Earlier this year, 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 and sealers. Moreover, we saw state-of-the-art technology in operation across the country, from massive slab plants to smaller fabrication shops.

Each day of our tour through Italy was quite long — more than 12 hours of visits in some cases — but 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 spoke with a real passion for the craft. At each stop, virtually all of them had a list 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.

It is important to note that these fabricators were not just observing, but rather 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.

It seemed to me that the technology suppliers were taking this feedback very seriously, to the point that I believe some of these exchanges will result in actual changes to some of the future technology we see in the field.

After watching these dialogues take place, I would offer the following advice for fabricators who weren’t on the tour.

Talk to your technology suppliers, and be honest with them. Clearly, 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 can be found on pages 34 to 76 of this issue — focusing on the technology suppliers, stone producers and pretty much everything else that took place except the wine tastings (sorry). It was a full agenda, and I’d like to express my appreciation to all of the sponsors on the tour, and particularly Domenico Borelli of Tenax and Ron Hannah from the Stone Fabricators Alliance, who worked tirelessly to keep everything running smoothly.