Lately, I have been thinking a lot about our field and its changes, especially in relation to rival industries. I have studied professional literature in search of an explanation of the uncertain position of the stone-cutting industry, especially in comparison with the ceramics industry or the plastics and wood processing.
I have decided to look for the answer to the question of what can be done to change the current situation. This text is a result of my search. I hope it might become an introduction to a series of articles that will shed a new light at the current state of stonemasonry.
In the following issues I will strive to bring articles, interviews with industry specialists, and presentations of companies that will inspire and show possible direction of new development.
In order to capture the changes that have taken place in the industry, I will borrow the terminology used in the field of information technologies. Anyone from the IT sphere knows that the new versions of software are marked under consecutive numbers. If the changes are not revolutionary, the individual versions usually take on the following scheme – 1.1, 2.2 etc.
I have noticed the usage of this system in other industries as well. At the chemist’s I saw a medication named 2.0. This was presumably the manufacturer’s way of pointing out that the drug was an updated and improved edition of the medication. If we look closer to home, we can find an example of ceramic tiles named Atakama 2.0 manufactured by Opoczno. When listening to the radio I came across a programme called “Human 2.0”, in which experts discussed the new Homo Sapiens species.
Our industry dates back centuries, but we will be discussing modern history of stonemasonry. Before the political changes in 1989, stonemasonry in Poland did not boast the best technological possibilities. We almost exclusively worked only with local materials of a limited colour range. To make matters worse, stone as a material was also rather hard to come by. The industry was based on the production in craft workshops and there was only one state company in the country – Kambud. Stone was considered a luxurious material at that time. The lack of technologies as well as material made stone expensive and not particularly popular. The limited options did not allow for the industry to flourish. There were no stone plants that could be called industrial.
The first change came when stone started to be imported to Poland from all over the world. All of a sudden, we could work with more than just the grey granite quarried in Strzegom.
Back then people were obsessed with colours. Colourful tombstones became very popular despite the fact that cemetery is not exactly the right place to go “wild” in this respect. This period is characterised by a boom in the industry. Many new stonemason’s shops appeared as the conditions for private enterprise changed.
And then there was the construction industry. While cutting tombstone was easy, even relatively simple orders in the construction industry posed a problem. Cutting stone with primitive diamond saws resulted in a lot of issues. Saws that were used to cut 2 or 3 cm slabs were uneconomical and rather inaccurate. It was at that time that the inaccuracy lead to a new “metric” terminology, such as “thin and thick three” (i.e. the dimensions ranging from 2.7 to 3.3 cm).
Once the currency became fully convertible, some companies used the opportunity to expand and obtain new machinery. However, most Polish companies could not afford to buy new machines and had to make do with second-hand equipment. Although these machines were not modern, they still meant a big leap forward for the stone-cutting industry.
Some companies worked in the construction industry, but new markets started to emerge. This meant new business opportunities particularly for stonemason’s shops specialising in tombstones, since the demand remained stable, while the number of companies kept growing. As the market remained the same, prices started to fall and the competition was fierce.
On the other hand, competition is the mother of invention. This adage proved true also in the stone-cutting industry. New companies were established, existing companies increased their potential. Times were difficult in the tombstone production segment. The limited market coupled with the ever-growing number of stonemason’s shops producing standardized tombstones as well as import of cheap tombstones from China caused small businesses a lot of trouble. Some had to seek business in the construction industry.
Finally, thanks to the EU funds, companies could afford to buy new and modern machinery and equipment.
Source: Kurier kamieniarski
Author: Dariusz Wawrzynkiewicz | Published: 5 July 2017