Member Blogs from Turkey-David Benson, Architectural Ceramics, Inc.
 
June 29th, 2015

CTDA members recently traveled to Turkey on a Trade Mission and blogged about their experiences.

Architectural Ceramics, Inc. takes on Istanbul: Part One
DavidandBetty

When you are a part of the CTDA (Ceramic Tile Distributor Association), you’re given a unique opportunity to explore parts of the tile community you’d never have been able to before. As a member of the CTDA for over 10 years, Architectural Ceramics has time and again been able to expand our tile selections, our product knowledge, and our design network thanks to opportunities like this.
Earlier this year, the CTDA approached its long list of members and suggested everyone join together for a trip to Istanbul on behalf of Turkish Ceramics Association of Turkey. In early June, Betty Sullivan and David Benson from Architectural Ceramics embarked on a journey with the rest of the CTDA to the country of Turkey. The trip was three days long, with the flight over spanning about 10 hours.

Upon our arrival in Turkey, we were delighted to see that our trip from the airport to where we were staying offered several amazing views along the way. While it was a long drive, it felt amazing to be in such a new place with several days of excitement still in store for us. When we did finally arrive at the hotel, we were greeted and checked in flawlessly which was no surprise because the CTDA always makes sure to pick the most accommodating stays. After getting some rest, Betty and David headed to the opening reception on an amazing roof top, the nice breeze cooling them as they got to meet with many manufacturers and learn a little bit more about what was to come the next couple of days.

day1

Day 1 officially started the next morning, beginning with a European breakfast bar call Manzara. Manzara had everything from eggs, to sliced meats, to fresh honey literally hanging from the honeycomb. Everyone loved it! After breakfast, we went to our morning session, which was like a mini-tradeshow almost. We had the opportunity to hear from multiple professionals in the industry. Guvan, the head of a well known marketing group, taught us the history on ceramics in Turkey, as well as more about the culture itself. We were then introduced to the President of the Turkish Ceramics Association and we learned about the 30+ porcelain/ceramic manufacturers in Turkey trying increase exports to the USA, instead of just appealing to the European market.

tradeshow

Trade shows are always exciting because they show us more of what their factories have to offer. Below are some photos of what really stood out from a product standpoint. A really great aspect to know is that Turkey can produce HD quality products, just like the US or Italy. However, consensus seems to show there is still a lot of growth that needs to occur.

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To learn more about Architectural Ceramics, Inc. click here.


Ceramic Tile Retailer/Wholesaler Cuts Losses, Expands Business with Industry Specific ERP Software
 
June 22nd, 2015

Ton Holten began in the ceramic tile industry driving tile-laden tractor-trailers for a Dutch forwarding company from the far reaches of two continents back to his native Holland. In the 1980s, the Holten family moved to Canada and began Tilemaster, a retail and construction industry supplier in Aurora, Ontario, where it provides a vast array of metal, stone, slate and marble tiles, as well as countertops and related products.

Early on at Tilemaster, Holten moved company accounting from paper ledgers to the computer, where Vigilant point of sale and inventory control software helped Holten control his business for over 20 years. But faced with a growing demand for tile fueled by a boom in local house building and a healthy economy, Holten moved Tilemaster from its original location to another in Aurora and opened a second store in Barrie, about 25 miles away.

In 2005, Holten upgraded Tilemaster’s accounting software to Oneir Solutions Inc, a provider of scalable Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software that efficiently manages key business functions through one shared information database. But the new software runs on a modern-day Linux operating system, making it more capable of meeting the needs of an expanding business.

The software update included modules that provided added capabilities to cover additional business areas and automate functions that had previously been performed manually. Yet on the Windows workstations where Tilemaster staff make entries at the sales counter, in the warehouse, and in the back office, there was little need for re-training.

Jane Giggal, Oneir Solutions Inc. president, says, “We developed the upgraded software for growing businesses needing more capable, adaptable accounting and inventory control, and those with multiple stores or outlets.”

Holten appreciated the result of upgrading Tilemaster’s accounting system.

