Blog of London Stone Indian trip. Written by London Stone MD, Steve Walley.
Today I was visiting another one of our kota based suppliers. This particular supplier produces some of our sawn sandstone paving products. This supplier is extremely organised and his yard is an impressive site. Driving through the gates you are faced with neat, organised rows of sandstone paving awaiting packing.
November & December is a quiet time for Indian sandstone producers as in general customers like us are running down stocks for the winter period. However I was informed that these stocks would be quickly depleted come January once the orders start to come in.
I was taken down to the new tumbling plant which had recently been renovated and fitted with three new tumbling machines.
75% of the workers were wearing hi visibility and 50% of them were wearing safety boots. I asked my supplier why all the men were not wearing boots. He said that it takes a bit of time to change the habits of the staff. Some of these staff have been stone masons for 20 years and the idea of wearing PPE is alien to them, however it was good to see that most of the younger staff seemed to be wearing the PPE. There is even CCTV in this factory, though I imagine the motives for its installation are as much down to productivity as any other reason. There were 3 calibration machines working away reducing stone down to the now universal thickness of 22mm.
The mechanisation of the Indian sandstone industry is taking pace and it represents progress in terms of reduction of child labour, greater health and safety standards and by de-skilling the work opens up this massive industry for people without stone mason skills. The majority of Indian factories use these awkward shaped cranes to transport crates and blocks around their sites. I have never been too impressed with them but I am told they offer a bit more versatility than a forklift. However I was pleased to see a forklift truck in this factory, a rare site in India.
The operation here is incredibly efficient and shows that India is moving forward at pace. One thing which is certain with all the mechanisation of the industry is that smaller independent companies will be gradually squeezed out of the market. This is a sad state of affairs but a natural result of progress. One benefit of this is that the implementation of regulations and standards will be easier.
We then went to the next factory to see the production of our sawn sandstone paving and sawn sandstone garden furniture. Arriving at the new factory I was met by the satisfying site of piles and piles of raw block material sitting beneath the imposing gantry. This particular gantry can carry up to 28 tons however most of the blocks are in the 3-5 ton bracket with the occasional ten ton monster block thrown in for good measure.
The Gantry picks up the blocks and transports them to the waiting trolleys which sit on rail track on the edge of the saw sheds. Once positioned onto the trolleys the blocks can then be easily rolled down to the block cutter where the massive saw blades cut these blocks into 25mm slices.
The consistency of thickness is impressive with a maximum cutting tolerance of 2mm. The blocks are not cut through all the way to aid transportation around site. The block then awaits the edge cutting machine where they will be cut down into paving sizes.
The final process is the shot blasting which provides texture to the surface of the paving and stops people from falling over on it. The stone is then carefully packaged up to avoid any damage during transit. Note the white straps between the pavers, put there with the best intentions we have discovered that they can mark the surface of the stone. They were removed on request.
I also witnessed the production of some of our bespoke garden furniture pieces and this pile of bull nosed step treads had just been shot blasted and was now ready for packaging. I had visited this factory last year and the improvements made are marked.