From the Editor’s Desk Thank you to all who responded to our recent reader survey!
 
July 1st, 2004

From the Editor’s Desk Thank you to all who responded to our recent reader survey!

by Janet Arden, Editor July-August 2004

Your responses were honest, flattering, critical, funny, and sometimes totally irreverent, but always educational for us at TileDealer.

At least one respondent said, “In my opinion, your survey questions are a little premature for a publication that is only a few months old.”

You make a great point. However, even after only three issues, the Reader Survey told us a great deal. Let me summarize just some of the interesting information we learned from the survey:

By an overwhelming majority, your #1 most time-consuming tasks are paperwork and email (tied).

The top two things you want to learn more about are marketing and trends, followed by distribution and installation. (This issue should answer some of your questions with a cover feature on software, an introduction to green building, an Installer Briefing on training and a Designer Briefing on color trends.)

Despite very busy schedules, more than 80-percent of you spend 15-60 minutes reading TileDealer.

You pass TileDealer on to other industry readers in surprisingly large numbers.

More than a quarter of you have already taken action on an ad you saw in TileDealer.

All of this helps us plan future issues of TileDealer. We’ll share more of the survey results in the months to come (and even more will be incorporated into the 2005 editorial calendar), but I also want to encourage you to comment – via email – to TileDealer articles starting with this issue.

Our companion website at www.tiledealer.org now features a comment box at the end of each magazine article. Tell us what you’re thinking. Did this article strike a nerve with you? Was it helpful or not? Do you have further questions? We’re anxious to hear from you, and we’ll be waiting at our email inbox to read what you have to say.

While you’re at www.tiledealer.org, check out the exclusive online content, link to advertisers of interest and follow the links on software and green building to learn more. TileDealer is more than just another magazine. It’s a business tool to deliver knowledge and increase the effectiveness of you and your company.


The Soft Sell Choosing and Using Software to Make Your Business Hum
 
July 1st, 2004

 

by Jeffrey Steele July-August 2004

Examining the variety of software products serving today’s ceramic tile distributors and dealers begs one question. How did companies survive before the advent of computers?

A growing number of software providers serve the industry with products capable of eliminating countless business management headaches that plagued earlier generations of tile dealers and distributors. As a bonus, computerized functions permit detailed inventory tracking, automate buying, and develop sales history, all aimed at making your business more profitable.

TileDealer has paid particular attention to the way software addresses the particular needs of the industry while also providing important management and B2B functions.

A number of products are very good at supporting the essential business needs of the industry. First Flooring Software, from CCS Computing Services LLC, manages every aspect of business from the point of customer contact right through the deposit of the customer’s payment in your account, reports the company’s vice president Fred Campbell. Although First Flooring doesn’t offer an accounting function, it interfaces with QuickBooks.

Resource and Financial Management Systems Inc., whose acronym, RFMS, is also the name of its software program, is another full business management system, including all areas of business from the point of sale and order entry through purchasing, receiving, accounting and job-by-job cost analysis, says company president Terry Wheat.

Long a leader in the business, Dancik International develops and sells software exclusively for the flooring industry. Tony Thomas, Director of Sales for the 20-year old company, says flooring is the only industry the company plans to serve. Business functions such as general ledger as well as warehousing and purchasing are part of the basic 32-module package. Dancik sells the package at a single price for as many users as the dealer requires, as opposed to licensing individual users.

Prophet 21 is a 37-year-old company specializing in products for durable goods distribution and offers a full enterprise software program called CommerceCenter. It includes inventory management, order entry and purchasing, as well as a full accounting and financial package expressly written for the company. Vertical marketing manager Kevin Kapala says, “We absolutely specialize in tile, but we have the experience and know-how of working with other distributors in durable goods.”

“We have a group of some of the more major tile distributors in the marketplace, who we rely on heavily through an advisory council,” says Kapala. “And they work hand in hand with us to help develop software features needed for the tile industry.”

Many Prophet 21 employees worked for tile distributors before joining the software manufacturer. “They can talk the talk and relate to distributor customers,” Kapala says.

Managing tile inventory

Tile dealers have particular needs in tracking inventory down to run lots. “You may buy a specific SKU, but if it comes in three or four different run lots, it’s like buying three or four different SKUs,” says Wheat at RFMS. “The idea there is if the consumer wants the same product for another area of installation, that’s totally possible, including matching run lot.” The software offers complete inventory management down to the SKU level, including run lot management, and sales histories.

The RFMS inventory management module is sufficiently flexible to allow Dealers to define different areas to use, then customize the way the software serves up data. These “user-defined fields,” give the dealer control over how the data enters the system, and how that data is stored. Because the product catalog module integrates with the procurement module, which in turn integrates with inventory management, the software offers consistency from beginning to end. The company plans to add B2B procurement to facilitate purchase orders and invoicing.

That capability is vitally important, especially as real time procurement becomes more of a reality, says Campbell. Product sitting in a warehouse is a big business expense. That cost represents not only the cost of procuring the product, but the warehouse space to store the product and the manpower to manage the product. “So by having a good tool like this, that will help you minimize your stocking levels, and reduce your day-to-day inventory,” Campbell says.

Aya Associates’ Comp-U-Floor software is a Windows-based point-of-sale retailing and distribution system designed exclusively for the floor covering industry. Company president Edgar Aya notes that inventory management capabilities for ceramic tile have two distinct requirements. First, it must track dye lots and colors. Second, the amount of ceramic tile is measured in different ways for the purpose of inventory, including pieces, cartons, pallets, square feet and square meter, to name a few. Comp-U-Floor manages these needs and also calculates optimum inventory levels and reordering points.

Aya points out that another important aspect of inventory, especially for large dealers, is bar coding. Bar coding inventory facilitates highly efficient warehousing and enables dealers and distributors to easily and accurately determine physical inventory. Comp-U-Floor produces bar code labels at the time merchandise is received, and through its Windows interface, handles any Windows compatible device that uses a bar code. “Also, many of these ceramic tile companies import their products from overseas,” Aya says. “Our Comp-U-Floor has an interface with the metric system used outside the United States. The system can allow owners to keep track of their containers of tile or stone from the minute the purchase order is placed, through fabrication, shipments and customs at port of destination. The system calculates all expenses associated with each container, and arrives at a landed cost per square foot of tile.”

