September 25, 2017

Cornerstones: Quality

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Superior quality in the services and products O&G delivers is a corporate- wide focus. In the Masonry Division, particularly when it comes to acquiring stone product, it is essential: “Quality is the most important factor we consider when purchasing our natural stone product,” Jack Harding will tell you. Among his many duties at the Beacon Falls Fabrication and Distribution Center (see “My Days at O&G,” page 20) is sourcing stone products from around the world that meet client needs. Greater than price or delivery, it is the quality of the product and installation that matters. Quality endures.

Quality takes time to establish. New stone suppliers are judiciously screened and working relationships cultivated with care. Vendors with established reputations and proven records are given preference, especially when dealing with overseas suppliers. When product arrives at “Beacon,” it comes prepackaged in foam inside wooden crates for protection and shipping – it’s impractical for Harding’s staff to open and inspect every crate. There has to be a repeatable record of quality product delivered for the relationship to continue.

O&G chooses to buy from companies with their own quality control in place right in the quarries, right in the factories, where they physically inspect the stone work at three critical intervals:

Before fabrication begins, where the raw stone’s grade, consistency of color and range of pattern are checked and verified free from defects and impurities;

During fabrication where dimension stone is checked for accurate cuts and thicknesses; and

After fabrication to be sure all pieces of stone are uniformly finished and, where it applies, that it is consistent with previously purchased stock so that compatibility issues do not arise.

Stone has to be structurally suitable for its intended use. The quality grading of stones makes that clear. Certain stones would be perfect for elegant patios and walk ways, but would fail if used for a driveway. Other stones would be just right for dramatic vertical applications – facades and interior walls, for instance – but not for flatwork such as pavers, treads or copings where they would be a slip hazard or highly susceptible to damage from salt.

Additionally the stone has to be appropriate for the climate. Here in the Northeast, exterior stone needs to hold up to the freeze/thaw cycling that occurs year after year during the winter months.

For many applications, mainly non-residential where dimension stone is used in cladding buildings, that stone must also qualify by meeting the standards set by building documents, industry guidelines and the American Society for Materials and Testing (ASTM).

Another important consideration in choosing quality products is their source. U.S. sources are given When projects are incentivized to “go green” and target LEED certification, it is often required to source building materials locally. That’s where the Division’s stable of vetted domestic vendors of superior natural stone products fits the bill.

When imported stone is chosen it’s because it offers characteristics that are unattainable from domestic sources. There are skeptics who question its quality, says Harding, particularly when it comes to buying from China or India. “I always remind them,” he says, “that it’s the geological make-up of the stone rather than the geographical location of the supplier that makes the difference in materials. If you purchase from people with whom you’ve established trust and have built a relationship you’re never going to have to be concerned with quality.”

It has been said that quality is the best business plan. The Masonry Division is operating according to that plan.