“By upgrading we were able to open and manage our new store in Barrie,” says Holten. “In the past, we did try a second store but had to re-enter the invoices from it by hand every night. Now with Oneir we’re always online with the new store in Barrie and can check stock, sales, and know what is going on in both locations up to the minute. We couldn’t have done that before.”

One of the reasons Holten implemented the ERP system upgrade was to accommodate new storage for rapidly growing inventory in Aurora.

“Now we have a new 40,000 square foot warehouse,” says Holten. “To efficiently manage the 3,000 different kinds of tiles, we need to be very specific. We have to show on the invoices how many tiles the warehouse has to pick, so the order taker knows how many boxes and how many loose pieces he has to pick.”

To make that work, Holten needed additional controls over his inventory. So Oneir Solutions Inc. developed a “Tile Calculation” option available to clerks and other users at Tilemaster’s point of sale.

“When a Tilemaster customer orders so many square feet of tile, the clerk can access the Oneir software, which calculates the required number of pallets, boxes and individual tiles, rounded up to the nearest unit,” explains Giggal. “That ensures that all tiles get paid for and that the correct quantity is calculated – rather than leaving it up to a warehouse clerk to do the math.”

The software also shows on each invoice the weight of the order – so that the pallets of tiles shipped are not too heavy for the vehicles carrying them.

“The weight feature double checks that the amount ordered is the same as the amount shipped,” says Giggal. “That means the shipping department cannot mistakenly send an order of 100 boxes when it should have been only 100 pieces. This provides much tighter control over valuable yet vulnerable inventory assets.”

Giggal, given her background as a financial controller, has made sure that such controls have become a major part of the accounting software, which has helped to stem losses that were bleeding Tilemaster.

“Because the people in the warehouse used to have to make their own calculations on how much tile a customer needs, I estimate we were losing $2 – $3 on every order,” says Holten. “We fill 20,000 to 25,000 orders a year. By upgrading to Oneir we’ve avoided the mis-shipments of too many or too few tiles going out to a contractor and have recovered more than a year’s wages.”

Similarly, Holten uses the software’s order taking and invoicing capabilities to control costs and run Holten Impex International, the wholesale side of his business.

That’s not to say that the always practical Holten didn’t consider other software systems when making his expansion plans for his businesses.

“We did look at other accounting system suppliers,” admits Holten, “But their costs were way out of reach. Not just the initial costs but also the maintenance contracts were far higher. Even if their software were free, the fees we would have paid them over the year would have exceeded the total cost of Oneir, which is very affordable.”

For more information contact:
Oneir Solutions Inc., PO Box 112, Queenston, ON L0S 1L0; Phone: (877) 322-3580 x1; Email: info@oneirsolutions.com; or visit the website: http://www.oneirsolutions.com/


Walk-In Shower Designs by Arizona Tile
 
June 12th, 2015

Walk-in showers are perfect for bathrooms of all sizes, adding elegance without compromising function. Walk-in shower designs bring a modern feel to any bathroom while allowing for efficient use of whatever amount of space is available. Below are some fabulous walk-in shower design ideas to consider; also, be sure to check out our Pinterest Board with amazing variations of walk-in showers!

If you want to create a seamless transition between the shower area and the rest of the bathroom, a glass-enclosed walk-in shower is the perfect way to do so! This shower design is beautiful and luxurious, providing the look and feel of a spa.

When combined with light-colored design elements, such as white subway tiles, the atmosphere of the bathroom becomes pleasantly light and airy. For smaller bathrooms, this combination is a real winner as it gives a more spacious appearance.

Walk-in shower designs without doors add openness by creating continuity throughout the bathroom. Keeping the shower floor level with the bathroom floor, as pictured here, is a smart way to integrate the shower area with the rest of the room, as well as eliminating the possibility of tripping over a ledge when stepping out of the shower!

Check out the Arizona Tile Just Imagine Design Tool and upload your bathroom to discover what your new bath could look like or use one of our many templates to see how your bathroom remodel could enhance your home. We’d love to discuss your walk-in shower design ideas for your bathroom. Please stop by any of our Arizona Tile locations to speak with one of our professionally-trained consultants. We’re always happy to help assist!