Dancik International offers an Internet-based shopping cart option that allows users to review buying histories and open orders. It is also capable of monitoring international deliveries.

Like many of the software packages, Prophet 21′s CommerceCenter is expressly designed to closely track lots and shades. However, the system can also handle multiple currencies. “And our importing capabilities are very strong – from the originating port, on the water and at the landing port,” he notes.

In the latest release of CommerceCenter, Prophet 21 includes an integrated radio frequency warehouse package, which can help distributors track their inventory in the warehouse. This package is written by Prophet 21 and is not a third-party supplied function.

Procurement and inventory management are also two of First Flooring Software’s strengths, says Campbell. For inventory management, the software tracks vendor lot number and dye lot. If a project requires additions later on, it’s easy to match the dye lot used in the original work, Campbell says.

The software also tracks commitments, allocations and staging, he adds. That means dealers and distributors can identify a particular product, dye lot or color on the inventory screen, and determine how much of that product is committed or allocated to customers.

Strongsville, Ohio-based Pinnacle Manufacturing’s Counter Intelligence software simplifies procurement with a direct purchasing option. Sales manager Ariel Soto points out, “If you create a work order in our system, and it’s for a product you don’t have in stock, you can automatically generate a purchase order from that work order, and then of course generate those purchase orders out to your vendors.”

Counter Intelligence also features a materials ordering module that allows dealers and distributors to cut purchase orders, order materials for specific jobs and track stock. “It takes it from the beginning purchase order stage to ordering, receiving and allocating materials to specific jobs,” Soto says. The materials ordering section works hand-in-hand with the software’s inventory management system module, which was implemented earlier this year. It tracks quantity on hand, quantity on order, allocated jobs and unallocated inventory.

Sales history plays a role

The ability of any dealer or distributor to develop a history of various products is important in planning and future buying. Some software plays up that capability.

For example, RFMS software delivers history on where specific SKUs and run lots within those SKUs have been sold. Dealers and distributors can track trends and determine what products are favored by particular markets. Having that information allows them to decide on the right showroom displays, what should be inventoried and what products are selling profitably. All these bits of data are byproducts of users simply using the software the way it’s designed for procurement and inventory management, Wheat says.

That’s particularly important in the tile marketplace. “In the hard tile business, because there’s such a broad array of product, it’s important to know what’s important,” he quips. “There’s so much that you can get lost in the sea of product. But if you’re able to generate good data, you are able to make good decisions based on fact, and not on feeling.”

First Flooring Software also tracks commitments, allocations and staging. Dealers and distributors can identify a particular product, dye lot or color on the inventory screen, and determine how much of that product is committed or allocated to customers. “That’s really nice, because it makes it easy to see where you’re putting your product,” Campbell says. “In some cases, you’ll have more commitments than what you have in stock. You can actually recommit and reallocate product as needed.”

Meeting other needs

Aya Associates’ software has evolved over the years to best meet the needs of companies providing flooring, and is now a fully integrated system addressing the needs of different segments within the floor covering industry. One segment is floor covering retailers and installers.

“We make a big distinction between this group and ceramic tile dealers that don’t install,” said Aya. Other segments the software serves include stone fabricators, commercial installers and multifamily resident commercial installers.

The system allows ceramic tile retailers to process each sale at the showroom, and produce a ticket to complete the sale. The software also keeps track of cash drawer receipts, so they can be balanced at the end of the sales day. In addition, it controls inventory and calculates commissions, provides accounting reports and, most important, provides managerial reports. These reports permit the business owner to make crucial identifications, such as the size of profit margins, and the most profitable product lines and clients.

“Right now there’s a new breed of handheld pocket PCs that also have bar coding capabilities, and have a wireless interface,” Aya reports. “Those devices are optimal in tracking inventory in the warehouse, and our software is compatible with those devices.”

Among its many other capabilities, Comp-U-Floor also permits downloading catalogs and price lists from vendors offering B2B through the Web. Users can also upload their purchase orders through the Web, and even receive the vendor invoices and acknowledgments automatically through the Web, Aya says.

Despite the company’s technological advancements, when customers call the company, they’re greeted by a live human being. “I’m proud of the fact we still provide service the old-fashioned way,” Aya notes.

Pinnacle’s Counter Intelligence is also a complete office management system for tile businesses. It is based upon units of measurement like linear feet, linear inch, square foot and square inch, said sales manager Ariel Soto.

The product’s additional capabilities include a scheduling feature that allows dealers to schedule measures, delivery, installation, service or repairs, Soto notes. “It will do your estimates, your proposals, [and] print your invoices,” he added. In June the company introduced CounterIntelligence 2, a Web-based program that will allow estimating over the Internet from anywhere in the world.

Chameleon Power, a Novi, Mich. company offers a “front end” marketing package. “In general, our technology is a marketing technology,” rather than a business management tool, said Chameleon Power president and CEO Dan Dempsey.

Chameleon allows consumers to choose a product, then upload a room scene and place the product in the scene. Consumers can change out myriad elements of the decor, including flooring, wall coverings and backsplashes, to name a few. When a consumer decides he or she likes a given product in a room scene, that image can be saved in the individual’s personal project folder. “It helps sell the product of the distributor, dealer or manufacturer, helping the decision maker focus on the type of product he wants to purchase, select a product and make a purchase,” says Dempsey.

“And from there, we can hand off that information to the appropriate parties – in the case of ceramic tile, a ceramic tile dealer or distributor,” Dempsey says. “And at that point, it literally could pull that specific SKU data and go to the point of purchasing online. Or if it’s in a showroom, result in the person in the showroom processing the transaction.

“The goal of our software is to narrow the decision cycle, so the building owner or homeowner can get to the point of purchasing, rather than having to wonder what to buy.”

