Recently, a group of 15 leading fabricators from across North America toured the Northern region of natural stone production in Italy, considered by most to be the “epicenter” of the natural stone industry. Five full days were spent touring equipment manufacturers, block/slab suppliers and factories that make consumables for our industry. The schedule was very full, up at 6:30 a.m. and done around 11:00 p.m. every night. We toured the facilities of industry leaders in their field, including GMM, CMS/Brembana, Montresor, Simec, Tenax, Italdiamant, Comandulli, Antolini, Breton, Marble Arreda and Santa Margherita as well as two traditional Italian fabrication shops.
Each location provided a facility tour, an informational session and some refreshments. We traveled by bus, staying in a different hotel every night. The countryside was awesome, the food even better -- and the knowledge gained was priceless. Everyone came away very impressed and inspired to continue to raise the bar in our industry. Many new ideas were discussed and should help in forming the future of the natural stone industry in the U.S. The following is a brief recap of some of the visits of technology suppliers.
• GMM arranged for a company tour and a welcome reception. They also collaborated with two of their Italian fabricator clients for tours of their facilities. One facility had the new GMM Toro line machine, so we had a lesson on its capabilities.
• CMS/Brembana had a huge amount of machines being built, and they provided us with three separate demonstrations of everything from drain boards to their new CNC saw with vacuum lifter.
• Montresor showed us some new developments they were working on. It was interesting to see the type of technology and workmanship that goes into these type of machines.
• At Tenax, the amount of knowledge gained by four hours in their R & D lab was staggering. They have some sealers and glues that I never knew existed, and they would be perfect for the U.S. market.
• Italdiamant was a very informative stop. To see the processes of how tools are made gave me a newfound respect for them and their costs.
• Comandulli offered a tour of their facility, which is operated by the family that still owns/operates it. They are a first-class organization all the way.
• Simec was building large gangsaws for block sawing -- along with just about every other type of equipment for the industry. We were shown a few new machines, including a CNC bridge saw and a single-head bed polisher.
• Breton hosted an informational session and a plant tour. The size of the machines that they were producing were amazing -- line polishers and other equipment for large plants. They also produce 80% of there own electricity, and they recycle/treat 100% of their waste water. They also have a new concrete product that is UV stable and color fast outdoors.
The other industry leaders had a lot to show and to learn from:
• Antolini was gracious enough to guide us through their slab gallery, precious stone gallery and some showrooms that simply took your breath away. Words can not justify what this company brings to the industry. We could all learn from their example.
• Marble Arreda certainly had a handle on some high-volume production (of drop miter work) with what looked like about 10 people.
• Santa Margherita has two quartz lines and was kind enough to show the process. It was quite interesting, with a lot of possibilities for the U.S. fabricator.
Domenico Borelli of Tenax USA was our tour guide for the entire time. His tireless efforts on this trip made it all work perfectly.
Thank you to everyone who attended, it was a great group to travel with. More importantly, a big thank you to all of our wonderful and gracious hosts throughout the trip. It truly is a credit to all the industry leaders for sharing their vision, knowledge and insights. In true SFA fashion, whether a member or a sponsor or neither, we as an industry are stronger standing together than we are alone.
Dan Riccolo and Carmine Pantano can be reached at www.stonefabricatorsalliance.com.