The Marble Institute of America and Building Stone Institute (MIA+BSI) held a one-day study tour of factories in the Shuitou Fujian stone region during the Xiamen Stone Fair, in Xiamen, China. “Past president Jonathan Zanger of Walker Zanger and current president David Castellucci of Kenneth Castellucci & Associates, utilized their vast contact list to link us with leading companies in the Xiamen region to set up the full-day tour,” said Jim Hieb, CEO of MIA+BSI. “That personal connect was so key as this was our first attempt to have a study tour in China. We also wanted to showcase a diverse list of companies to visit because that is what makes a quality study tour. We have a long history of hosting study tours so the thought of facilitating one outside North America was intriguing and one that our attendees were excited to participate. Also, each host company was absolutely gracious hosts with each tour.”

The group of 25 visited four different facilities in the Shuitou Fujian stone region. First was Best Cheer to tour their logistic center for blocks and marble slabs. The facility was established in 2006 and is approximately 100,000 square feet, holding 1.2 million square meters of slabs. The building includes a block production facility, with 12 gangsaws and a production line for marble.

The second stop of the tour was to Xiamen Jianming Rising Import & Export Ltd. In the previous year, Jianming Stone Group partnered with another company and decided to expand its facilities. As the tour group walked around, they were able to view the current work the company was doing, as well as where the new machinery would be placed for its production plant. With about 100 workers, the company can produce 1,500 square meters of stone a day and maintains an inventory of approximately 5,000 bundles of slabs. It also runs five Keda gangsaws.

Along with its new equipment, the company put in a five-stage water recycling system. “The environment is very important to us,” said Josh Zhang, general manager of the Jianming Stone Group. “When we decided to build the new facility, it was very important to us to put in a system that would clean the water we used so that we could do our part to help the environment.”

The third stop was to Ying Liang Stone where the group was greeted by Liu Liang, the chairman of Ying Liang. The tour started with “5th gallery” and their stone warehouse, which is the company’s collection of high-end stone.

“We respect luxury varieties of fashion and uniqueness,” said Liang. “There we can meet the extraordinary quality and strive to meet the needs of innovation.” As the tour walked around, they saw the collections of precious stones, semi-precious stones, crystal, agate, jade and natural stone. Each room they went through showcased a different elaborate example of stone in bathrooms, bedrooms, bars and kitchens. Next, the tour went to the company’s new Stone Gallery down the road, where those on the tour could also see the new Stone Museum that is in its finishing stages of being built. The Stone Gallery was started one year ago and finished two days before the start of the Xiamen Stone Fair. “For me, all of this is not a job, that is not how I view it,” said Liang. “Stone is a passion. It is a passion I want to share with everyone and show off how important and beautiful and fashionable it is.”

The final stop on the tour was at Universal Marble & Granite Group (UMGG), where since 1986 they have focused on marble, granite limestone and sandstone. The tour through their headquarters started off showing the different finishes they can produce on different types of stone. After that, they lead the tour group through their exhibit of different projects they were involved in. The factory the group toured had eight gangsaws.

“Dongguan processing base, set up in 1991, is currently our most important production base, occupying 133,200 square meters of space with an annual production output of 2,000,000 square meters,” said Kenneth Cheung, general manager for UMGG. “Fujian processing base was built in 2008 and occupies 199,800 square meters of land. It is currently the largest, most equipped and most advanced processing plant in China. Finally, the Tianjin processing base, built in 2012, occupies 266,667 square meters of land and is currently the largest base in the northern part of China.”

According to Hieb, similar to visiting stone companies in the U.S. or other countries, it was interesting to see the level of automation, how material flow occurred within each facility and how safety procedures are handled. “We purposely kept the 2016 study tour to a small group since we didn’t have any experience organizing a tour in China,” said Hieb. “In retrospect, we didn’t need to be conservative in our approach – our host companies were wonderful and everything went off smoothly. We already have a number of firms requesting to serve as host sites for a 2017 tour, so we are confident that the attendance next year will certainty fill a full bus.”