Management Conference gets down to business!
 
September 2nd, 2007

September-October 2007

For me, the CTDA Man-
agement Conference has always been one of the most valuable benefits of association membership. It offers the opportunity to learn from some of today’s most dynamic business leaders and to tap the CTDA network of industry peers. It’s a combination I cannot get anywhere else.

This year the Management Conference, November 8-11 at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott and Spa in Dana Point, California, offers an especially promising mix of business know-how:

  • Why Should Someone Do Business With You?” Sam Geist grew his single sporting goods store into a 15-store $40 million a year national chain. Expect tangible ideas and solutions based on his full-service customer concepts.
  • Bill Wagner’s “Top 10 Leadership/
    Entrepreneurial Qualities” focuses exclusively on using behavioral tools from a strategic, rather than a tactical perspective.
  • Architect and LEED Accredited Professional Dimitris Klapsis will draw from his long list of sustainable projects to explain “How Do Products Get Specified in Green Projects?”
  • How would a port disaster impact your business? Suzanne M. Richer is a licensed Customs Broker. She has counseled corporations on topics including customs audits, cargo security, and international trade law.
  • Stephanie Samulski is a project manager for the Tile Council of North America (TCNA) and an instructor for the Ceramic Tile Education Foundation (CTEF). A participant in the development of industry standards, she will join us to discuss “Life Cycle Analysis,” an integral issue in greenbuilding.
  • Al Bates from the Profit Planning Group will once again present the annual "CTDA Company Performance Report.”

Meeting our benchmarks
The Management Conference is just one way CTDA demonstrates its commitment to members, industry and its mission: “to provide educational and networking opportunities for distributors of ceramic tile and their suppliers to further the consumption of ceramic tile.” This commitment is evident in CTDA’s daily efforts as well.

In the last issue of TileDealer I shared with you CTDA’s success in meeting its 2007 benchmarks. That trend continues. We have now certified 63% of the Certified Ceramic Tile Sales professionals targeted and we are 34% of the way to meeting our new member goal.

These are numbers to be proud of, but they also reflect the challenges ahead to meet our annual goals. I’d like to extend a big thank you and congratulations to Laticrete for sending all of their sales people to get certified. I encourage each of you to do your part to help us get there. You can start by signing up for the CCTS, encouraging an industry associate to join CTDA, and joining us at the 2007 Management Conference.


How customer service trumps the economy
 
September 2nd, 2007

by Janet Arden, Editor

September-October 2007

Like the classic tale of the shoemaker’s children who go barefoot, my husband and I have been living with three enormously outdated, genuinely unattractive bathrooms at our house for more years than I would like to admit. At least part of the problem has been that I see so many great tiles, choosing a few designs for my own home also meant not choosing dozens of others I also liked. It was just too hard.

Fortunately (or not, depending on your point of view), a plumbing repair forced my hand.

Choosing tiles, I found, was far simpler than dealing with the renovations themselves and therein lies the lesson. It’s much easier to write about tile, talk about tile and even answer questions about tile than it is to be the consumer on the other end of the installation.

This is what I learned: Customer service is everything.

Let me say up front that I love the tile and the installation is even better than I expected. The dealer and the installer get my recommendation. In fact, they saved the day and my sanity when two crews were using jack hammers to dig tile out of cement upstairs and down, when the only working sink was in the kitchen, when I had dueling tradesmen in the same tiny powder room, and when a newly installed plumbing fixture leaked over an entire weekend while we were out of town. And our remodel went well!

Great customer service made the chaos livable. The dealer delivered everything we needed and readily adjusted the quantities when the estimate was “off.” The installers cleaned up a hideous mess daily, called me with status reports, and took the time to suggest and implement solutions to more than one installation quirk.

On the whole I think my remodeling experience was no worse than most and probably better than many, and I credit the professionals on the job for delivering great customer service.

Here’s the challenge: Can your customers say the same about you?

Customer service is hard to quantify, but it can differentiate your company from the competition in a tough marketplace. Lately it would be impossible not to get the message about the housing marketplace. It’s terrible. Housing starts have taken a prolonged dive, the stock of homes for sale continues to build, and then there are the mortgage issues.

One bright spot is the home improvement industry. According to the Leading Indicator for Remodeling Activity (LIRA), which was developed by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, home improvement spending is expected to remain constant through the first quarter and overall growth in this category for 2007 is projected to be 3.0%. Some homeowners who cannot move up now will remodel instead, and many homeowners have substantial equity to finance improvements. How can you position yourself to leverage this and other opportunities?

