A Model of Stoneworking Precision
August 1, 2009
Backed by state-of-the-art stoneworking technology and shrewd marketing concepts that have garnered international honors, Pokarna Limited of Secunderabad, India, has steadily grown into one of the leading suppliers of granite worldwide. And to keep its position of prominence, it has continually upgraded its technology and marketing scope.
The company was established in 1991, and has approximately 1,500 employees between the factory, the quarries and administration. Its stoneworking facility is ISO 9001:2000 certified, and it is publicly listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange.
In terms of quarrying activity, Pokarna operates between 10 and 12 quarries, mostly in the state of Andhra Pradesh, where its factory and offices are located. According to founder Gautam Chand Jain, Chairman and Managing Director of Pokarna, some of the most popular granite colors come from Andhra Pradesh and neighboring states. These materials include Absolute Black, Tan Brown, Black Galaxy, Sapphire Brown, Vizag Blue, Pokarna Green and Coffee Brown. Most quarries are within three hours from the factory - generally located to the north and west - while the Black Galaxy quarry is about six hours away. In general, 40 to 50% of the material processed at Pokarna comes from its own quarries.
State-of-the-art stoneworkingPokarna operates two factories in Andhra Pradesh for stone processing. The main factory in Secunderabad has eight gangsaws, while the second factory has four - most of which are from by Breton S.p.A. of Italy. Perhaps indicative of an improving market situation, all of the gangsaws were running at the time of Stone World’s visit to the plant.
To increase the company’s block-processing capacity, Pokarna is investing in a Pellegrini Polywire 32 multi-wire saw, which can do the work of several gangsaws, according to the manufacturer. Pokarna expects the multi-wire saw to increase its slabbing capacity by 30%.
Pellegrini diamond wire saws are in place at the blockyard, and all rough blocks are squared before being processed on the gangsaws.
Inside the factory, a total of three slab-polishing lines are in place, and all of them are from Breton. The latest of these lines, a Levibreton KG 3000 Ultrix, was added at the beginning of 2009. Among the advanced features of the new polishing line, it is equipped with two cutting heads at the front of the unit. This feature allows Pokarna to cut off any ends of the slab that may be undesirable - resulting in the best possible finished product.
In addition to Breton polishing technology, the factory includes a complete resin-application line from Breton, including two large-scale driers. The first drier serves to remove all moisture from the slab to ensure maximum penetration of the resin, while the second drier allows for optimum curing of the resin. Resin products are supplied by Tenax of Italy as well as Akemi of Germany.
According to Siddharth Jain, Executive Director of Pokarna, most of the materials processed at Pokarna need to be resin treated. Although an automated resin applicator is in place, much of the resin is applied by hand. This allows the workers to evaluate each slab individually and apply additional resin at the sections that require more attention.
Pokarna offers slab materials with a polished surface as well as a variety of textures, including the latest “caress” finish. It also has an automated flaming line from Pellegrini for producing thermal-finished material.
At the end of the slab-processing line, materials pass through a rigorous quality-control inspection. This is enhanced by Breton’s “Image Master,” which consists of a hardware/software system for taking digital photographs of each slab. The system records detailed inventory of all materials that pass through the line, and it also includes a bar code system for optimum inventory management.
Recently, Pokarna developed an online system for its distributors, where customers can view and reserve slabs directly from company stock. Slabs are categorized by material thickness, block number, dimensions and other characteristics. Customers can also do advanced searches according to price range, latest stock additions and other factors.
Pokarna’s tile production begins with a Pedrini blockcutter from Italy, which cuts the blocks into strips that are sent to a fully automated Pedrini tile polishing line.
In terms of architectural applications, Pokarna’s factory includes eight bridge saws for cut-to-size work, all from Breton, and they include advanced, programmable models such as the EasyCut FE 600. A Comandulli Omega 100 automated edge polisher is also used for architectural work.
Siddharth Jain explained that the demand for cut-to-size work is increasing, which will require the company to invest in a new CNC stoneworking center for this purpose. At the time of Stone World’s visit to the facility, a new building was being constructed specifically to house the expanded cut-to-size plant.
Strong environmental regulations are in place for the plant, although Pokarna stressed that it has been recycling its water since it first began operations. Water is recycled using two large-scale systems from Technoidea Impianti of Italy.
Sales and marketingA total of 80% of Pokarna’s production is exported, and the U.S. is the company’s primary export target. The American market once consumed as much as 70% of Pokarna’s exports, although that total has ranged between 30 and 40% since the economic slowdown.
Given the current financial situation in the U.S., Pokarna has expanded its export market, and it has increased business in regions such as Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Northern Africa.
Overall, 80% of the factory’s business comes from slab production, followed by cut-to-size work (15%) and tile production (5%). Pokarna also does some block sales - primarily to China and Spain accounting for over 15% of the company’s overall revenue.
“Most of our cut-to-size work is very custom, with different sizes, thicknesses and finishes,” explained Siddharth Jain. Among the company’s high-profile architectural projects in the U.S., Pokarna has processed stone for Reliant Stadium in Houston, TX, home of the NFL’s Houston Texans; the Radisson Hotel in Flint, MI; and several multi-unit residential complexes.
Pokarna’s marketing efforts include participation at trade shows around the world, including Coverings in the U.S. and Marmomacc in Italy, as well as extensive advertising campaigns. Over the past few years, the company’s print advertisements have gained several prestigious “Rocky” Awards from the Marble Institute of America.