About Arizona Tile
Founded in 1977 in San Diego, California, Arizona Tile has grown into a nationally recognized commercial and residential distributor with more than 25 showrooms throughout seven Western states. Arizona Tile is one of the largest independently-owned importers of stone in the United States, offering more than 230 varieties of granite, travertine, onyx, slate, marble, limestone and quartz, plus medallions, porcelain tile, glass tile and other design creations. Founded by John Huarte, former NFL player and Heisman Trophy winner, the company is still family-owned after more than 35 years.


Trade Mission to Turkey
 
June 3rd, 2015

Thirty Three members and guests have traveled to Istanbul to enjoy four days of meeting with Turkish Ceramic suppliers, networking, enjoying the sites and eating fabulous food! Members are able to meet one on one with suppliers and get new information on products and trends. This is also a great networking opportunity for our members to get to know each other better in a fun environment.

We will be sharing the adventures of our members on this blog. Check back daily for new stories. You can view all of the pictures on our Twitter page.

Tuesday, June 2: Mark Carlson, Century Tile

Arrival day at CTDA Trade mission to Turkey. Long flight over for all. 9-13 hours depending on where travel originated from. Istanbul is the only city in the world sitting on two continents, Asia and Europe. With an unofficial population of about 20 million people, travel from the airport to the Conrad Hotel took as long as 1 1/2 hours. Beautiful reception on a roof deck looking over the Waterfront capped off a long day for all. It was a great time for many of the CTDA Members to reacquaint themselves with the Turkish delegation, some of those were also in attendance for the last Turkish Trade Mission back in 2006.
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Wednesday, June 3: Mark Carlson, Century Tile

Day 2 is in the books. One thing that surprises most people who come to Turkey is the food. Over the years of travel, this is my sixth trip to Turkey and it has become my favorite location for food. Their mastery of the use of spices to accent flavor and not control flavor is excellent. Even the Hotel breakfast was spectacular.

The event officially started with a presentation from the Turkish Ceramic Federation. Ctda president Tom Kotel gave an update on the business climate in the States and commented on how this was our second Trade mission to Turkey, the last being in 2006. The Federation set up basically a mini Coverings. There were 17 factories who had set up small booths displaying their new and best selling patterns and designs. All the factories are using the most up to date production techniques such as Ink Jet digital printing, Porcelain body productions, rectification and many are involved with the new trend in thin panel production. This allowed CTDA members to spend the day visiting and talking with the factories, determining which had the best opportunities for their individual needs and their market requirements. Many have showrooms in the Istanbul marketplace and arrangements were made to visit various factories on Thursday.

At night, we were hosted on a 4 hour boat tour of the Bosphorus River, enjoying great Turkish wine, fabulous views, a narrated guide of the seaside from Saffet Emre Tonguc who is a noted author and travel guide, and another fantastic meal on the boat. The evening was topped off with a belly dance presentation with many of the CTDA members showing off their dance capabilities or in my case the lack their of.
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Thursday, June 4: Mark Carlson, Century Tile

Many trips to various factory showrooms kept most CTDA members busy in the morning. It was impressive just how large and well laid out some of these showrooms were. While the trade show layout in the hotel gave most members a general overview of the factory and their offerings, this gave members a chance to see the entire collection and spend some time with the representatives discussing their offerings.

Travel within Istanbul gives me an appreciation of just how good I have it back in Chicago. I can take the worst traffic day back home during a rush hour, and multiply it by about 5 as far as density of cars and trucks trying to traverse the city. What makes this even more challenging is that this occurrence happens all day long. Many of the roads were laid out hundreds of years ago, before the enormity of 21st Century traffic demands were in existence.

The afternoon was a time of exploration for most members. Walking the foot traffic only streets of old Istanbul, experiencing the views from the top of the Galata Tower or traveling to explore the Golden Horn was on the agenda for most.

