According to Ron Hannah, SFA Advisor to the Board, there are several criteria that are considered during the selection process. “The SFA is all about fabricators helping fabricators,” he said. “We want to reward those guys who are taking care of the industry.”
The individuals selected have been actively involved in the SFA, and primarily are fabricators who are growing the companies that they either own or manage. Participants must be approved both by the SFA board and the sponsors of the trip.
It was obvious that the fabricators who participated on the trip were excited to be there. They paid close attention at each stop, and asked intelligent questions and even offered suggestions to the machine and tooling manufacturers about ways their product or service could be fine-tuned in North America.
“I was blown away with how excited all of the sponsors were to show us their products and hear our thoughts on them,” said Tim Farr of StoneWorks of Augusta, Inc. “I am genuinely thankful for the invitation. I’m still remembering some of the small details that I had completely forgotten about. It’s certainly made me show some loyalty to the folks that made the trip possible. I’d like to give a huge thanks to Tenax as well as all of the sponsors.”
With so many stops at various types of companies, the SFA trip offered something for everyone. “The trip was exhilarating and exhausting all at the same time,” said Darryl Miller of USA Stone in Nashville, TN. “It really changed the way I look at what we do every day. Visiting the factories where our chemicals, tooling and machines are built was very educational. That has translated into better tooling for our CNC, which has increased our production. My favorite part of the business side of the trip was visiting the Henraux processing facility and their quarry. Getting a chance to watch true stone craftsmen produce the items we saw there was so inspiring. The participants on the trip were all a pleasure to travel with. It was good to make new friends and catch up with old ones.”
And with so many hours spent on the bus, the fabricators did have plenty of time to talk with each other and exchange ideas. “As well as all the companies did at impressing us and making us feel at home in their country, none of them could hold a candle as far as the value goes to the amount of time we spent on the bus talking to each other,” said Joe Durfee of American Floor Covering Inc. in Manchester, CT. “I can’t quantify how awesome it was to spend that much time with people that do the same thing that I do and have the same opportunities to improve. The sensory overload that happened on this trip cannot be comprehended by reading about it. Ron packed as much into this trip as he possibly could and companies were still left out due to lack of time. You could take this trip every year, and it would be different each time. This was a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I talk to at least one person on this trip at least once a week. We got to learn more than about what we do for a living, we learned about each other. We all do the same thing, but it was awesome to learn about their families and what we do outside of work. This is the mission of the SFA. Learn. Share. Prosper.”
Achilli was founded more than 60 years ago, Paola Rota explained to the SFA group. “We try to find a compromise between high quality and a reasonable price,” she said. “We work with our customers to find the right balance. We try to listen to our customer and customize every single machine.”
The company has a total of 16 employees — 11 who work in the factory. According to Rota, rail saws are very popular in the U.S. and brushes are growing in popularity.
During the visit, Rota announced that Achilli was forming a partnership with Weha USA, a sister company of Tenax, and the U.S. Master distributor of Achilli saws in the U.S.
By having this close network, Weha USA is able to provide many answers and solve a lot of problems that fabricators in the U.S. face. “If we are speaking with a fabricator about Tenax adhesives, and he happens to mention that he needs a small saw, we refer them to our Achilli contacts and sales team, and they help the fabricator,” said Brian Gambrell of Tenax USA. “Or if he is having difficulty with fabrication supplies, we can refer them to the Weha USA product line to find solutions. With the distribution network of Tenax USA and Weha USA throughout North America, practically all fabricators have access to these products.”
Antolini Luigi & C.
The name Antolini Luigi & C. is synonymous with innovation. The company’s roots date back to the 1920s, and it has continually grown since its inception. The Antolini brand is widely known throughout the stone industry, and its level of quality and ingenuity is beyond compare. For many of the fabricators, it was their first visit to the company’s facility in Verona, Italy, and their excitement couldn’t be contained.
Antolini’s Stone Gallery is impressive to say the least. The company stocks 1,000 different stone varieties, including Precioustone. “We have a lot of new material,” said Giacinto Mauro, Sales Area Manager. “We are trying to stimulate the market.”
At the time of the SFA’s visit, the company was completing an expansion that included two new buildings for its Stone Gallery. The new buildings will add an additional 70,000 square feet of space.
At this stop, the SFA and the Antolini fabricators exchanged ideas with a mini workshop of sorts. The SFA had brought along a Seam Phantom from NSI Solutions and a set of Gorilla Grips from Monument Tools to demonstrate how SFA members manage to achieve flawless seams in natural stone. The Antolini team in turn demonstrated how they carry out their miters in onyx and marble.