Dancik International offers a visualization option which allows the customer to see the product in an actual room setting. From this initial customer-sales contact, the software can generate an estimate, order product, and trace its delivery.

With all these options, how does a dealer decide on a software package? Thomas advises making a choice that can grow with your company and meet not only the daily demands of your business, but the unique challenges as well. In other words, he says, “Make sure the software is deep enough to support your business on the weird days.”

 


Getting Acquainted with Green Building Green building. If you are not familiar with this term yet, you will be.
 
July 1st, 2004

 

July-August 2004

Green or sustainable building is the term used to encompass a philosophical and practical approach to building and renovation – both commercial and residential – that meets certain goals such as conserving energy and water, reducing waste, improving air quality, and in general reducing the building’s impact on the environment. In addition to conserving environmental resources, green buildings typically provide significant cost savings with regard to long term factors such as energy use and maintenance. They also often provide additional intrinsic – but not necessarily quantifiable – benefits, such as better indoor air quality which promotes various health benefits to the building occupants. Office and other public buildings situated and designed to make the most of natural light typically lead to lower rates of employee absenteeism. At its best, green building incorporates energy and resource saving throughout its construction and occupancy. Beyond the structure itself, green or sustainable building practices encompass land usage associated with the building, and the generation and disposal of construction waste as well as waste throughout the building’s occupancy.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified five elements related to green building:

Designing and operating buildings to use energy efficiently, including renewable sources of energy, such as solar, wind, and biomass.

Designing and operating buildings to use water efficiently.

Using building materials that have a reduced effect on the environment throughout their life cycle (e.g. recycled content, low toxicity, energy efficiency, biodegradability, and/or durability).

Reducing the waste from construction, remodeling, and demolition.

Designing and operating buildings with a healthy indoor environment for their occupants.

 

Finding support for these efforts

In residential construction, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) is leading the industry in development of voluntary green building guidelines to “provide a nationally recognized baseline for determining minimum thresholds for resource-efficient, cost-effective home building that are practical for the entire industry.”

NAHB has contracted with the NAHB Research Center (NAHBRC) to work through the development process. Richard Price, director of Environmental Communication for NAHB, told TileDealer that the guidelines, which are currently in a draft version, focus on how a house is built as opposed to what is a green product. However, he said, “NAHBRC is seeking relevant guidance on how builders could best install and use their product(s) in order to enhance the home’s energy efficiency, moisture management, IEQ (indoor environmental quality), etc. from all product associations.” (See http://www.nahbrc.org/guidelines.)

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a national coalition of building industry leaders working to promote green building. They have developed the LEED™ Rating System (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) for the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Office of Building Technology, State and Community Programs, that sets performance-based requirements for building components and materials in commercial building.

You may have heard the term LEED Certification. USGBC has determined that commercial buildings are eligible to meet the requirements of LEED Certification – that is, they have earned sufficient points from meeting various LEED criteria for everything from siting to energy performance – to earn recognition as a LEED certified building. Certification is awarded by USGBC. It’s a complicated process that is usually initiated in the design and construction planning stages. The benefits of LEED certification include demonstrating commitment to green building and qualifying for a number of state and local government incentives. In some jurisdictions, proposed construction is required to meet LEED standards. Building experts anticipate this trend to continue. Energy and water conservation will – of necessity – become increasingly important. New developments in building materials continue to expand the options for environmentally friendly products. (For more on the USGBC and LEED, go to www.usgbc.org)

How does tile fit?

In general, tile embodies many of the qualities generally attributed to green building products, including low toxicity, energy efficiency, and durability. Tile is installed with increasingly environmentally acceptable materials that go a long way towards improving indoor air quality. Tile often replaces other flooring materials such as carpet, which attract and harbor dust, mold and other possible allergens, which impact the indoor environment.

Sabrina Morelli, LEED Program Coordinator, USGBC, told TileDealer there are four areas where tile may fit into LEED’s performance standard:

MR (Materials and Resources) 3: Re-used product, i.e., installation of salvaged or refurbished materials from one project on another.

MR 4: Specifies a percentage of post-industrial recycled content.

MR 6: refers to local or regional materials manufactured within 500 miles of the project.

EQ (Environmental Quality) 4.1: Refers to indoor air quality and the use of adhesives and sealants that meet or exceed specified limits.

 

Clearly the trend is not to label specific products for green or sustainable building. However, as green building philosophies and practices continue to develop, products that accommodate the performance standards will benefit. Becoming knowledgeable about these trends will be increasingly important.

To learn more about green building, see visit the following websites:

National Association of Home Builders

Model Green Home Building Guidelines

National Green Building Conference

US Green Building Council (USGBC)

 

Greenbuild 2004

Environmental Protection Agency

LEED

Sustainable building links

 

 


StonExpo 2004 Expand Your Skills & Grow Your Business
 
July 1st, 2004

 

By Garis Distelhorst, CAE July-August 2004

Ceramic tile specialists looking to expand into natural stone will find the stone industry’s best exhibits, highest-quality education, and most valuable networking opportunities at StonExpo 2004.

Held October 27-30 at the Los Angeles Convention Center, this premier stone industry event is expected to draw thousands of stone and design professionals from around the world to explore the latest in natural stone technology, products, and services… learn from leading stone experts at educational seminars… and do business with the industry’s best.

Hundreds of exhibitors will showcase spectacular granite, marble, and other natural stones, as well as the equipment, supplies, and tools used to fabricate and install stone.

StonExpo 2004 will also feature a comprehensive array of educational seminars taught by stone industry experts and sponsored by the Marble Institute of America (MIA), the leading international trade association for the natural stone industry. MIA is StonExpo’s key co-sponsor and holds its annual meeting concurrently with the trade event.

According to MIA Executive Vice President Garis Distelhorst, “StonExpo is the most important event of the year for our members. The ‘who’s who’ of the stone industry gathers each year at StonExpo, making it THE place to network and keep up with latest industry news and trends.”

“StonExpo is the only event of its kind produced BY the stone industry FOR the stone industry. If it’s about natural stone, it’s ALL at StonExpo 2004,” says Pennie Sabel, Executive Director of StonExpo Federation, the nonprofit organization that has produced the event since 1987.