On page 24 of this issue, our Sales & Marketing column takes a look at how one company’s ability to adapt to a changing marketplace and deliver great customer service is helping them to maintain some impressive growth numbers.

Of course, many of you have already taken steps to adapt to the current economy. TileDealer would love to hear what you are doing to maintain your edge in this marketplace. You can share your thoughts on this topic by emailing info@tiledealer.org. We’ll work them into a future Sales & Marketing column.


Innovations
 
September 2nd, 2007

September-October 2007

Esquire Introduces Sonora Porcelain Tile

Esquire, a Florim brand, has launched Sonora, a new line of glazed porcelain tile, designed in Italy for the North American market. Sonora features three rich stone colors—Dune, Nuez and Paloma—strategically designed to coordinate with today’s most popular carpet colors. The line’s moderate shade variation creates depth and detailing from tile to tile, yet still offers a clean, contemporary canvas in terms of overall appearance. Sonora’s earthen shades and subtle texture replicate the appearance of gently worn stone. Sonora comes in 12″x12″ and 18″x18″ field tiles with accompanying 3″x12″ bullnose trims, as well as a tri-colored 12″x12″ mosaic that incorporates 2″x2″ pieces of Dune, Nuez and Paloma in a random-mix. Sonora is extremely slip resistant and doesn’t readily show foot traffic. The line’s versatile palette, high performance porcelain body and affordability make it an excellent choice for installations in which cost-consciousness is a priority. Sonora is suitable for all residential and a variety of commercial installations, and it may be used on floors and walls.

877-370-5503

COLORKER’S MAGMA

Spanish manufacturer Colorker responded to the growing demand for mixing and matching as well as indoor/outdoor living spaces with Magma. The series’ pronounced reliefs and textures create a realistic stone effect. The basic pieces are available in a variety of decorations, all complementing each other, making them suitable for a wide range of spaces. Additionally, these tiles work perfectly with many other flooring materials to create unique surfaces. The series comes in cream, beige and graphite and three different formats: 152⁄5 by 232⁄5; 171⁄3 by 171⁄2; and 171⁄2 by 25.

www.spaintiles.info

TEC INTRODUCES FIRST FLUID SOUND BARRIER

TEC® Brands an-nounces the launch of Soniflex FL™, the first fluid sound barrier and crack isolation membrane for the tile and stone installation industry. “Soniflex FL is a significant innovation for the industry. First and foremost it reduces sound caused by impact and is an effective, easily installed alternative to sound-reduction sheet membranes,” explains Kathy Tsao, Associate Brand Manager for TEC. “Additionally, it isolates cracks up to 1⁄4″ without compromising on bond strength and durability, which makes this product ideal for applications up to and including heavy commercial projects.” Because it is a liquid product, Soniflex FL is formulated expressly for horizontal applications and is very simple to apply. The product involves minimal labor—just mix, pour and spread. Unlike typical sound-reduction sheet membranes, Soniflex FL requires no trimming, removal of backing or seam matching; the fluid conforms to any floor. Thus, it is an excellent option for any size installation—small or large. “Soniflex FL is mold resistant and unaffected by water,” adds Tom Plaskota, Technical Support Manager. “The product is truly a barrier layer—staving off unwanted noise, as well as cracks, mold and moisture.”

www.tecspecialty.com.

Tuscan Clay Series from Crossville

Inspired by the casual elegance and warm ambiance of Italian country villas, Crossville® has married the old with the new to create the Tuscan Clay Series: Porcelain Stone® tile with the hand-crafted look and feel of terra cotta. What’s old are the four natural colorways, the strong (V4) color variations and the softly sculpted tumbled edges. What’s new is the technology that created Crossville’s Porcelain Stone, which is more durable than granite, refuses to scratch, stain or fade, and never needs sealing or waxing—unlike natural terra cotta. And newer yet is that Tuscan Clay is available in multiple sizes for uniquely personal floor, wall and countertop installations. “Tuscan Clay has that mellowed by centuries of weather and wear look that today’s consumer loves,” states Barbara Schirmeister, Crossville’s color and design consultant. The four contemporary colorways—Bianco (white), Rosso (red), Marrone (nut brown) and Grigio (dark petroleum grey)—were specifically selected with the American market in mind and they blend together beautifully. “Because Tuscan Clay is available in a wide range of sizes, including the popular new rectangular or plank shape, homeowners and designers of commercial projects— especially hospitality and specialty retail spaces—should find it easy to create inspiring floors, walls and countertops,” adds Laurie Lyza, Crossville’s marketing manager. “These ‘rooms of stone’ will have the strength and beauty of terra cotta—but not the expense, installation and maintenance issues inherent in natural terra cotta projects.” The Tuscan Clay Series is available as 3″x3″, 3″x12″, 3″x16″, 4″x4″, 4″x8″, 8″x8″, 12″x12″ and 16″x16″ tile with a “tumbled” edge. Trim options include a 4″x4″ Bullnose Corner and a 4″x8″ Single Bullnose.

