Hate some. They can brighten up your day or make your day a little bit duller.
Is there anything you are currently investing in to improve your business?
We have invested in the Zoller digital tool measuring machine to use alongside our ADI tooling offer. It enables us to measure the diamond tools on their cones and send the measurements to customers with the tools, whether they are new or after redressing, so they can put the tools straight on to their machines. And we are offering that service free of charge to our customers, the fabricators. The benefit of having tools measured is that you don’t have do any setting up when they arrive at your factory. You can run them straight away from the measurements we provide. Because they are accurate you can run them at higher speeds and they have longer life. We also sell the Zoller machine for customers’ factories with ADI’s unique software for the stone industry, available only through Waters Group in the UK.
The government has committed the country to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050. It says businesses are going to have to be greener if that target is to be achieved. Do you have a plan in place to cut your carbon emissions and help your customers cut their carbon emissions?
Yes. It’s always on our minds.
And ethical sourcing; making sure there is no modern slavery or other human rights breaches in your supply chain?
The same. We keep on top of it and make sure we are buying products from ethical sources.
As an importer of equipment that you sell on, were you hit by first Brexit and then the Covid pandemic?
The cost increases of products and transport have obviously impacted us. Shortages of raw materials have been a bit of a headache. But because we had already prepared for Brexit, we were also pretty well prepared for Covid. We had increased stock vastly – actually by three times. So we were prepared for Brexit and that had a knock on effect with Covid. We were prepared for Covid because we were ready for Brexit, if that makes sense.
Are you finding it hard to recruit skilled people?
Finding new staff is incredibly difficult; finding good staff, that is even more difficult at the moment.
Do you have any plans in place for more development of your business?
We have introduced repair kits for worktops. Damaged quartz and ceramic worktops can be an expensive problem for fabricators, so we have introduced these kits to overcome that problem. One of them is Quartz Renew from America. And it was obviously needed because it is selling really, really well. It saves our customers a lot of money repairing slabs that have dull patches or fine scratches. They can renew the surfaces on-site and in the factory. The next big product is called Surface Renew, which is for repairing ceramic and porcelain materials, doing exactly the same as Quartz Renew does for quartz in repolishing the surface.
Do you think the future will be better, worse or the same?
Than the last two years! I think it will be better by far.