Tile Dealers Will Get Practical Information & Technical Guidance

Through MIA’s educational seminars, tile professionals can learn strategies for growing their business through diversification. They can discover the latest techniques for successful countertop installation and proven ways to protect and maintain natural stone. And, they will get advice from the experts on selecting stone working machinery and equipment.

A number of orientation CDs will also be featured in the MIA exhibit booth including: “Basics of Natural Stone Countertop Installation” and “Basics of Natural Stone Countertop Fabrication.” The association’s newly revised Dimension Stone Design Manual, the natural stone industry’s most highly regarded technical manual, will also be available for review and purchase.

The Marble Institute of America – Setting the Standards in the Natural Stone Industry

MIA serves as the world’s most trusted resource on standards of natural stone workmanship and practice, and is committed to aggressively promoting the use of natural stone within the commercial and residential marketplaces for the benefit of its more than 1,000 members worldwide.

Joining MIA puts you in the company of the country’s most skilled and successful natural stone businesses and gives you exclusive access to unmatched industry expertise. New MIA members also receive the MIA Dimension Stone Design Manual free with their paid membership and enjoy a wide variety of additional benefits designed to lower their costs of doing business and drive their success, from freight and energy discounts to monthly newsletters and discounted StonExpo participation.

For more information about MIA membership, call 440-250-9222 or go to www.marble-institute.com.


One-on-One with Jim Dougherty
 
July 1st, 2004

 

By Cathy Szmurlo July-August 2004

Jim Dougherty is optimistic about the growth opportunities in the ceramic tile market – despite foreign competition. And he has good reason to be. He’s witnessed the commitment by U.S. manufacturers like Crossville to their own high quality products and, increasingly, to outreach efforts into poorer communities.

As vice president of marketing and business development for Crossville Inc., Dougherty has seen the company grow to become the largest domestic manufacturer of porcelain stone. “We started 18 years ago as the first major manufacturer of porcelain stone in the U.S. and through that became the number one producer,” he said.

Crossville’s state-of-the-art plants manufacture tile sizes ranging from 3- by 3-inches up to 18- by 18-inches. Dougherty points to the tile’s through-body color and wear resistance among other qualities that make it conducive to both commercial and residential applications.

Dougherty started with Crossville 13 years ago, after about 12 years in the tile distribution and manufacturing arenas. He’s upbeat about the company’s involvement in Tile Partners for Humanity (TPFH), a partner organization with Habitat for Humanity that was started about two years ago. Through it, ceramic tile manufacturers, distributors and contractors supply products, installation, financial support and volunteer hours to the Habitat for Humanity organization across the country.

As one of the TPFH partners, Crossville gave assistance last year by donating 6,000 square feet of floor tile to the 2003 Jimmy Carter Work Project in La Grange, Georgia. The donation helped tile 21 homes in the project.

In a recent interview, Dougherty talked with TileDealer about these volunteer opportunities along with issues of foreign competition and the changing marketplace.

TileDealer: The Census Bureau has reported that the March 2004 value of construction put in place rose nearly 8-percent higher than March 2003 numbers and the total for the first quarter of 2004 is 6.9-percent higher than in the same period of 2003. Do you see a correlation between these numbers and tile sales?

Dougherty: I’d like to say there is a correlation with tile sales, but I think it’s inflation. We’re hearing loud and clear about a good amount of inflation transpiring in the marketplace – inflation in building material sales across the board. And there’s no doubt that tile has become a more desirable floor covering. But I don’t know if you can tie the growth in expenditures in housing with any sort of growth in the tile market.

TileDealer: Is your company’s tile market more residential or commercial?

Dougherty: It is skewed more towards the commercial market, which is relatively flat if not shrinking. We don’t anticipate that much growth this year.

TileDealer: Where do you think the next growth marketplace will be for your company?

Dougherty: For ourselves, the residential market is still a tremendous growth opportunity. But we’re only 4 ½-years into our program, so we will have to wait and see.

TileDealer: How does porcelain tile rank as far as popularity compared to other types of tile?

Dougherty: It’s the fastest growing sub-segment of the tile market. It’s more popular than in the past, and I don’t anticipate any slowing down in that development. It will be a major segment of the overall U.S. market in the years to come.

TileDealer: What percentage of the market does it represent?

Dougherty: It’s difficult to say, but it’s most definitely the fastest growing segment. Porcelain tile is used pretty broadly across many different types of installations.

TileDealer: With the Euro continuing to be strong, how has competition from Italian and Spanish imports been affected?

Dougherty: I don’t know that it has yet. Euro-based companies have not raised prices much on existing product lines, but they have raised some on some newer products. I haven’t seen any major changes.

TileDealer: Do you anticipate any changes?

Dougherty: No doubt there will be some. Some of our distributors are looking for an alternative means to source product.

TileDealer: How will Chinese imports effect the market – now and in the future?

Dougherty: Chinese imports will affect the market, and they already have. I’ve seen the impact mostly in builder grade and tract housing. I don’t fully know the effect yet. There are some unique importing issues. People need to analyze the entire cost of the transaction – more than the actual cost of production.

TileDealer: What do distributors say?

Dougherty: We haven’t seen a lot [of competition] yet. We’re talking to distributors and [the imports] are beginning to infiltrate the market. We see a potential impact on the market.

TileDealer: How will it impact your company competitively on the West Coast?

Dougherty: It’s probably impacted more distributors on the West Coast than the east but I think Chinese material will eventually have an impact across the board.

TileDealer: What role does your company play in the Tile Partners for Humanity program?

Dougherty: We play an active role in the program. We’ve been a major supplier of tile to them for quite some time.

TileDealer: What role do you think other American manufacturers should play in the program?

Dougherty: Tile Partners for Humanity is a separate organization set up to assist Habitat for Humanity in developing uses for tile in Habitat homes. I think anybody dedicated to the growth of ceramic tile across the board should be involved. It’s a valuable outreach program for the U.S.

