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Countertops Magazine Archive

The Future of Digital Technology in the Stone Industry

Digital technology has already transformed the countertop industry over the last decade or so. In almost every stage of business – from template and fabrication to sales and scheduling – digital solutions have made it easier to produce quality countertops and make customers happy in an efficient way.


It’s only going to get better as fabricators continue to demand new features and solutions. Existing vendors must continue to innovate, and new technology vendors will inevitably spring up to meet unfulfilled demand.


What can you leverage today to improve your business? What can you look forward to tomorrow? Asking these questions can help you find ways to improve. Yet there’s something to be said for the old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” … the only reason to adopt a new technology is to address a pain. If you like the way your business is running with lauan templates, a bridge saw, a whiteboard and paper file folders, then there probably isn’t a compelling reason to change. But as your business grows, it will likely bump up against obstacles that technology can overcome.


At Moraware, we talk with hundreds of fabricators using a wide variety of digital (and non-digital) technology from us and other providers. We get thousands of requests for new features every year. This gives us a unique perspective to talk about technology, but we’re not fabricators. The goal of this article is to raise awareness of various technologies and encourage you to talk with other fabricatorsabout them. From what we’ve observed, talking with your peers is the best way to help you make decisions about which specific technologies are worth your investment in time and money.


That’s also why I host StoneTalk – the podcast for countertop fabricators – to provide another way for fabricators to share experiences with each other. Give it a listen on your computer or phone at … and if you’d like to come on the show to share your wisdom, reach out to me.



Digital templating is a diverse and competitive market with several viable companies using at least three different approaches: wand, photo and laser. The main digital templating vendors attend all the industry tradeshows. The simplest way to decide on the approach you like best is to attend a tradeshow and talk with the vendors (as well as other fabricators using those systems).


In general, digital templating is faster and more accurate than making wood templates. If you also use digital saws or CNC equipment, then digital templates generally feed cleanly into the next step in the process.


Another benefit of digital templating is the ease of transfer. Digital files can made hundreds of miles from the shop and uploaded directly to a software system or even emailed back to the shop where work can begin immediately on the project while the templating team moves on to its next stop without ever having to return to deliver a physical template.


What’s next for digital templating? Some vendors offer deep integration with scheduling software. Some vendors offer digital signing. I expect more vendors will explore those features, and I’m sure there are features in the works that I can’t imagine. But the number one desire we hear from our customers regarding digital templating is simplicity. They want a system that’s easy to learn and use. I’m confident that is on the top of the list for most, if not all of the digital templating system providers.



With digital fabrication, instead of a human guiding a saw or router, a computer does. Typically, the digital template is opened in a tool that lets you digitally lay out the countertops onto slabs and see the results. Then another tool “programs” the job, telling the computer how to move the saw to cut through the slabs.


This is another competitive market with several viable vendors around the world. In StoneTalk episode 16, I interviewed Poseidon’s chief engineer, Joe Alva, who talks about the history and the differences between manufacturers from different countries and what questions to ask vendors. I recommend going to tradeshows, speaking with various vendors and talking with your peers to learn whether digital fabrication will improve your business and who to consider as a vendor.


Because I’m not a fabricator, I can’t endorse any specific equipment … but I regularly attend the “digital expos” hosted by Park Industries, and I can heartily endorse those events. If you’re thinking of adding more technology to your shop, try to get invited to a digital expo. You’ll learn a lot.


What’s next? It’s easier to improve software than it is to improve hardware, so expect to see software enhancements before hardware enhancements. For example, some vendors are providing more sophisticated management dashboards. I also expect to see more and more integration with software from other parts of the fabrication business.


Job Management/Scheduling

Job scheduling is what brought Moraware to the countertop industry a little over a decade ago. Our JobTracker software is used by hundreds of fabricators to manage their businesses. There are other vendors as well, such as Stone Profits and ActionFlow, some who have been around awhile and others that are quite new.


Still, the biggest “competitor” to digital job tracking is a whiteboard and paper file folders. For many companies, that’s enough – going digital isn’t always required. One of the challenges of moving from a whiteboard and folders to a digital solution is that everybody in your company has to be onboard. So if your current, non-digital solution is working for you, there’s probably not a good reason to change.


With a good amount of assurance, I can say the top request of those using digital job tracking systems is simplicity. They want a system to be so easy that they don’t need to read the manual.


Some more common feature requests include automated text and email reminders, a better mobile interface and integration with accounting or enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.


An intriguing request that has been made, especially from bigger fabricators, is to optimize the production process itself. They want help prioritizing which jobs should go to their equipment in what order. They also want the ability to manage how a couple of slabs turn into several countertops – with all of those tops needing to be bundled back together to complete the job. As far as I’m aware, this is a void in the market that someone will have to fill eventually.


Similarly, I see an inevitable progression toward a customer “portal” that would let homeowners track the progress of their countertops from sale to installation to payment to maintenance and repairs. The last time I refinanced my house, the mortgage company provided a great online experience where I could track the progress of my loan, sign documents, etc. If I were buying countertops, I’d want the same thing. Fabricators aren’t asking for this directly yet, but eventually, their customers will. There is some light-weight functionality like this for wholesale customers, but nothing appropriate as of yet for retail homeowners that I know of.



