Fabricator Case Studies

Equipped to Offer a Full Product Range

June 8, 2011
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The history of Artistic Tile dates back to 1989, when owner Nancy Epstein opened her first showroom. By 1993, she was importing stone materials into the U.S. and selling them under the “Epstone” brand. Today, the company operates eight showrooms across the country, and it has a well-equipped production center at its headquarters in Secaucus, NJ.

 

Artistic Tile has four showrooms in New York (including two in Manhattan) as well as two in New Jersey, and one each in Chicago and San Francisco.

Although the company has grown significantly over the years, it remains a family-owned business. Located just outside of Manhattan, the company’s 106,000-square-foot headquarters in Secaucus houses a 15,000-square-foot production facility as well as 10,000 square feet of office space. The balance of the property is used for warehousing the large collection of stone and tile products that Artistic Tile imports from around the globe.

“When we originally started importing, we were based in South Kearny, NJ, and we were looking for a larger space,” explained Joshua Levinson, President of the Wholesale Division at Artistic Tile. “We found a building in Secaucus, and we moved here in the fall of 2001. Our long-term plan was to fabricate countertops, and we were doing that a little, but not full scale. Four or five years ago, in order to support our ceramic tile line, Nancy had suggested that we invest in equipment for creating mosaic blends of ceramic and stone. We added a Pragma multi-disc saw from Italy and a mesh-mounting line, and over time we added to it and began cutting tiles. It has grown into a manufacturing business that allows us to import stone in a larger format and then cut it to size.”

The investment in machinery has offered a range of benefits for the company, as it can control all aspects of production. “With mosaics, we know that all of the material comes from the same lot, and we can maintain consistency,” Levinson said. “Plus we can say ‘yes’ to the customer no matter what size or color they are asking for. We have 60 mosaic patterns with [complementing] field pieces, but our customers can also say, ‘I like that particular pattern, but I want it in a different stone,’ and we can provide that service for them.

“The advantage for us is that we can provide a turnkey solution, and by starting with stone from the same lot, we can maintain consistency,” Levinson continued. “Also, since the products are being manufactured locally, there is never a need to airfreight materials during a tight timeframe.”

An in-house design department is in place at Artistic Tile’s headquarters for designing new collections, including waterjet-cut patterns in stone, and it is continuously evaluating materials to introduce to the marketplace. Additionally, new members of the sales staff are given four to six weeks of training to not only learn Artistic Tile’s various product lines, but also the geology of natural stone so they can better educate the company’s customers.

Within the warehouse, all products are stored in specific bin areas, and the company maintains an extensive inventory of samples. “We have so many different products, so it is important that we stay organized,” Levinson said. The company also recently updated its lighting system, which is energy efficient, and it is in the initial stages of implementing a solar-powered system.

Quality control is paramount for all materials coming into and out of the facility. When shipping materials for a project, products are labeled based on the specific room where they will be installed, so they won’t have to be moved around a second time at the jobsite. With an eye on the environment, the bubble wrap used during shipping is made from corn starch and is biodegradable.

In addition to its eco-friendly initiatives, Artistic Tile’s facilities are Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) certified, as the company takes part in a voluntary government-business initiative to build cooperative relationships to improve the overall international supply chain and U.S. border security. Through this initiative U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is asking businesses to ensure the integrity of their security practices and communicate and verify the security guidelines of their business partners within the supply chain. This entails ensuring the security of containers imported from overseas as well as maintaining a secure facility and allowing inspections by CBP personnel. The certification is maintained by an ongoing program in place at Artistic Tile.

The processing facility

Artistic Tile has placed an emphasis on maintaining a safe, well-lit manufacturing and warehouse facility. “You really need to see the material you are working with and the color range in front of you,” Levinson said.

Equipment in the shop now includes three Pragma multi-disc cutters — which can be equipped up to 19 blades each — along with an eight-head polishing line from Arena of Italy. This line allows the company to offer a range of surface finishes, such as leather and brushed, and it can also repair surface scratches on polished materials. Additionally, because the line is equipped with two calibrating heads, the company can produce mosaics from materials of varying thicknesses.