Located in Verona, Italy, Cereser specializes in high-quality marble and granite products. The company maintains an extensive inventory of the finest stone — mostly imported from Africa and India. It maintains an inventory of between 30,000 to 40,000 slabs.
In 2013, Cereser invested in a state-of-the-art “microwave” resin line from Breton. Beau Usselman, the company’s North American sales manager, along with Mirco Biasio, sales manager, led the SFA group on a tour of the facility. Usselman explained to the fabricators that Cereser, Breton and Tenax worked together to develop a special resin. “With weaker materials, we are finding that it is increasing their strength by 20%,”
Cereser runs the microwave resin line 11 hours each day and a slab is produced every four minutes. “Every time we have a new stone, we have to reinvent the wheel and test for the right resin,” said Usselman. The factory contains climate-controlled rooms to store the resin. “If you don’t control the temperature, it will affect the stone,” said Usselman.
The company averages six containers a day, with 60 to 70% of its market being North America.
Comandulli was established by Ernesto Comandulli in the early 1970s. Based in Castelleone, Italy, the company began when Comandulli patented his own concept for an edge polishing machine. From that time, the company continued to evolve, and today it owns 53% of the inline polisher market worldwide, according to Ivano Tirapelle, general manager of Comandulli North America.
“We just opened a U.S. warehouse and service [center] in Sarasota, FL,” he said. “The first container with parts has already gone there.”
Tirapelle explained to the group of fabricators that in the past, the company has not received positive feedback from its customers when it pertained to service. “People like the machines,” he said. “We are now focusing on customer service. We have three technicians in the U.S. now.
“I believe we are getting better and better,” Tirapelle went on to say. “We can give parts now in 48 hours.”
When it comes to Comandulli’s latest innovations, Tirapelle explained that the machine manufacturer is currently working on a machine for cutting Cosentino’s Dekton product. He explained that the new piece of machinery can cut an apron from 2 to 6 inches wide. Additionally, Comandulli also recently developed a vertical machine for backsplashes.
At Diamut, the fabricators had the opportunity to tour the company’s manufacturing plant. Diamut, which was founded in 1993, has specialized in the production of diamond tooling for more than 25 years. In 2002, the company became a part of Biesse S.p.A., which expanded Diamut’s core-capabilities. It provided access to a diverse range of technological solutions with hundreds of applications in a wide variety of industrial sectors — making the company global in reach.
Diamut explained that it takes time to learn the needs of its customers and provide them with customized tooling that best suits their fabrication operation. In 2008, the company developed a revolutionary range of “Hyper-speed” tools, which tested and commissioned in synergy with Intermac, a leading company in the sector of stone-processing machinery.
Founded in 1993, GMM S.p.A. celebrated its 20th anniversary last year. The company is a well-known entity in the stone fabrication arena. It was created by Giovanni Lagostina, Luigi Guazzoni and Corrado Franzi, who have remained partners and members of the Board of Directors since the beginning, with the objective of designing and manufacturing machinery specifically for cutting marble, granite and travertine. GMM proudly states that it has sold and installed 6,000 stone cutting machines worldwide.
GMM’s tour began with a visit to a local fabrication shop, which demonstrated the GMM Litox 6-axis CNC machine. From there, the group was brought to GMM’s facility where they had the opportunity to view the latest lineup of machinery in its factory. The operation is broken down into one building with three production lines and an adjacent building where finishing and packaging are done.
The fabricators were given a demonstration of the Tower, a vertical flat edge polishing machine, which took the company four years to develop. The machine can polish and bevel edges of pieces 8 to 10 mm thick and 45 mm wide.
Based in Querceta, Lucca, Italy, Henraux sits in the heart of Italy’s stoneworking region. The company was started in 1821 by Jean Baptiste Henraux. One of the highlights of the trip was a visit to Henraux’s Cervaiole quarry, which is located high above on the southern spur of Mount Altissimo in the Apuan mountain range. It is said that Michelangelo explored the site around 1518, but then it was closed for many years during the period of the Napoleonic Wars.
The site offers majestic views and equally beautiful material. According to Gianluca Boschi of Henraux, five to six different varieties are produced from the Cervaiole quarry. They include: Statuario Cervaiole, Statuario Altissimo, Calacatta Altissimo, Arabescato Cervaiole and Arabescato Altissimo.