TileDealer: How can the level of participation be increased?

Dougherty: Just through more awareness. They’re working very diligently to develop a core base for the program. It’s relatively new – only about 2 years old.

TileDealer: What do you want TileDealer’s more than 10,000 readers to know about Crossville?

Dougherty: Just that we’ve supported CTDA and all its efforts for many years and will continue to do that. We’re very dedicated to the U.S. market.


Installer Briefing: The Case for Training How training can give you a competitive edge
 
July 1st, 2004

 

By Bart Bettiga July-August 2004

Training. We see this word in every publication we pick up and read in the tile industry. We hear it at every seminar we attend. We nod our heads in agreement. We all recognize how important it is in our company.

Why then is it that when I ask people about training, they give me a funny look? Why is it that we are so busy we don’t have time to create and implement an effective training program?

I have worked in our industry for nineteen years. I was guilty of the same mistake many of you are making right now. I felt I had to take care of my customers’ needs. We were too busy to focus on training programs. What a mistake!

Training lies at the essence of a successful company. Whether you are a retailer, distributor, contractor or manufacturer, successful and highly profitable companies demonstrate a continuing commitment to training. Don’t take my word for it. Observe and copy! Look at companies in your own market and see what they are doing. I guarantee that you will see what I am talking about.

Does training cost money?

Maybe. However, I contend that your investment pays for itself in the end due to better installations and fewer customer service problems – both of which save you money and lead to happier customers, and more business. The question is not whether you can afford to implement a training program. It is: Can you afford not to?

A number of training resources are free or low cost, especially if you tap the training available from industry resources. Organizations such as the National Tile Contractors Association (NTCA), the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association (CTDA), and the Tile Council of North America (TCNA), are a great source for materials to start a training program. The NTCA Reference Manual Problem Solving Guide and Incremental Training Manuals can be used in training programs for tile contractors, outside and inside salespeople, and customer service representatives. The same is true for the CTDA Tile Training in a Box and Shade Variation programs. An understanding of the TCNA Handbook for Installation should also be included in this process. These materials, incorporated into your own company policies, can be a great place to start.

Suppliers are an inexpensive, expert training source for product and installation training. They should be encouraged to provide seminars for both your employees and your customers on a consistent basis. Keep in mind that the more hands-on your training sessions are, the more effective and long lasting they will be.

Training is not a one-time event. It needs to be a continuing part of your business plan. New materials require new techniques and new training. The same goes for new regulations.

A case study in training

One company who has embraced training and incorporated it into their businesses is DMI Tile and Marble of Birmingham, Alabama. DMI Tile and marble, owned by Jim and Marilyn Isaminger, is in the contracting business, specializing in commercial tile and stone and terrazzo installations. In addition, they operate a highly successful stone fabrication facility. Finally, under the name of Design Tile and Stone, they are successful tile and stone distributors.

Several years ago, DMI Tile and Marble launched a career craftsmanship training program, approved by the Department of Labor. It is the only one of its kind in the U.S. sponsored by a private employer. The program was so successful that DMI opened the Jim Isaminger Lifelong Learning Center, which serves as an apprenticeship program for contractors. In addition, the building serves as a training and media center for project managers and superintendents. Product demonstrations and seminars for both employees and clients are held on a consistent basis. A program emphasizing safety awareness is included in the curriculum.

“I hear all the time that people don’t want to spend money training employees out of the fear that they will go on their own and become the competition. We have found the opposite to be the case. The more we invest in training, the longer our people tend to stay,” says Jim Isaminger. “This investment has really paid off.”

It is never too late to implement an effective training program. Technology and products are constantly changing. Every employee should have a basic knowledge and understanding of your vision and mission, as well as your products. Encourage cross training. In distribution, some of our best salespeople were the warehouse and customer service employees, because they had the most contact with the customers. By training them on products and services and equipping them with sales training techniques, you are adding to your sales force.

Similarly, tile contractors need to stay on top of the latest technology in tile and stone installation. They also interface with the customer on a daily basis. Their communications skills – as well as installation training – should be taken into consideration. Training employees in safe working habits can minimize accident risk, reduce workemen’s compensation costs, and keep OSHA from the door.

Training is not a cost. It is an investment in the future and will go a long way to ensuring long-term success and employee longevity. Training is a continuing, career-long process.

Bart Bettiga is the Executive Director of the National Tile Contractors Association and a former President of the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association. The National Tile Contractors Association, established in 1947, represents the entire tile and stone industry and is dedicated to providing quality education to ensure proper installations. For more information, contact NTCA headquarters at 601-939-2071 or www.tile-assn.com.


Innovations
 
July 1st, 2004

 

July-August 2004

OneStep™ Cleaner and Resealer, Complete Contact™ Mortars

OneStep™ Cleaner and Resealer from Custom® Building Products is a professional product that cleans and protects tile and stone surfaces in a single, easy-to-use spray and wipe formula. Designed as a companion product to SurfaceGard® Penetrating Sealer, the flagship of the TileLab line, OneStep is a powerful, non-acidic and non-abrasive cleaner and resealer that is gentle enough for everyday use in both residential and commercial settings. It contains a small amount of SurfaceGard to protect and maintain tile, stone and grout surfaces. For maximum protection, surfaces should be treated initially with SurfaceGard, then cleaned regularly with OneStep. With each use, OneStep cleans and protects porous surfaces against stains, inhibits mold and mildew growth, and extends and enhances the appearance of an installation. “We preach the importance of sealing a new installation with SurfaceGard to ensure the beauty of the surface for the next 20-plus years. By introducing OneStep, we’re offering users not just a superior cleaner, but a convenient means to further the exceptional protection that SurfaceGard provides,” said Norm Tracy, director of marketing product management at Custom Building Products.

Custom building Products has also introduced Complete Contact™ and complete Contact™ RS, polymer modified, full contact mortars excellent for setting large modular tile and stone. Using advanced mortar technology, these products provide full mortar transfer to the back of the tile, eliminating the need for back-buttering or “beating in” the tile, saving time and effort for the installation professional. The new mortars have excellent fluidity and superior handling characteristics while requiring less water than traditional thin-sets. This mortar allows thin-bed as well as medium bed applications for virtually any size tile. (800-272-8786, www.custombuildingproducts.com.)

