Delta Stone Products: Certified Sustainable

Benefits of Certifying to the Sustainability Standard: Spotlight on Delta Stone Products

This interview was originally published in Natural Stone Institute‘s Cutting Edge Newsletter


A conversation with Eric Osterhout of Delta Stone Products in Heber, UT.

1. Please tell us a bit about your company, and why you felt it was important to earn this certification.

As the result of an ever-increasing demand for natural stone and a frustration with the shortage of quality product available, Robert Hicken and Paul Ballif created Delta Stone Products, Inc. in 2001. Starting with two employees, they created a retail stone yard which supplied natural stone needed by masons in Park City, Utah and surrounding areas. Steady growth over the past three years has resulted in a stone yard with over 45 different stone types, more than 65 employees, and customers located throughout the country. The company’s continued growth includes the building of 45,000 square feet of plant space that houses a multitude of equipment, including a brand new Paragon 1000 multiwire saw and a Levibreton Eureka 19-head polishing machine. This expansion has rocketed Delta Stone Products to become a leader in stone fabrication in the western United States with the ability to cut architectural stone mantles, arches, hearths, fireplace surrounds, dimensional stone veneer, slabs, tile, and cladding. The stone trade is a long-standing industry with many companies being passed down through several generations. As a first-generation company, Delta Stone Products has overcome challenges in building confidence within the stone industry. Over the past three years, Delta Stone Products has impressed the industry and motivated others to ‘step outside the box’. The company is excited about its growth and the direction they are taking in the stone industry.

Delta Stone Products has always been about more than stone. It’s the people, the human hands that turn untamed stone into beautiful art. We have made a commitment to our customers and employee family to provide only the best products and working environment. This sustainability certification provides a framework to follow and a process to measure ourselves against as we ensure we are meeting that commitment.

Aaron Hicken, general manager of Delta Stone Products, said, “Delta Stone Products has always strived to build a sustainable company by being good stewards of our resources. This certification is evidence of our industry’s commitment to measuring and improving the sustainable practices of our operations, proving natural stone to be one of the most sustainable building products available.”

Additionally, as Delta Stone Products competes against multi-generational industry giants—and, more importantly, other building materials such as wood, concrete, carpet, and glass—this sustainability certification provides a solid selling point and gives us critical traction when competing for large projects which require LEED Certified products.

2. What have you found most surprising about the process of certifying to the NSC 373 standard?

Robert Hicken, president of Delta Stone Products, Inc., said, “As we worked through this program, we were made aware of many opportunities to build a more sustainable business for the future.  We look forward to innovations and achievements to come.”

The most surprising findings came as we realized the value of quantifying many of the sustainability metrics. One of our most surprising finds was in the sharp increase in machinery idling time over the past five years. Our idling time had nearly tripled over that time period and when we quantified how much that was costing in fuel, warranty hours, and operational time, it was astounding.  As the framework of the certification recommends, we created a no-idling campaign that included employee education, operator training, policy updates, and measurement practices with key performance indicators that are reviewed frequently. These kind of sustainability practices are not just critical for our planet but also critical for our bottom line.

3. What do you feel will be the biggest benefit to your company in securing certification to the sustainability standard?

We’ve already mentioned operating efficiency and becoming more competitive in the market, and those are incredibly important. But we really took on this certification process for the sole purpose of being the best company we can be. The biggest benefit for us is the assurance that we are leading the way in industry best practices and corporate responsibility. As an example, when we completed our chemical inventory for the standard we found that we, along with most stone companies, were using dozens of carcinogenic, mutagenic, and toxic chemicals that were very harmful to our employees. Taking time and effort to research and implement alternative chemicals was an invaluable improvement for us. We look forward to finding and improving on those opportunities continually as a result of this standard.

4. Explain how this process has helped your company’s bottom line.

We realize that bottom line gains are going to be realized over time as we implement more improvements and record reliable baseline data to measure ourselves against. For example, the standard requires that we track our waste yield in a common metric, and that has helped us create a plan to reduce waste and motivated us to find new uses for excess process material. We see the real benefit of this program playing out in years to come. However, there have been some immediate benefits to the changes we have made. For example, the standard has helped us to identify opportunities to reduce diesel consumption without reduced productivity by eliminating unnecessary idling time. We have also begun to use metal pallets for internal transportation in an effort to reduce wood pallet waste.

5. What would you like to communicate to the design community about this standard?

We think designers need to know that this certification is a clear signal that they are working with a socially responsible company that is committed to being an industry leader. This certification requires in-depth auditing of more than just energy consumption and carbon footprint. It looks at the core of the company—at its commitment to health and safety for its employees, at its corporate responsibility policies, at its involvement with the community, and its legacy planning for community-conscious reclamation. There are few better ways to test the integrity of a company than through this standard, and we think that matters to our design community. It matters because that integrity shows itself in the service we give, in the quality of products we produce, and in the partnerships we build to create timeless works in stone.

6. How long did it take your company to complete the standard certification?

We began in May 2017 and submitted final documentation by July 2017. After reviews, audits, and final changes, we had our certification by early September 2017.

7. What was the biggest challenge for your company in completing the certification and how did you overcome it?

There were a few aspects of the certification with which Mountain Valley Stone was not able to comply. This was frustrating because the standard was simply not able to accommodate the entire range of quarry types. However, NSF and the standard’s Joint Committee worked closely with us to identify these problems and develop changes in the standard. We received a temporary exemption in those areas and are now providing case study assets for the Joint Committee to consider as they make updates to the standard.