“I would take time at the various trade shows to check out different pieces of equipment,” Levinson explained. “We stayed with the same brand, and we have a good relationship with our suppliers.”

The multi-blade saws are equipped with blades from Diatech S.p.A. of Italy. “They come visit and go through our inventory and formulate blades for us if we have problems with certain materials,” Levinson explained. “We have certain blades for specific stones, and we have to change blade sets fairly often to avoid chipping.”

Once the mosaic pieces are produced, a group of artisans assemble the finished products by hand. The mesh netting is then automatically mounted to the product.

In addition to the mosaic-processing equipment, Artistic Tile’s facility utilizes a Tecna 36 bridge saw from GMM, which is used to cut larger materials to size as well as for processing architectural stonework. Meanwhile, larger stone pieces are moved around the shop with a vacuum lifter from Wood’s Powr-Grip of Laurel, MT.

In 2010, Artistic Tile’s equipment lineup expanded with the purchase of a waterjet from Flow International of Kent, WA. “We use it for decorative mosaics and for prototyping,” Levinson explained. “It helps the overall process go quicker.”

In addition to being used to create new designs in stone and tile, the waterjet serves other practical needs at Artistic Tile. Among them, it is used to trim the edges of certain pre-packaged mosaics, which ensures that they will not have to be trimmed in the field. “You don’t want to see material that costs $100 per square foot trimmed on a tile saw at the jobsite,” Levinson said.

The waterjet runs in conjunction with an Ebbco Closed Loop Filtration System, which is designed to filter the overflow water from the waterjet table. This system significantly reduces water consumption, prevents the discharge of dissolved solids and eliminates the requirement for water treatment such as softeners, reverse osmosis and deionized water systems.

In terms of overall water treatment for the facility, Artistic Tile’s facility recycles 1.6 million gallons of water per month. The system, which was implemented in 2008, with an exterior tank to collect rainwater. Water is recycled through a filter press equipped with extra-large 48- x 48-inch plates. The press was purchased from a Polaroid facility in Massachusetts, delivered to New Jersey and refurbished. By using large panels, less dewatering is required, and the system is cleaned out an average of once a week.

Operations Manager Gerard Esmail explained that after the water is cleaned, it is delivered to an interior storage tank, while the slurry is delivered to a second tank. The system processes 380 to 390 gallons of water per minute, and it requires no flocculent. When new water needs to be added to the system, rainwater is drawn in, filtered and then sent to the production machinery. All of the piping is quick-disconnect as opposed to threaded, and the company maintains an extensive system of backups for pumps and other components of the treatment system.

Artistic Tile has a total of 130 employees in the company. “Right now, we are selling all of our production, but we have the capacity to manufacture products for others,” Levinson said. “We can also do finishing work for others, such as refinishing 24- x 24-inch tiles.”

Rather than a traditional five-day workweek, Artistic Tile’s manufacturing facility has transitioned to a schedule of four 10-hour workdays. “There is less start-up/clean-up time overall, so we get more done,” Levinson said.

The manufacturing facility and warehouse has been successfully inspected by OSHA, and in addition to the practical benefits of maintaining a clean, safe working environment, these practices also offer a competitive advantage, as the company invites architects to tour the production area and get a first-hand look at the various finishes and styles that can be achieved.

Sales and marketing

Artistic Tile is focused on high-end residential work, and its customers include more than 150 dealers across the U.S. as well as architects, designers, general contractors and builders.

In addition to its residential client base, Artistic Tile also has a robust commercial business, and it supplies material for high-end hospitality projects as well as other architectural work, such as airports and educational facilities.

Artistic Tile

Secaucus, NJ

Type of work: mosaics, waterjet-cut products and architectural stonework

Machinery: Three multi-disc saws from Pragma of Italy; eight-head polishing line from Arena of Italy; GMM Tecna 36 bridge saw from Italy; waterjet from Flow International Corp. of Kent, WA, which works in conjunction with a closed loop filtration system from Ebbco Inc. of New Baltimore, MI; vacuum lifter from Wood’s Powr-Grip of Laurel, MT; water recycling system and filter press refurbished and enhanced in-house; blades from Diatech S.p.A. of Italy; abrasives from Adria of Italy

Number of Employees: 130 overall

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