Targeting the institutional market
April 1, 2010
As a company already familiar with the commercial sector of stone fabrication, Italbec US of Dania Beach, FL, has worked to offset the recent decline in construction by targeting more institutional projects. “Historically, Italbec has been in the tower and high-rise area of hospitality,” said Jill Poser, Director of Business Development for Italbec US. “Hotels and resorts continue because there’s renovation every few years and some new construction, but we’re looking to expand to medical and health [sectors] and senior living, as well as education.”
The fabrication facility that does the most extensive work for the company is located in Canada, and Italbec International opened its U.S. office in 1999. “They opened an office in [Southern Florida] because they saw there was so much construction at the time,” said Poser. “They wanted to capture that opportunity. Italbec International has been around since the 1980s.”
The U.S. location measures 7,500 square feet between office, warehouse and fabrication, and the facility in Canada is about 100,000 square feet in size. “In the U.S., we do fabrication on site, but when it’s massive fabrication for a [large-scale] project, we’ll do that in Canada,” said Poser.
“The U.S. office doesn’t concentrate on a retail showroom,” she continued. “Our focus is more commercially based. What I mean by that is we will work with developers, architects, designers, construction companies, general contractors, etc. An architect or designer can be working on a residential project that we would fabricate for, but we don’t usually go to the end user. That’s not our target audience.”
The fabrication facility
The Florida shop is equipped with a range of equipment. Slabs are cut to size as needed using a laser-guided bridge, while precision cutting is done with a waterjet. Additionally, complex edgework is completed using a Denver Quota Tech CNC stoneworking center supplied by VIC International of Knoxville, TN. The waterjet was the company’s latest investment, which Poser noted as being the biggest advancement for the shop in the past few years, along with acquiring a CNC machine.
“The waterjet was added because it would help to expand the production, give a cleaner cut and be more precise,” she said. “It has helped increase production. We’re able to have more detailed work and inlays in the floor because of the waterjet and CNC.”
Additional surface finishing is completed as needed using a Zambon radial arm polisher from Italy, and the shop is also equipped with a Ghines Idrodos dust collector, also manufactured in Italy. Meanwhile, templating is done digitally.
Overall production capacity can vary, depending on the type of work being processed. “When we do floor and walls, it’s about 1,000 square feet a day,” said Poser. “When we do countertops, it’s about 10 to 12 kitchens per day.” This includes large-format “wrap-around” kitchens, according to Poser.
Inside the shop, employees are specialized, and the company additionally works with area schools that train potential fabrication workers. “You have to be skilled specific,” said Poser. “These people go to school, get an overview at school, come to Italbec and are like apprentices. They determine which area they’re best at and go through a training program to really become skilled in that machine. To become an expert, it takes about four years. Then you are ‘skilled specific’ to a machine.”
Together with its Canada facility, Italbec has 48 employees, including management and labor.
Expanding its services
Currently, Italbec US completes many of its projects in the Northeast and the Eastern seaboard. Some of its recent large-scale projects include the W Hotel in South Beach, FL, and guest baths at the Four Seasons in Palm Beach, FL, as well as large residential installations off shore. Last year, Italbec US was honored for its work on the W Hotel with an Award of Excellence and Grande Pinnacle Award, presented by the Marble Institute of America.
Already a big name in the commercial sector, in the future, the company hopes to diversify its portfolio of services. “Our client base is facing tremendous issues,” said Poser. “Construction is hurting. What we’ve done to combat this is expand the sector of services the company provides.”
Looking toward medical, health and educational areas, the company especially has its eye on senior housing. “This is on the rise, specifically in South Florida” said Poser. “We have a lot of places trying to get their market share, so they’re doing a lot of renovating, etc. Italbec is poised to take that business as well.”
In doing so, Italbec plans to do as much outreach and marketing as possible. “We want to expand the sector the company is focusing on,” said Poser. “That involves high levels of networking, strategic partnerships with firms that work with these sectors and reaching out to key architects and designers. It’s not random. It’s really focused.”
Sidebar: Italbec USDania Beach, FL
Type of work: commercial fabrication and installation for stone and ceramic products
Machinery: a laser-guided bridge saw; a Denver Quota CNC stoneworking center supplied by VIC International of Knoxville, TN; a Zambon radial arm polisher from Italy; a waterjet; and a Ghines Idrodos dust collector
Number of employees: 48 (including its Canada headquarters)
Production rate: 1,000 square feet a day for floor and wall production; or 10 to 12 kitchens per day