12 www. bus- ex. com July 09 course, is email, which gets designs to customers much more quickly, but beyond that we've developed our own proprietary CAD software and designed it to be easy enough to use by someone without extensive CAD experience. Retailers can use it in their own premises and ideally get the approval from their customer right there, then email the design to us, and we can manufacture the product right away." The principle is exactly the same as in any other manufacturing environment. " We use the 3D modelling features of CAD/ CAM software for the design of our large buildings, and we can export many of the files we get from customers to our equipment," says Boulanger. " Most of our equipment is CNC capable, and we're taking advantage of that. Our whole philosophy has been to chase the bottlenecks all the way from the point of shipment back to design and eliminate them." It's been a two- pronged improvement initiative involving " Most of our equipment is CNC capable, and we're taking advantage of that. Our whole philosophy has been to chase the bottlenecks all the way from the point of shipment back to design and eliminate them" both software automation and hardware, he continues. " For example, we found some inefficiencies in the grinding and polishing process. We purchased new Thibault polishers and installed some very automated polishing lines that can run almost around the clock." Polishing and grinding creates the flawless surface on the granite, and it uses a lot of energy. The amount of grinding that has to be done depends on the quality of the cut face, so the next step was to look at the process whereby blocks are sawn into slabs. The slabs used to be cut with diamond- edged saw blades; however, these are giving way to continuous wire saws also using diamond as the cutting medium. " We purchased a ten- wire diamond saw from the stone processing equipment specialist, Pellegrini," says Boulanger. " With this we're able to saw out nine slabs at once, and the slabs are much more uniform. We don't have to grind as much as we did before."
or columbarium. Civic monuments and architectural granite are also expected to grow, and there's a healthy demand from industry for granite bases for precision motion equipment, tool manufacturing, and even flat- panel displays and photovoltaic cell production. Granite's stability, non- scuff properties and resistance to temperature change make it ideal for these purposes, and ROA has a separate Precision Granites group to service that market. Until recently, Boulanger was director of that division and before that was ROA's CIO. That has helped him bring process excellence into the core business over the last nine months, he says. " The data we can get from our systems and the information it gives me allow me to be much more proactive in how we structure the business and our processes- to see what is going on in real time and to make adjustments quickly rather than reacting after the event. It helps to control costs and manage productivity much better." Operational excellence: Rock of Ages July 09 www. bus- ex. com 13 Everything that is being done to improve the process adds value and gives customers a little more flexibility as to what they can do, he continues. The company has recently set out on the lean manufacturing road, starting with 5S and ISO standards, and continuous improvement tools. " A number of years ago we adopted just- in- time ( JIT) production methods in all of our manufacturing groups, to cut out waiting time," Boulanger says. " By not starting a project until we have full approval, we avoid having stock sitting around on the production floor, and we have completely stopped cutting stock for inventory- that never worked for us. JIT has improved productivity, reduced rework, lowered costs and increased the overall efficiency of our operations." This is a market that can't help but grow, though it is slowed by the recession. And it's a changing market as more people opt for cremation, though that doesn't really stop people from investing in a family mausoleum