A clinical approach to stone production

September 10, 2004
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Located in the Carrara region of Italy, where the history of stoneworking is internationally renowned, IGM of Italy has a very modern philosophy when it comes to running its business. Virtually all

steps in the process -- from block procurement to processing and sales -- have strict guidelines to ensure optimum quality control.

Although it is affiliated with IGM Corp. of the U.S., which has warehouses throughout the U.S., IGM of Italy operates independently. During the early 1990s IGM Corp. President John Weiss felt it was time to integrate vertically, and he expanded into Italy.

Working from blocks, IGM-Italy specializes in slab production, and the process begins with two gangsaws from Effe Meccanica (T&F). The larger Jumbo gangsaws replace smaller ones that were previously used, and another is being reconditioned by the company. Blocks are also trimmed as needed with a Fraccaroli & Balzan wire saw.

After being cut into raw slabs on the gangsaw, stone is polished on a T&F River G polisher with 18 polishing heads. To meet diverse customer demands in the marketplace, IGM-Italy processes both 2 cm and 3 cm material.

Massimo Fiaschi, IGM-Italy's managing director, points to ISO 9000 norms as a key component to ensuring quality standards are met. “It's been a great help,” he said, adding that it is also needed to work on government projects in Europe, such as the Parliament House in Brussels, Belgium, for which the company supplied stone. “It makes us attractive to other buyers and sellers, and gives us a set system for working. You can identify problems in terms of when, how and who, and you can isolate an issue.”

Going beyond production, the company has a customer satisfaction system, where salespeople are required to get feedback from their clients. “We want to get an overall picture of how people feel,” Fiaschi said, adding that this allows the company to gauge success in many different areas.

IGM-Italy's facility in Carrara primarily processes granite, but it also sells marble and exotic stones such as onyx. To control the quality of blocks being brought into the facility, the company buys 95% of its material direct from the quarries, including sites in Brazil, India and Italy, among other nations.

Steady progression

Overall, the total area of IGM-Italy's facility in Carrara is nearly 250,000 square feet, including over 50,000 square feet of covered area. This space was purchased as two separate existing factories -- one in 1997 and the other in 1999 -- and each has multiple stoneworking areas.

“It is difficult to develop a fabrication shop [in Carrara], due to the land restrictions in the area,” explained Fiaschi. But due to easing of restrictions, they were able to buy the new facilities, and the greatest challenge was cleaning up the area and bringing the technology up to date.

These acquisitions marked a significant increase over their smaller facility in the area, which was purchased in late 1994. Just prior to that, IGM-Italy had planned on working solely as a warehouse and import/export facility, but they liked the control they could gain by entering the fabrication sector “We realized that it offered versatility to the customer,” said Fiaschi. “When you have your own machinery, you can use it for whatever is urgent.”

In terms of sales, IGM-Italy focuses primarily on the export market. The U.S. is the company's largest consumer, and it also exports to South America and the Far East as well as European markets such as Germany, the U.K. and Poland. “Gold and green granites are most popular now, as well as white and beige marbles,” Fiaschi said, adding that the company is getting more involved with resin-treated slabs. “Resin has enabled quarriers to have a better yield and control the price. We can now use stones with microfractures, due to the resin.”

Today, IGM-Italy has 31 employees, including 12 in the shop. IGM-Italy is also opening a distribution outlet in Poland and in China.

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