A couple of weeks ago, I took a very unique trip with a trade delegation of almost 30 North American members of the Stone Fabricators Alliance. Stretching from Bologna to Verona to Milan - - and, seemingly, all points in between -- the caravan visited the full gamut of technology suppliers. We saw the latest developments in large-scale machinery, table saws, CNC routers, CNC bridge saws, portable routers, grinders, tooling, adhesives, sealers and a heck of a lot more. The days went from 7 a.m. until well past 8 p.m. in some cases (and that's before the traditional three-hour Italian dinner), and it was a packed agenda to say the least.  

From the moment we walked into our first manufacturing facility, there was one thing that struck me about this particular group of fabricators, which represented shops of all sizes. They had an unbridled passion for the craft. It seemed that there wasn't a single fabricator on the trip that wasn't full of questions about the various types of technology and how they could utilize it in their operations. Whether it was a floor grinder that could also be used to texture slabs or a new adhesive for mitering, it seemed that every member of the group was front and center -- eager to get a look at what the suppliers had to offer.

This went on all day, every day; from the first visit to the last. We also got to see this technology in action in "real world" settings, including large-scale slab plants and smaller fabrication shops in Italy. Moreover, the fabricators on this tour were not just observing, they were giving the technology suppliers very candid insight on how these products could be even more effective for the North American fabrication market. I heard a lot of, "Do you think you could make it do xxx?" and "What if you modified it so it could do yyy?" over the course of the week. In watching the suppliers' reactions to the group's suggestions, I can tell you that they were taking this feedback very seriously, and I am fairly certain that these exchanges will result in actual changes to some of the future technology we see in the field.

On the side of the fabricators, there were also quite a few moments where the group was seeing something it had never been seen before. Sometimes, it was a matter of learning of technology that they didn't know was out there; others it was learning a unique nuance for a specific piece of equipment.

In any case, light bulbs were popping on both sides, and for the fabrication sector at large, there are some important points to be made:

  • Talk to your technology suppliers, and be honest with them. They value your feedback, and they want to know what is going on in the field. 
  • There may be more new technology out there than you think. If your last update on technological advances was two years ago, then you're probably due for a refresher course. In my humble opinion, thumbing though an issue of Stone World is a great way to get started. Don't skip over the ads, either. 

For those of you who won't be traveling to Italy any time soon, a full report on our journey -- with in-depth details on all of the technological developments taking place on the other side of the Atlantic -- will be in the September issue of Stone World. I'd like to also take a moment to thank all of the sponsors on the tour, and particularly Domenico Borelli of Tenax and Ron Hannah from the Stone Fabricators Alliance. Our tour literally had more stops than I can count, and these guys worked tirelessly to keep everything running smoothly. (PS: Sorry I was late for the bus the last morning.)