How stone manufacturers can overcome “growing pains” by tracking productivity data

Team members
Factory size (ft2)
Number of machines

Company overview

GMD Surfaces is one of Chicago’s leading suppliers and fabricators of stone products, including granite, marble, quartzite, engineered stone, and more. GMD Surfaces works closely with residential and commercial customers to craft custom countertops, fireplaces, flooring, wall tile, and specialty items made to order.

Over the last two decades, GMD Surfaces has built a successful business by offering high-quality products, leveraging advanced technology and providing expert, meticulous craftsmanship.

However, the rapid growth in sales generated by increased demand for the company’s products created challenges in the factory and left production struggling to keep up.

In an effort to increase production capacity and efficiency, GMD Surfaces began exploring factory operating systems, ultimately choosing Amper, a fellow Chicago company.

Key highlights

Within the first five months of implementing Amper, GMD Surfaces saw improvements, including:

  • 6% increase in overall productivity
  • 34% reduction in mechanical breakdowns
  • 28% decrease in monthly overtime hours
  • Identification of several key causes of downtime
One thing big shops and small shops have in common is that using technology helps bring down costs and make operations leaner. Using Amper is one of the best ways to achieve that, because shops of all sizes want to run their machines as long and as efficiently as possible.

— Omar Chahin, CEO

The challenge: lagging production with unknown causes

While growth is good, GMD Surfaces’ rapid expansion not only revealed but exacerbated the weaknesses in its factory operations.  

Although the company invested in additional machinery to increase capacity, it continued to face bottlenecks and unpredictable machine breakdowns.

“We noticed that as we grew bigger, it got increasingly harder to push utilization above 45%,” says owner Omar Chahin. “We failed to get the ROI we were hoping for—and because we weren’t tracking productivity, we couldn’t figure out why.”

In addition, there was concern that the lack of transparency left workers unmotivated and led to unnecessary overtime hours.  

The sluggish production created a domino effect, stalling the cutting, fabrication, and installation teams and slowing the order fulfillment process.

The solution: Implement Amper

Recognizing that they needed visibility into their production process, GMD Surfaces launched an initiative to evaluate factory operating systems and vendors. After comparing options, GMD Surfaces chose Amper.

“We partnered with Amper,” says Chahin, “because their system is easy to set up and implement. It relies on non-invasive equipment that works wirelessly and requires no integration, all at a competitive price.”

GMD Surfaces was also interested in the added benefit that Amper’s maintenance module brings in preventing unplanned machine downtime because of crashes.

The stone manufacturer took advantage of Amper’s risk-free and cost-free pilot program, working with the implementation team to plan a phased rollout.  

“The rollout began with just two machines for the first two months,” says Talal Mufti, Operations Manager at GMD Surfaces.

“Then, for another two months," Mufti continues, "we started using the operator interface and maintenance module to manage maintenance tasks and assign them to operators. Once we saw positive results, we expanded company-wide.”

The result: Improved utilization and empowered employees

Almost immediately, GMD Surfaces’ overall utilization improved. In under 5 months, the baseline of 43% rose to 55%. GMD Surfaces’ Titan—which started at 43%—rose to 63% during that time period.

Furthermore, by taking advantage of Amper's unique features, GMD Surfaces realized a number of benefits, including:

  • The ability to pinpoint reasons for lack of productivity thanks to Amper’s downtime labeling feature.
  • A 34% reduction in unpredicted breakdowns thanks to Amper’s maintenance module.
  • More productive employees, incentivized by shop floor scoreboards that displayed real-time utilization factory-wide.
  • Decreased overtime costs due to more productive work time. Average monthly overtime hours dropped from 275 to 200 during the initial five months.

In addition, Amper’s production data allowed GMD Surfaces to undertake several continuous improvement projects that further reduced downtime, including:

Changing the shop layout to increase staging space

Downtime labeling revealed that significant holdups were caused by material missing from the staging area. By changing the layout—allowing more space to stage and prep material—GMD Surfaces boosted utilization by 11%.

Adding bridge cranes to speed machine loading

Downtime data also revealed that operators were often idle while waiting for help loading and unloading machines. GMD Surfaces added bridge cranes to some machines, allowing operators to load and unload their machines independently, boosting utilization by 9%.

Final conclusion: Improved factory ROI—and no more growing pains  

Now, GMD Surfaces has real-time access to the intelligence it needs to maximize efficiency and lower labor costs. Within the first five months of implementation, the company:

  • Improved overall productivity by 6%
  • Reduced mechanical breakdowns by 34%
  • Reduced monthly overtime hours by 28%
  • Identified several key causes of downtime and rectified them

Chahin says, “Although we drastically improved production costs, we’re still working on improving efficiency and reducing overtime.”

He continues to say, “One thing big shops and small shops have in common is that using technology helps bring down costs and make operations leaner. Using Amper is one of the best ways to achieve that because shops of all sizes want to run their machines as long and as efficiently as possible.”

Today, GMD Surfaces’ factory is better positioned to keep pace with sales and has the tracking tools in place to engage in continuous improvement activities—while averting future growing pains. All while remaining lean, which is crucial in today’s economy.