Currently, the Cervaiole quarry has 17 workers. Boschi explained that 1,000 tons of marble is produced for each person who works in the quarry. While generally the quarry is shut down in the winter due to weather conditions, if it is a mild winter more marble can be produced. He explained that the Cervaiole has at least 60 to 70 years more of production.
The average size of blocks is 3.4 x 1.9 meters in size. They are cut on Barsanti gangsaws, which take between two to five days to cut into slabs. A Micheletti 5-axis wire saw is also used for complex stone processing.
Henraux supplies material for high-profile projects around the world. In addition to its cut-to-size work, it also has a staff of talented artisans that produce intricately sculpted stone pieces.
Intermac was created in 1987 as part of the Biesse Group, which was found by Giancario Seici in 1969. The company got its start by producing woodworking machinery. Today Biesse produces in Italy, India and China, and it holds over 200 industrial patents and counts for over 2,500 employees.
The SFA had the opportunity to visit Intermac’s manufacturing plant in Pesaro, Italy, and they were immediately impressed. The manufacturing process has been very strategically thought out. Stations are in place, and the machines move from each one. “Every station is highly specialized,” explained Alberto Schiavo, area manager. “Since doing this, we have increased production by 60%. This way of producing [machines] has also made our costs lower, and it lets us be more flexible. Our quality control is also more effective.”
The facility is expansive, clean and organized. According to Schiavo, it takes between four to five weeks to make a standard machine and another few weeks to ship it to the U.S. — depending on where the shop is located. He added that two machines are produced per day.
In addition to the fabrication area, Intermac has a showroom set-up in its facility, which really excited the fabricators. “We try to change the machines in the showroom every two years,” said Schiavo. “We want to have the most updated machines [on display].”
Schiavo explained that Intermac offers customers the opportunity to visit the plant in Italy before buying a machine. “They get training on the software and then they already have the knowledge when they buy the machine. They then get additional training.”
At the time of the SFA’s visit, Intermac’s Primus waterjet was on display in the showroom. “The advantage is flexibility,” said Schiavo. “We worked with a customer and developed the software based from the feedback.”
In 1978, Manzelli began making suction lifters. In 2005, Liftstyle acquired the property of the brand and started to handle sales and product distribution directly. Today, Manzelli is recognized as one of the leading companies in the design and manufacturing of top-quality lifting equipment.
“We have a wide range of machinery for every sector,” said Simonetta Fontana, sales and marketing manager, who greeted the fabricators at the visit to the company’s facility. She explained that Liftstyle/Manzelli manufactures all of its own equipment.
According to the company, its production has developed over the years due to a close co-operation with trade specialists, engineers and customers, to provide the ideal solution for lifting and/or handling of heavy or delicate loads. The company’s products can be found in most countries around the world — including Italy, Europe, the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Israel and the Arabian Emirates. In the U.S., Liftstyle/Manzelli’s top line of equipment is sold by GranQuartz.
Marmoelettromeccanica is among the leading producers of diamond tools and portable machines for working marble, granite and engineered stone. In the U.S., the company’s products can be bought from Regent Stone Products of Virginia Beach, VA. The SFA group was greeted by Paul Di Franco and Manuela Marchese who led them on a tour of their facility and educated them on the company’s newest product developments.
“One of our main advantages is to have stock of the majority of our tools,” explained Marchese. “We can ship the same day. We are always updating our stock. We know exactly where our tools are so we can give an exact delivery date.”
During the visit, the company introduced one of its latest innovations, Gammastone, to the fabricators. The Gammastone Group is a separate division of Marmoelettromeccanica.
At the time of the SFA’s visit, Marchese explained that the large porcelain slabs are not available in the U.S. yet, but they hope to have them on the market soon. “We hope to have Gammastone in the U.S. this year,” she said. “It is already in Canada, and we are working with U.S. distributors now.”
Gammastone is ideal for applications such as countertops, shower floors, stairs and vanities. “The slabs are now 3 x 1 meter, but we are working on having bigger slabs,” explained Marchese. “We want them to be able to be used for islands in the U.S.”
The porcelain slabs are currently available in 41 colors, and there are three distinct products:
• Gammastone Gres 3.5 mm -- primarily used for floor and wall cladding
• Gammstone Gres 18 mm -- ideal for kitchen countertops and stairs
• Gammastone Air -- for external use such as a facade system.
Benefits of Gammastone include stain and scratch resistance, it doesn’t react to UV radiation, and it is easy to clean.