American Florim introductions

American Florim, a Florim USA brand, announced the introduction of Copper Ridge, a Bianco Forte wall and floor tile collection that replicates the look of authentic sandstone with an extremely dense white porcelain body. Copper Ridge is available in a choice of Cascade White, Jasper Tan and Russet Peak in 12-by 12-inch and 18-by 18-inch formats, along with bullnose trim and mesh-backed mosaics. Navajo, another premium wall and floor collection replicating the sandstone look, is created using advanced Italian manufacturing techniques at Florim USA’s Clarksville, Tennessee, facility. Navajo comes in Spirit, Sagebrush, Sundance, Sienna, and Henna, with tones varying somewhat from tile to tile as they would in real stone. Navajo is available in a full array of sizes from 6-by 6-inches to 18-by 18-inches, with bullnose and a variety of finishing trims for custom installations. Florim has also introduced the Villa Como within its Encore Collection of advanced designs, including innovative colors, styling, trims and accents. Villa Como – available in Careno Cream, Bellagio Beige, Mandello Moca, and Bellano Bark – is also available in a choice of sizes from 6-by 6-inches to 18-by 18-inches, with bullnose trim, brick mosaics and a decorative medallion. (877-356-7462; www.americanflorim.com)

MAPEI Tool Systems

MAPEI Tool Systems are the company’s newest division of quality solutions for the flooring installer. Maintaining the company tradition of performance and value, this new tool line offers outstanding products that enhance MAPEI’s flooring installation products. Len Maggio, Product Manager for MAPEI’s Tool Systems, said, “We now offer 160 items for tile, stone and soft flooring installations. These tools vary in grade from DIY (do-it-yourself) tools that area easy to use to the highest quality products for the ceramic tile flooring installation professional. We have succeeded in incorporating the consistency and quality of MAPEI in these tools.” The line is now available in the entire USA and Canada. Attention to packaging details ensures that the tools are easy to purchase and use. Each item comes with accompanying graphics and literature. Small pack sizes minimize inventory space for the retailer or distributor, and all the tools come in “cut-cases” that can be used to display merchandise directly. (800-42-MAPEI , www.mapei.com)

New, swiveling loose tile display

Floyd & Associates, LLC is very excited to announce the arrival of a new Swiveling Loose Tile Display. The model CL-60LT “Classic Series” Swiveling Loose Tile Display is the ultimate in space-savings, versatility and style. This “V-Channel” swiveling loose tile display holds up to 60 loose tiles (12″ – 18″) while occupying a mere 30 square inches of floor space. The unit can be placed in the corner of the room, up against a wall, or right in the middle of the floor. Now all showroom space can be utilized as customers do not need to walk around the display to see all the samples. Utilizing far less showroom space, while showing a much greater variety of product than traditional “A-Frame” or “3-Tier” loose tile displays, these new swivel displays are sure to become a very popular item. The new CL-60LT Swiveling Loose Tile Display is available with or without a wrap-around header sign. It has a durable and elegant black texture powder coating, and ships via UPS or FedEx. Units are currently in stock at our Los Angeles, CA facility.

New designs from Meredith Collection

Inspired by the designs and styles of the Arts and Crafts movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Meredith Collection offers two new design series. The Coastal Design Series features hand-painted relief tiles including a lighthouse, gulls and sailboats. Decorative inserts and a classic rope border are included in the series. The new Thistle Design series features a variety of decorative inserts and borders. The company’s mesh-mounted tiles are available in a palette of 50 glazes for hand painting and full-graze applications. (330-484-1656, www.meredithtile.com)

Ergodyne offers five new models in ProFlex® Light Duty Series

Economically priced, but constructed to perform over the long haul while delivering reliable comfort and safety, the five new models of knee pads double the options in the Ergodyne® ProFlex® Light Duty Series. The new ProFlex® 240 (short cap) and 245 (long cap) kneepads, featuring EVA foam pad; dual woven elastic straps; and black flex rubber with white non-skid cap. ProFlex® 251 kneepads permit easy side-to-side movement with a comfortable, contoured rubber cap. ProFlex® 252 (contoured) and 252 (flat surface) kneepads resist skids with grid surface on molded rubber. Ergodyne® ProFlex® kneepads fasten with hook and loop closure (except 252, which closes with adjustable strap), are constructed of high-impact rubber to perform well in wet environments (251, 252, 253). (800-225-8238, www.ergodyne.com)

Schluter Introduces New Shower System

The Schluter® shower system permits the installation of ceramic tiles on shower walls constructed with standard drywall using the system’s four primary components: prefabricated Schluter® KERDI-SHOWER-ST tray, the Schluter® KERDI-SHOWER-SC curb, the Schluter® KERDI waterproofing membrane and the Schluter® KERDI-DRAIN. Used together, these components make installation easier and eliminate the potential for the growth of mold and mildew. The exclusive KERDI-DRAIN is the critical component in the system, allowing a simple, secure connection at the top of the assembly. The drain and waterproofing membrane can be used with the Schluter® SHOWER-ST tray or a mortar bed. In traditional tiled installations, a mortar bed over time becomes saturated and can be a breeding ground for bacteria and mold. KERDI-DRAIN was recently accepted for listing by the Unifiorm Plumbing Code (UPC®). This listing provides installers and inspection officials with recognizable code compliance and opens new markets for the product. (www.schluter.com)


Designer Briefing: Color’s Magic In an uncertain world, with an unpredictable economy and an overload of technology, we need all the stress relief color can deliver.
 
July 1st, 2004

 

By Barbara Schirmeister, ASID July-August 2004

Fairytale-inspired colors and magical hues dominate the color palette for 2004-2005. According to the Color Association of the United States (CAUS) – an organization which forecasts color trends for manufacturers of environmental and interior products – a major movement toward translucence and transparency with romantic, dreamlike qualities has evolved.

