Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit earlier this year, people’s lives and businesses have been severely affected. Manufacturers of stone, tile and other hard surface products have worked to maintain steady production while adhering to new stringent safety guidelines. Distributors are also devising plans to allow their customers to still receive top-quality service. Although some areas of the country, such as the Northeast, have suffered more than other states, everyone has been affected by this virus in one way or another, no matter their location. As a result of the pandemic, there is a new way of interaction and doing business. But it seems many suppliers are finding ways to still offer a full product lineup to satisfy all design possibilities.

With 23 locations, Triton Stone Group provides materials that meet design requirements for both aesthetic and function. Katie Jensen, the company’s president and co-founder, recently sat in on a webinar panel hosted by the Natural Stone Institute to discuss Triton Stone Group’s experiences dealing with COVID-19 and how the company is dealing with its employees and customers.

“We never had appointments before,” said Jensen. “We had lots of walk-ins -- 4,000 a month between all of our showrooms. In April, we quickly embraced appointments and had over a 1,000 made. The other option we now offer is that people can request virtual appointments through Facebook or Google Hangout. That’s not something we would have done if this hadn’t happened, but something we will continue to do.”

As a global producer of natural stone, Silestone quartz surfacing and Dekton, Cosentino Group owns and operates 46 Design Centers in North America and 110 worldwide. At the start of the pandemic, Cosentino stated that as of Monday, March 16, 2020 its factory in Spain and its distribution locations had adopted a specific protocol to accommodate all restrictions imposed by the government in order to continue operations in a responsible manner and maintain shipments to distribution facilities.

“Cosentino continues shipping orders to North America on a regular basis,” the company told Contemporary Stone & Tile Design. “All Cosentino Centers in North America have very high levels of inventory, material keeps in transit on the water and new containers are being shipped as well. Our distribution centers and showrooms here in North America are offering virtual visits and allow visits by appointment only depending on the location. Inventory is ready and available.”

Cosentino Group also operates three City Centers in the U.S. in New York City, Miami, FL, Los Angeles, CA, and San Francisco, CA. In late May, the company announced that its Miami facility was reopening following the COVID-19 shutdown. “Cosentino City Miami will reopen its doors welcoming customers during its regular hours of operation from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., no appointment required,” stated Cosentino Group. “The center will implement new health and safety protocols in accordance with CDC guidelines, as well as recommendations from state and local governments upon reopening, including increased sanitation, social-distancing procedures and the use of personal protective equipment to ensure the well-being of customers and employees.

“Cosentino is still offering virtual showroom visits, both inside and outside the Miami market, allowing designers and architects to select materials from the safety of home,” the company went on to say. “Virtual visit video calls are available in all Cosentino U.S. showrooms from Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The remaining City Center locations are set to reopen in June. Cosentino is continuing to evaluate the ever-changing situation and will remain compliant with local government regulations.”

Neolith, another global manufacturer of compact sintered stone, also took measures to ensure that its supply chain remained strong. "Of course, the supply chain was slowed down due to COVID-19,” said José Luis Ramón, the new CEO of The Size, parent company of Neolith. “We needed to ensure our clients would be taken care of with high-quality products and service, regardless of the extent of their operations. We also had to plan for the possibility of the factory in Spain being shut down, as the virus spread across Europe. In anticipation of this, we ramped up production and shipped additional materials to our hub in Virginia, allowing us to continue serving our clients through our robust distribution network, regardless of the situation in Europe.

“We’ve been fortunate to have such dedicated distributors,” Ramón went on to say. “They’ve done a great job promoting the brand and helping build a solid pipeline of projects. This has kept our fabricator network busy for the most part. However, once our largest markets, New York and California, were placed on lockdown, we anticipated distributors having to cut back or pause upcoming orders.”

Ramón explained that looking towards the future, he doesn’t have any major concerns about the supply chain. “As the industry opens up again, it will regain momentum and we will return to full capacity to support Neolith’s excellent network of distributors and fabricators,” he said. “2019 was a strong year and, until the pandemic, that drive was carrying into 2020. That work is still out there and we’re prepared for when things get back to normal, whatever form that takes.”