The day was capped off with an elegant dinner on the shores of the Bosphorus River. The setting was spectacular the food was fantastic and an evening of music and dancing was enjoyed by all. Mr Bahadir representing the Turkish Federation and manager from one of the factories, thanked the CTDA members for attending the Trade Mission and told us of the plans of the Turkish Ceramic Federation to continue this type of gathering, hopefully starting in the US in the not too distant future. An exchange of appreciation was delivered eloquently by both Tom Kotel current CTDA president and by Jack Knies past CTDA president. I can safely say that a great time was had by all.
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Friday, June 5: Mark Carlson, Century Tile

The last full official day of the trade Mission gave all CTDA members a chance to explore the history of Istanbul. We broke out into three smaller groups and spent the day exploring some of the wonders of Istanbul. Many of the members commented about how young our country is compared to some of the sites we visited. After a quick stop at the spice market, the group paid a visit to the Hagia Sophia Museum. The Hagia Sophia was constructed in 537 and spent the next 1,000 years as a Greek Orthodox Church and a Roman Catholic Church before being converted into a Mosque and now a museum. This was the largest church at the time and was completed in only 5 years. It was interesting from the perspective of all the different types of stone that was used in the Church. It was all cladded in a stone veneer which was cut using Silk thread, sand and water. An amazing technology for the time. A visit to the 3rd Century Cistern which provided running water to the palaces, a walk around the Hippodrome and mandatory visit to the Grand Bazaar. This shopping complex of over 4,000 stores was constructed 50 years before Columbus discovered America. Between 250,000 to 400,000 visitors travel the bazaar daily.

The trip to Turkey at the guests of the Turkish Ceramic Federation was a complete success. Many relationships between Turkish factories and CTDA members were formed and just as important many hours of valuable networking between members were spent. Being able to spend casual time discussing business, common issues and strategies with other members was greatly appreciated.

A big Thank You to the Turkish Ceramic Federation and CTDA putting this trip together.
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Architectural Ceramics Receives Best Of Houzz 2015
 
June 2nd, 2015

Architectural Ceramics has been awarded “Best Of Houzz” by Houzz, the leading platform for home remodeling and design. The comprehensive tile and stone company deemed “where the architects and designers shop” by Washingtonian Magazine was chosen by the more than 16 million monthly users that comprise the Houzz community.

The Best Of Houzz award is given in two categories: Customer Satisfaction and Design. Customer Satisfaction honors are determined by a variety of factors, including the number and quality of client reviews a professional received in 2014. Design award winners’ work was the most popular among the more than 16 million monthly users on Houzz, known as “Houzzers,” who saved more than 230 million professional images of home interiors and exteriors to their personal ideabooks via the Houzz site, iPad/iPhoneapp and Androidapp. Winners will receive a “Best Of Houzz 2014” badge on their profiles, showing the Houzz community their commitment to excellence. These badges help homeowners identify popular and top-rated home professionals in every metro area on Houzz.

“ACI has a worldwide assortment of ceramic, porcelain, natural stone, slate, marble, limestone, glass and metal tiles, with an extensive supply on hand, ready for pickup or to ship from our Rockville, MD and Chantilly, VA warehouses. In addition, Architectural Ceramics has over 30 specialty vendors which can be special ordered for your project.”

“Houzz provides homeowners with the most comprehensive view of home building, remodeling and design professionals, empowering them to find and hire the right professional to execute their vision,” said Liza Hausman, vice president of community for Houzz. “We’re delighted to recognize Architectural Ceramics among our “Best Of” professionals for customer satisfaction as judged by our community of homeowners and design enthusiasts who are actively remodeling and decorating their homes.”

With Houzz, homeowners can identify not only the top-rated professionals like Architectural Ceramics, but also those whose work matches their own aspirations for their home. Homeowners can also evaluate professionals by contacting them directly on the Houzz platform, asking questions about their work and reviewing their responses to questions from others in the Houzz community.

Follow Architectural Ceramics on Houzz

http://www.houzz.com/pro/marketing/architectural-ceramics-inc.