The new palette has a high degree of warmth – emphasizing red and yellow-influenced color families, which are balanced by the cool, air and water-inspired blues, greens and aquas. This forecast includes both cheerful brights to uplift us, as well as soft, mellow tones to relax us. It’s all about “personal choice”. Look for:

Nature-inspired colors, such as shades of bamboo and coffee, silvery greens, bronzed, burnished hues and sophisticated taupes;

The emergence of blues – pale, ethereal, atmospheric blues, periwinkles and regal cobalts;

Gracious greens ranging from sage and olive, to grassy spring greens and soft hues of celadon or sea glass;

The hopefulness and optimism of yellow – as seen in the spicy colors of honey, saffron and curry, and the warmth of soft buttercream, classic camel and opulent golds;

Red, the color of magic, ranges from corals to rust, from cherry red to crimson and burgundy;

And more than ever before, we are “in the pink.” In fact, consumers just can’t get enough pink – it’s their protest against “khaki fatigue.” Flattering petal pinks, cyclamens, magenta and raspberry are the latest pink picks.

 

Special effects have become a hallmark of 21st-century design. Color is interpreted through iridescence, translucence, pearlescence and reflection. The result is depth, sheen and texture. Metals and metallic effects are seen in new hues of copper, bronze, silver and gold for products across the board. Finishes range from aged patinas to the shimmer of stainless steel.

Today’s colors, textures and special effects can create a retreat from technology and ordinary life, helping us forget the fret with a flight into fantasy.

Color expert Barbara Schirmeister, ASID, is a longtime member of the Color Association of the United States (CAUS) Interiors Committee, helping to formulate the annual Environmental/Interiors Forecast palette. She has served for many years as color consultant to a number of major manufacturers of home furnishings, building products and finishes.

 


Industry Insights
 
July 1st, 2004

July-August 2004

Crossvillesigns D & B Tile

Crossville’s wide variety of Porcelain Stone® tile, plus glass and metal
decorative accents is now available to designers, contractors, and retailers in
South Florida through D & B Tile Distributors. Headquartered in Sunrise,
Florida, the company, which has been in business for 45 years, will offer
Crossville® products at locations in Sunrise, Perrine, Miami, Hollywood, Pompano
Beach, Delray Beach, West Palm Beach and Port St. Lucie. (954-846-2662; www.dbtile.com)

Polycor acquires Colorado Yule Marble

Polycor, Inc., the Quebec-based stone quarrying and fabricating firm has
acquired the Colorado Yule Marble quarry operation. Colorado Yule Marble has
been celebrated as one of the purest marbles ever quarried and compared as a
rival to the Italian and Greek marbles of ancient fame. The architect of the
Lincoln Memorial selected Yule Marble for the monument’s exterior. Other
well-known projects include the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National
Cemetery, the United States Customs House and more. In August of 2003, Polycor
purchased the Georgia Marble Company, one of the United States’ oldest and
longest running stone quarrying operations. (800-334-0122)

Whalen joins Alpha Professional Tools

Alpha Professional Tools is pleased to announce Jim Whalen has joined their
sales team. He will be responsible for the Mid-Atlantic Territory, which
consists of Delaware, Maryland, Southern New Jersey, Western New York, North
Carolina, South Carolina, Central and Eastern Pennsylvania, Eastern Tennessee,
Virginia and Washington D.C. Whalen has several years of outside sales
experience in other industries and has covered these areas in his previous
positions.

MAPEI celebrates 25th anniversary in Canada

MAPEI is celebrating 25 years of business in Canada. The parent company,
MAPEI Group, was launched in 1937. In 1978, the owners of MAPEI, Rodolfo and
Giorgio Squinzi, chose Laval, Quebec as the site to establish MAPEI, Inc., their
first plant outside of Italy. From one location, MAPEI, Inc. has grown to 335
employees in four plants across Canada. Nicholas DiTempora, President of MAPEI
Americas (which includes MAPEI Inc.), said, “MAPEI employees and clients have
come together as our family and friends over many years. The relationships that
have developed over this time have contributed to making us a strong presence in
the Canadian construction industry.” Distributed in over 80 countries, MAPEI is
a single source supplier of flooring installation systems for residential and
major commercial projects. MAPEI is a registered provider to the AIA/CES program
and offers training related to ceramic and stone tile, floor coverings and
concrete repair. MAPEI is an environmentally conscious manufacturer, and
provides BioBlock™ system of antimicrobial protection in select
products.

NTCA opens west coast office

In an effort to expand its programs on the west coast, the National Tile
Contractors Association is pleased to announce it has opened an office in Las
Vegas, Nevada. Effective May 1st, NTCA Director of Training and Education Justin
Woelfel, Jr. has relocated to Las Vegas and will coordinate his responsibilities
from there. “Las Vegas is a perfect venue for NTCA on the west coast, as it is
within driving distance to several key cities, ” said Executive Director Bart
Bettiga. “Over the next several years, we intend to significantly increase our
membership by providing increased services and additional educational programs.
Having offices in Jackson, Mississippi, and Las Vegas, Nevada, allows for more
flexibility in responding to our members’ needs.” You may contact the National
Tile Contractors Association Las Vegas office via mail at PO Box 81047, Las
Vegas, Nevada, 89180-1047; or via telephone at 702-262-9190 and FAX at
702-730-2019. Justin Woelfel, Jr. can also be reached via email at Justin@tile-assn.com

Industry partners tile Habitat homes, train crewleaders to tile

Industry partners, working through Tile Partners for Humanity, donated tile,
installation materials and training to tile five Habitat for Humanity homes in
Costa Mesa, Calif., in late April. The five houses included the 100th house
built by Habitat for Humanity of Orange County. Partners donated materials to
cover nearly 3,000 square feet of floor and wall space and trained Habitat
crewleaders to install the tile in the homes. Tile Partners for Humanity is a
partnership between the tile industry and Habitat for Humanity International.
Industry partners provide tile, setting materials, tools, floor preparation
materials, cleaners and sealers, labor and installation training to Habitat
affiliates interested in building with tile.