Payanini maintains an impressive inventory of exotic material. Only 10 years old, the company told the fabricators it places an emphasis on quality and customer service. “We take a lot of care because being one of the youngest companies, we have to try harder and do better,” explained Piera Ruvolo of Payanini. “Service is the key to our success.”
According to Ruvolo, Payanini primarily focuses on high-end material and the majority of its customers are distributors. “We always try to find something different,” she said. “Right now, we are the only one carrying Miele onyx. We need something to set us apart. We are always looking for new quarries and new material. We also carry a semi-precious line.”
The U.S. comprises 20% of Payanini’s market, with the main areas being Los Angeles, Phoenix, New York and Boston. Additionally, 60% of its market is South America and 20% is Russia. Ruvolo explained that five containers are shipped each day, with one or two going to the U.S.
“We mostly produce 2 cm slabs because we work with companies all over the world and they like 2 cm,” said Ruvolo. “We do cut 3 cm for special requests.”
Established more than 40 years ago, Quarella of Verona, Italy, produces marble and quartz agglomerates. Alessandra Godi of the company’s marketing department explained that the marble is produced in blocks and the quartz in slabs.
Quarella carries out a policy focused on environmental sustainability of its products so that they are able to comply with certain parameters required by LEED® certification system. “All of the raw material that comes in is tested,” said Godi. “We work with our suppliers to constantly review the material before it is sent to us. About 10 to 12 slabs are taken off the line each month to be randomly tested. Our research department makes sure that the products aren’t going to fail.
Quarella’s warehouse was stocked with approximately 27,000 slabs at the time of the SFA’s visit -- most of which were already sold. According to Godi, the company’s production capacity is about 4 million square meters of quartz slabs per year. A total of 60% is sold to distributors while the other 40% is supplied for projects around the world. Additionally, Quarella can produce 3 to 4 million square meters of marble blocks.
Sassomeccanica was founded by Tommaso Caroselli Leali in 1974. The mission of the Italian machine manufacturer was to make bridge saws and edge polishing machines for marble, granite and engineered stone, and polishing machines for marble. Today the company has grown, and it was in the process of building a new facility at the time of the SFA’s visit, which is expected to be completed by the end of this year. The company is now managed by Leali’s sons, Mario and Francesca.
Construction of the new 45,000-square-foot building began approximately three years ago. The fabricators had the opportunity to visit the site. It was evident that the new building will offer many new benefits for the company.
“It will be more space,” said Mario Caroselli Leali, general sales manager. “[Also], the new location is logistically better and will offer energy saving. It has solar roof panels.” Leali went on to explain that the solar energy will pay for the mortgage in 15 years.
It was stressed to the group of fabricators that quality is very important to Sassomeccanica. As a result, the company has Sasso USA to service North America. The U.S. is divided into four regions, and each region has its own technicians. “In the U.S., we are going to guarantee that if the parts aren’t delivered in one day, it will be free of charge. We are really focusing on the U.S. market.”
Among the current state-of-the-art machinery offered by Sasso USA is the K600 5-Axis CNC bridge saw.
Tenax was founded in 1956 in S.Ambrogio di Valpolicella (Verona) under the name “F.lli Bombana Angelo e Guido,” by brothers Angelo and Guido Bombana. It started in the production of mastic for the local and international markets. In 1960, it began to expand its product selection and started to manufacture synthetic abrasives and abrasives in magnesite for marble.
Following the premature death of Tenax’s founder in 1980, management of the company was passed on to his sons, Igino and Alberto Bombana. The company changed its name to Tenax S.p.A. in 1981, and it began to produce abrasives in magnesite for granite as well as polishes for marble.
Since 1992, Tenax has introduced new products such as diamond coated abrasives, cutting tools, resin bonded diamond tools and epoxy resins to the market.
Upon the SFA’s arrival, the group was greeted by the company’s president, Igino Bombana. The fabricators received a tour of the facility as well as demonstration in Tenax’s testing laboratory.
Tenax shared with fabricators that it was working on a new configuration for StrongEdge 45, a clear Knife Grade epoxy specifically designed for fabrication and lamination. The new product, which will have less yellowing, was scheduled to be released during the summer. Additionally, it was devising a new formula for its Glaxs resin.
The group also watched a demonstration of Tenax’s new Quartz Toner — a surface treatment that can be used to enhance quartz, engineered stone and agglomerate stones. It was explained that the product can be used for both indoor and outdoor applications and is suitable to protect surfaces against oil and water. Additionally, Quartz Toner does not change color when exposed to the sun, and it works as both a stone color enhancer and a premium-grade high-quality sealer, according to Tenax.