About Architectural Ceramics
Architectural Ceramics (ACI) is a comprehensive tile and stone company servicing the design industry, including, but not limited to, the homeowner, designer, builder, contractor, architect and installer. Established in 1983, Architectural Ceramics is a family-owned and operated corporation. ACI has six convenient locations in the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area: Maryland: Baltimore, Bethesda, Rockville and Virginia: Alexandria, Chantilly, and Falls Church.

About Houzz
Houzz is the leading platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish – online or from a mobile device. From decorating a room to building a custom home, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world. With the largest residential design database in the world and a vibrant community powered by social tools, Houzz is the easiest way for people to get the design inspiration, project advice, product information and professional reviews they need to help turn ideas into reality. For more information, visit www.houzz.com


Facebook Updates for Businesses
 
April 15th, 2015

This year, Facebook grew to a mind-boggling 3 billion views per day, and 53% of these views came from posts that were shared by users. But as the platform constantly adjusts to this growth, it can be difficult to keep up with the changes and updates.

Facebook’s developer conference took place recently and included several big announcements. These announcements included future improvements to existing applications and exciting new features inside of Facebook. Do you know about all of them?

Facebook Messenger is a text feature used inside of Facebook or as a separate application, and is available on mobile devices. Messenger will be updated with the following:
* Payments can now be sent and accepted through Messenger.
* This application can now be embedded on any website and used as a chat feature.
* Individuals can contact a business through Messenger and the experience will be the same as contacting a friend through the application.
* Customers can track interactions with business such as delivery date, package location or customer service updates.
* Interactions through Messenger will result in the company’s posts listing higher up in the customer’s Facebook feed.
* Greater amounts of data will be available for the company if a customer contacts them through Messenger (for example, past orders, age, gender, FB preferences…)

Currently, video posts are the best way to communicate with fans on Facebook. These posts receive the most views, shares and feedback rates along with the highest preference from Facebook’s algorithms to place higher on the feed of individual fans. The changes to Facebook Video include:
* Facebook videos can now be embedded on websites, whether they belong to the
* Any videos can be embedded by anyone – whether they own the video or not.
* Videos on Facebook now have a size limit of 1.5Gb.
* Videos can be scheduled to go live at specific times and be taken down at specific future dates.
* Video data is still accessible when taken off of live feed (accessible by owner).
* Video can be restricted to certain groups (divided by age, gender, location…).
* A Call-to-Action can be added to the end of a video that will pull the user to any page, even one not connected to Facebook.
* Uploads can now be resumed if cut off during the upload process.
* Bulk uploading is now available even if all videos will not be published simultaneously.
* Live feeds can be published on Facebook feeds.

Facebook is constantly changing. Keeping up with all of these modifications can be a tough job, but hopefully the items listed above will help!

Special thanks to Creating Your Space for this informative guest blog. Shannon Vogel of Creating Your Space is a tile industry staple and has presented well received webinars for CTDA and sessions at TSP. Visit their website for more information about marketing and social media in the tile industry: www.creatingyourspace.com


Passing of John Ames
 
April 13th, 2015
John Ames

John Ames

It is with profound sadness that we announce the unexpected passing of John Christopher Ames on April 6 after a brief struggle with leukemia. After earning an MBA from the University of British Columbia, John went on to become the third generation CEO of Ames Tile and Stone, founded in 1912. Under his passionate guidance, Ames Tile and Stone achieved the Gold Standard status with Canada’s Best Managed Companies and for the seventh consecutive year was named one of Canada’s Best Workplaces. John was committed to helping others. He founded the Ames Foundation to provide financial support to at-risk youth. He had a special interest in the Boys and Girls Club. Among many charitable activities, the Ride for Cancer was close to his heart. John’s energy knew no limits. He travelled the world and was fascinated in learning about other people and their cultures. He was always ready for a new challenge: backpacking in the Grand Canyon, bicycling in Italy, hiking the Cotswold Walk in England, and waterskiing on his beloved Sakinaw Lake. Apart from all these adventures, what John loved most was being with his family and friends. Son, brother, husband, Dad, partner, uncle, friend – he did it all with style. His incomparable zest for life and loyalty to family and friends will never be replaced in the lives of all who knew him.