Most fabricators calculate pricing using a spreadsheet or their accounting program and draw out a representation of a customer’s countertops by hand when needed. Digital quoting, however, has become the fastest growing part of our business. The goal of a tool like our CounterGo product or Crystallyne’s QuickQuote is to make the quoting process faster so that you can focus on making countertops (and make your quotes look better so that you win more business).


Digital quoting is relatively new, but there’s increasing attention on it, because winning new business is so important. Both the aforementioned Stone Profits and ActionFlow programs also include quoting features. Some digital template products (such as those from Laser Products) include quoting functionality as well.


Digital quoting is pretty easy to adopt, because you don’t have to change your whole business … and making it easier for your salespeople to make money is typically an easy sell. If you’re currently quoting manually, switching to digital quoting might well be the easiest change you can make to improve your business.


What’s next with digital quoting? The top request we get is integration with QuickBooks or other accounting programs (it sounds so easy, but trust me, it isn’t). We’re also seeing more requests for digital signing, whether on a tablet or by email (which to me sounds like a job for a customer portal). We see more and more customers quoting directly in customers’ homes, so why not go past digital signing and accept credit cards?


We’ve also been surprised by the number of requests we get to add production features into our quoting product. For simple projects like a vanity with a splash, some customers want the ability to output a CAD file that they can use directly to cut the project.



It seems like inventory should be easy to digitize, but it’s actually a pretty complex problem, because there are subtle differences in the way fabricators think about inventory. For example, handling consignment is quite different from purchasing containers. Some fabricators don’t care about remnants, and for others, it’s the most important part of an inventory solution. Some fabricators only care about “operational” aspects of inventory (“Which slabs are assigned to which jobs?”) and others care more about the financial side (“What’s the dollar value of the inventory I have on hand?”). Finally, some fabricators primarily care about the visual side of inventory, the ability to show “virtual slabs” to customers.


A tool like SlabSmith handles the visual side of inventory – it lets you take high-quality pictures of all your slabs to share with your customers in your showroom and on your website. More and more fabricators (especially in cold climates) are using virtual slab viewings to narrow choices before viewing actual slabs.


Our tool is focused on operational aspects of inventory. It’s built on top of JobTracker, so you have to use our scheduling tool to use our inventory tool. Stone Profits has a background with distributors and manufacturers as well as fabricators, so they have extensive inventory features.

Many fabricators don’t track inventory at all – if you’re one of them, then the first step is simply to use a spreadsheet. Make columns for type, color, size, cost, job, id#, etc. and then simply make a row for each slab that comes into your shop. When the slab gets assigned to a job, record that in the spreadsheet and write the job number on the slab. When the slab gets consumed, delete the row from the spreadsheet. For many, that spreadsheet approach works just fine, but at a certain amount of volume that the spreadsheet becomes crazy to manage and a more sophisticated solution makes more sense.


What’s next for inventory? There’s a lot of room for innovation, but it’s a hard, expensive problem to solve. Fabricators want simplicity, but they also want a solution to fit their business, not the other way around.


Some fabricators want a barcode solution to make reconciliation faster and easier – we don’t provide such a solution directly, but a couple of our partners do. Radio frequency identification (RFID) is the next step beyond barcoding – instead of swiping a barcode, a slab with an RFID tag attached would simply “know where it is” at all times. An RFID solution is not cheap, but prices for the components are becoming more affordable, so it’s possible someone will make a compelling RFID solution for the stone industry at some point.


If you’ve ever wanted a way to trade remnants or slabs with other fabricators, check out one of the online remnant websites, such as our (free) It’s a copy-and-paste interface, so it’s easy to get started. Some fabricators will list their inventory daily so their partners and wholesale customers can easily see what they have on hand. Other websites that offer remnant exchanges are,, and (the latter of the two that focus on solid surface).



Most fabricators already use digital accounting – in fact, it’s one of the most important pieces of software that a fabricator uses.


The most popular accounting program is QuickBooks, but more and more fabricators want to move to a cloud-based offering like QuickBooks Online or Xero. This move to the cloud seems inevitable, because it enables better division of labor between various users (owner, bookkeeper, accountant, etc.). It also makes it easier for software companies to integrate with accounting, so we definitely hope the trend toward accounting in the cloud continues.


The Bleeding Edge

Technology always marches forward. Some changes are predictable – simplicity and ease-of-use make any product better, so every vendor is trying to improve in that dimension (turns out it’s hard). Similarly, customers want end-to-end solutions, so they want products from different companies to work seamlessly together. Better integration is inevitable, although it will happen more slowly than anybody wants.


There are other technology areas where fabricators are only just beginning to explore opportunities – for example, digital marketing. Using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Houzz to gain new customers is still in the “magical” phase – listen to StoneTalk Episode 6 to hear how facebook helps drive K & D Countertop sales. As online marketing becomes more and more commonplace, it will likely be systematized and integrated into other fabricator tools.


The only constant is change … as the industry changes, I’ll be talking to fabricators about these and other issues on my podcast – be sure to listen in at … and please contact me to be on the show if you’d like to share your opinions and experiences.


About the Author

Patrick Foley is a self-described lifelong geek who’s part of the customer team for Moraware (, and he also hosts StoneTalk – the podcast for countertop fabricators ( He can be reached at [email protected] or 866-312-9273.