Solomon Group has made a name for itself in the entertainment and event industries across the globe. It produces extraordinary live events and exhibits using a multifaceted approach, tackling every aspect from design, fabrication, staging, lighting, the works. The intricate and award-winning sets illuminate all of the senses in explosions of color and sound. The team has mastered the art of bringing stories to life, one cut at a time, with the help of its compound miter saw fence and an automated positioner.
Gary Solomon Jr., Jonathan Foucheaux, and Stephen Fink were involved in theatre and lighting, entertainment technology, and live arena production, respectively. The trio came together to create a hybrid firm and fill a niche that was gravely missing across their collective industries. Thus, Solomon Group was born.
Solomon Group is an award-winning entertainment design and production company based in New Orleans, Louisiana. Solomon Group provides and performs in-house all of the essential production services needed to create spectacular live events, brand activations, themed attractions, broadcast environments, and “architainment” projects.
It has a talented in-house team including producers, designers, project managers, fabricators, and technicians who dream up and deliver stunning entertainment productions and themed environments for a variety of national and international clients.
Solomon Group has put its creative staff, technical wizardry, and fabrication capabilities to work for clients that include ESSENCE Festival, CBS Sports Network, Hearst Television, Audubon Nature Institute, College Football Playoff, Turner Sports, Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation, C3 Presents, Louisiana State Museum, The Super Bowl, and The National WWII Museum, among others.
The company has frequently been named one of the area’s “Best Places to Work” by New Orleans CityBusiness magazine. And from 2014 to 2017, Solomon Group was listed on the Inc. 5000 as one of America’s fastest-growing private companies.
Inside Solomon Group’s Fab Shop
One peek inside the Solomon Group fabrication shop and you are instantaneously transported to another realm. The company’s 65,000-square-foot shop is one of the most technically advanced facilities of its kind. Capable of carpentry, metal fabrication, CNC routing, professional paint finishing, and more, this is where custom environments take shape—transformed from rendered designs to beautifully finished forms ready for installation.
At the helm of the shop is Fabrication Manager Jason Toups, who keeps all of the moving parts in synchronization. Jason keeps the team afloat in thanks to his prior experience in all things building. He has an extensive background in both metalworking and woodworking, fabrication, carpentry, construction, you name it. Nothing phases this whiz kid.
The average deadline Jason’s team faces is unlike anything most shops have ever seen. “This industry is really fast. Our timelines are like none other and we are cutting all day every day. A four week timeline would be like absolute heaven to us. It’s a possibility, at any given time, that a client will call us at 7 pm on a Wednesday night and we need to make something happen by Friday so that the product is shipped and received by that Monday.”
Optimizing the Process: Automated Positioning
With looming deadlines at every turn and only so many hours in the day, Jason has been able to find areas of continuous improvement in the Solomon Group fabrication process to keep timelines on track. Any amount of time saved can make or break whether a client receives an order on time.
Jason pinpointed Solomon Group’s cutoff stations as key areas for improvement and implemented a SawGear automated positioner. “The process before we installed our SawGear was typical of any carpentry shop. We had to set a manual stop block when we made any cuts either for repetitive lengths or using a cut list. The difficulty became that setting the stop block would take someone who had a bit of knowledge in carpentry, and after the stop block was set correctly we still had to check for part accuracy after every 2-3 cuts, just because of the nature of a c-clamp moving and shifting and cuts becoming too long without realizing it.”
Setting a stop block and using a tape measure to measure material isn’t the end of the world if you’re making a handful of cuts per day. But for a high-performance fabrication shop like Solomon Group, it became an incredibly expensive operation. The amount of time and labor hours it took proved to be a massive impediment to production schedules.
“Throughout the day we could be doing anywhere from 700 cuts to well into the thousands. We can’t set a c-clamp or stop block and measure and mark each piece of material thousands of times per day. It’s just not efficient. SawGear makes the process so much faster.”
Freeing Up Your Top Dollar Guy
“But time aside, the biggest issue we faced with the previous manual cutting process is that we had to use our most skilled guys to do this work. We had our top dollar guy working on cut lists instead of on the bench using his expertise and knowledge and working on building,” explains Jason.
SawGear’s intuitive design allows anyone to type in a measurement, either in fraction or decimal form, and press start. The automated positioner does the rest. That’s all it takes to get a perfectly accurate and repeatable cut.
“The main reason I bought it was for productivity efficiency so that I could free up our most skilled guys and any single one of our other employees could easily walk up to the machine and cut parts accurately,” says Jason.
“We bought two SawGears at IWF Atlanta. Initially, we had to train folks how to use the equipment and ever since then new guys have been using the SawGears. And honestly, they are very self-explanatory. It takes a matter of minutes for our carpentry shop foreman to get new guys trained and going and on their way operating the SawGear on our miter saws.”
This makes the burden of hiring someone with extensive carpentry skills a thing of the past. “Over the course of a day 2 people could be using the SawGears or 35 people could be using them. They are so easy to use. SawGear has been a great asset to our shop.”
With all of that extra time on their hands, we look forward to the imaginative designs that will make their way out of the Solomon Group fabrication lab.