Choosing the Best Countertop for Your Kitchen
 
April 2nd, 2015

When remodeling or upgrading your kitchen, one of the biggest decisions you’ll make is choosing a
countertop material. With so many choices available, it can be a daunting task!
With some materials being nearly maintenance-free and others requiring a lot of care, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of each material in order to determine the best choice for your lifestyle. Below is some information on five great options for kitchen countertops to help you select one that’s right for you.

Granite is one of the most popular choices for kitchen countertops. With its great combination of style and durability, it’s easy to understand why! It comes in a wide range of colors and patterns, is stain-resistant and stands up well against the normal kitchen-related wear and tear, such as heat and knife nicks. Although granite doesn’t require much maintenance on a daily basis, it does need to be sealed once in a while in order to maintain its stain resistance. And since it’s heavy, sturdy cabinets are necessary to support the weight.

Alaska Granite slab
Calacatta Gold Bartop
Pictured: Alaska granite; Calacatta Gold marble

Marble is one of the most elegant and sophisticated looking natural stones, making it another frequently chosen material for kitchen countertops. After several years, marble takes on a patina, a look that many people love. It’s also highly resistant to heat and breakage. With monthly cleaning and sealing, marble can be very resilient.

Quartz countertops, made in a vast amount of colors, are aesthetically pleasing while being highly durable. And since they’re nonporous, you don’t need to worry about sealing them!
Unlike natural-stone slabs, which are mined, quartz slabs are engineered in a factory. A good alternative to stone, they provide the beauty of stone without the maintenance requirements.

Soapstone is becoming a more popular choice for kitchen countertops, likely due to the subtle beauty and simple feel it provides as compared to other materials. Similar to marble, it acquires a patina over time. One of the more high-maintenance materials, it needs to be oiled regularly. And, since it doesn’t fare so well against knife scratches and nicks, it can crack, resulting in an expensive fix. A large benefit, however, is soapstone’s resistance to stains. If you’re a coffee lover or wine aficionado, this is definitely a material you’ll want to consider!

Both ceramic and porcelain tile are inexpensive, easy to install and clean, and come in seemingly endless color and design options, making them suitable for just about any kitchen style. Tile is sturdy and does well with heat, sharp knives and stains. One of the greatest advantages of tile is that it’s fairly easy to replace in the event some tiles chip or crack.

Lyskamm Quartz Slab

Grey Soapstone Honed Slab Pictured: Lyskamm Italian-made quartz; Grey Soapstone Honed

About Arizona Tile
Founded in 1977 in San Diego, California, Arizona Tile has grown into a nationally recognized commercial and residential distributor with more than 25 showrooms throughout seven Western states. Arizona Tile is one of the largest independently-owned importers of stone in the United States, offering more than 230 varieties of granite, travertine, onyx, slate, marble, limestone and quartz, plus medallions, porcelain tile and other design creations. Founded by John Huarte, former NFL player and Heisman Trophy winner, the company is still family-owned after more than 35 years.


Countdown to Coverings
 
March 27th, 2015

CTDA is excited to be a part of Coverings’15. This is a great opportunity for members to reconnect, share ideas, learn from industry experts and gain knowledge in a variety of fields. CTDA will be in booth #3015. We are showcasing our Supplier of the Year Award presentation at the Live Installation Demonstration Stage (booth # 3639) at 5:30pm on Tuesday, April 14. You can learn more about Coverings by following their blog or exploring their website.

See you in Orlando!


Travel to Turkey with CTDA
 
March 4th, 2015

The Turkish Ceramic Manufacturers Association is organizing a trade mission for CTDA distributor members. The trade mission will take place on June 3, 4 and 5. The Turkish manufacturers association will pay for up to two employees of a CTDA distributor to fly to Turkey and stay in a five star hotel in Istanbul on June 3, 4 and 5. Attendees will tour several Turkish manufacturer plants, enjoy Turkish hospitality and culture. Space is limited to the first 100 attendees to sign up.

To indicate your interest, please click on the link here and complete the form.

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