“This is an amazing partnership for our affiliate and one that we hope to
maintain for years to come “In addition to the materials, these partners taught
our crewleaders to install tile. We can now train other volunteers and
homeowners to handle the tiling in future homes. Habitat is all about learning
and sharing new skills, and this is one we know we will use time and again,”
said project coordinator Jason McKinstry.

Orchid Ceramics donated its Newcastle Sand ceramic and Planet Gray/White
porcelain tile to cover the kitchen, living room, laundry area, halls, and
bathrooms in each home. The company also donated extra material that should keep
the affiliate tiling through next year. The company is based in Tulsa, Okla.,
and has a distribution center in Anaheim, Calif.

Custom Building Products donated surface preparation materials, including
Wonderboard and RedGard Waterproofing and Anti-Fracture Membrane, as well as
setting materials, grout, tools, and sealers. Custom Technical Service
Representatives Kory Jones and John Alldredge spent a day training 25
crewleaders to install tile so they could train volunteers for future projects.
Custom is based in nearby Seal Beach, Calif.

Gray LaFortune and Paul Wilson of the Ceramic Tile Institute of America,
based in Culver City, Calif., trained an additional 20 crewleaders to install
tile. CTIOA, along with The Tile Doctor.com, formed TPFH in 2002. LaFortune and
Wilson have participated in numerous TPFH builds across the country.

Representatives of Orchid and Custom toured the homes and met representatives
of HFHOC, including new homeowner Kari Bernard and her son Elijah.


Creating Cost Effective Sample Boards How do you create sample boards that do everything they’re supposed to?
 
July 1st, 2004

 

July-August 2004

In contrast to the practice in other industries, floor covering manufacturers and distributors typically decide how their products will be displayed in retail or commercial channels. This requires them to consider a number of factors when deciding how to introduce a new line, breathe new life into an old one, or display products to their full advantage. The specification and design of a sample board is important because it plays many crucial roles:

It must be an effective selling tool, conveying brand and product information on the showroom floor, in the consumer’s home or at the architect, designer or builder’s office.

It should withstand normal handling without losing its sales appeal. It must be functionally efficient – sized to accommodate the product and designed for the consumer, sales person, architect or builder to conveniently carry it.

It must convey the desired image. Plain boards are inexpensive and look it. Well-designed and decorated boards enhance the product image.

 

The specification process

The sample board specification process requires knowledge of merchandising, materials and manufacturing. In essence, it requires deciding that the board has to do and then designing its necessary characteristics.

The functional design starts with basic criteria. The typical sample board is housed in a display, usually showing only one side with the samples attached. The board is designed for the consumer to take home or to the office for evaluation, so weight and board strength are important. Sell copy may be desirable on the back panel. The merchandising program may require a novel shape. There is often a family of items and a need to create some family resemblance as well as competitive differentiation between products. The board must convey a finished, neat, clean appearance, send the right message, and draw customers.

As a practical matter, sample boards for heavier materials such as tile are between 18- by 18-inches and 26- by 38-inches. Any bigger and they are hard to lift and carry; any smaller and they cannot carry much product sample. As a rough guide to the weight of the board itself, allow about one pound for each square foot of MDF and tempered hardboard, less for pasted chipboard.

Sample board material depends on the desired characteristics of thickness, rigidity, color, weight, etc.

Pasted chipboard is least expensive but less durable than other options and not as smooth a mounting surface. Boards must have a straight edge because chipboard must be die cut. It’s available in any thickness up to ¼-inch, but 3/16-inch is most common.

MDF (medium density fiberboard) is usually in 3/15-inch thickness but available in other calipers. More expensive than chipboard but more durable, MDF has various qualities of color, density, etc., based on the wood and resins used in its manufacture. Boards with a higher internal bond and made with high-quality northern woods are desirable. MDF is sanded for mounting printed labels. It must be machined on wood working equipment.

Tempered hardboard is available in 1/8-, 3/16-, and ¼-inch thicknesses and can be smooth on one or both sides. More expensive than MDF, it must also be machined. It provides a smooth mounting surface but is dark brown.

Solid plastic is available in various colors and thicknesses. Edges and contours can be shaped. Light and rigid depending on size and thickness, plastic has superior resistance to corner damage when dropped. It is more expensive than MDF for comparable thickness.

Solid wood is appropriate for heavy products (grouted tile), special effects, to meet the desire for a rich look or for competitive differentiation.

 

Sample board edges can be straight or contoured (usually bullnosed or “diamondized”); corners can be square or rounded. However, a “diamondized,” contoured edge, rounded corners and a contoured hand hole is the high quality industry standard.

Hand holes are the key functional attribute of a sample board. The most user-friendly hand hole has a “diamondized” edge and is at the top or side of the board for balanced carrying. The hand hole is typically racetrack shaped, but can be any other shape as well. The board’s graphic design must take the hand hole into account.

Most sample boards use offset printed sheets mounted on one or both sides. Covering both sides reduces the chance for moisture absorption and warping. Pre-mounting these label sheets leaves clean lines after shaping for a more finished appearance.

How will the completed board look?

The circumstances of the board’s intended purpose guide the designer. If the board will be fixed in a display, graphics will be included on only one side. This is less expensive, but requires the designer to squeeze all copy onto one panel. Removable boards or loose builder boards have two panels for additional room scenes, educational and informational copy. Be advised that printing more panels is more expensive.

Unless the board is painted or pre-laminated with a finished surface, it must be printed. The more designs, the costlier the printing. Backside printing and extra colors add cost. A good film laminate in a matte or gloss finish protects printing from scratches, fingerprints and moisture absorption and results in a quality look, but can also add cost. Foil laminates, embossing, fluorescents, gold stamping, and spot engraving are possible but at additional cost. One-time prep costs for image manipulation, color matching, and the like can also add significant cost and should be a factor in any design decisions.

The bottom line is the need to balance design and board costs early in the process to get the most merchandising impact from your dollars.

Prepared by NS Converters, LLC, Sample Board and Display Panel Division, Wayland, Massachusetts, (508) 358-9151.

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