www.crossvilleinc.com

Tile with Metals Over Porcelain Body

Eliane introduces the Neolitic Series, a complete line of large format metallic tiles made with fire-melted metals over a porcelain body. The contemporary Neolitic series comes in five colors and a variety of accessories to choose from. The Silver and Bronze colors give designers a new metallic visual and textile palette for imaginative design concepts. The fluted relief Neolitic metallic colors are offered in large format 20″x20″ and accessorized by 4″x4″, 2″x2″, 4″x20″, 2″x20″ and stylish mosaics 4″x20″ and 12″x16″. A non-metallic version is also available in the traditional 20″x20″ large format in White, Chestnut Brown and Black colors to complement the striking metallic pieces. Neolitic can be installed in commercial and residential settings.

www.elianeusa.com

Kera­­­poxy® IEG Has Industrial Strength

MAPEI’s new Kerapoxy IEG is ideal for commercial and industrial tile installations where high-strength, mold- and mildew-resistant grout joints are required. Kerapoxy IEG has high chemical and stain resistance, as well as high temperature resistance. “With the addition of Kerapoxy IEG for industrial-grade installations, we have a complete line of reaction resin grouts for the tile industry,” said Brian Pistulka, Business Manager for MAPEI’s Tile & Stone Installation Systems. Developed as a water-cleanable, nonshrinking, nonsagging, fast-curing, efflorescence-free grout, Kerapoxy IEG works effectively in a variety of grouting projects: interior floor, wall and countertop installations; industrial, commercial and institutional wall and floor installations requiring high strength and stain resistance; ceramic floor, wall, quarry, pavers and porcelain tiles; heavy traffic areas, such as subway stations, shopping malls and airports; installations requiring high acid and chemical resistance, such as commercial kitchens, dairies, bottling plants, meat processing plants, breweries, bakeries, supermarkets, restaurants, hospitals, schools, research laboratories and veterinary clinics; and high-use wet areas, such as public restrooms, locker rooms, steam rooms and health clubs. “We wanted to make Kerapoxy IEG easy and economical to use, and eliminate the sagging joint issues common with traditional industrial grouts,” Pistulka commented. Kerapoxy IEG is available in gray, black, terra cotta, mocha and charcoal reflecting the colors most often used in industrial projects. The color component of the kits is ordered separately, so the distributor can stock multiple colors of grout with minimal inventory investment.

www.mapei.com

VitrA Resurrects Flower Motif

Vitra Tiles USA introduces the Shiba Collection. Flashy flowers and bold colors in a repetitious pattern bring this collection of non-vitreous, high-gloss finished wall tiles and borders to life. Neutral white and cream-colored tiles are coupled with powerful red, black and mink flowers to really bring the tiles to life and modernize any bathroom. The combination creates an attractive wallpaper effect. This exclusive line is available in 30-42cm with complementing borders in 8x42cm or 3x30cm. To further highlight the Shiba Collection, VitrA also offers exquisite glass-borders (8x42cm).

www.vitrakaro.com

Barwalt Ultrabite Nipper

With porcelain tile getting harder all the time and the present nippers failing, Barwalt set out to design a revolutionary new nipper. First they chose the finest carbide that is ground to a precision finish with industrial diamonds that will cut even porcelain easily. Then they designed a whole new nipper body that is not only extremely comfortable, but also has a mechanical advantage when nipping. This uniquely designed handle also absorbs most of the shock when cutting and is enveloped with cushioned sleeves that won’t fall off in use. Also this innovative handle has 50% less weight than other nippers, will not rust and is made 100% in the USA! An independent agency’s testing proved that the Ultrabite Nipper requires only one third the compressive force to cut porcelain, therefore requiring less force and more control when nipping. In addition, Barwalt made the carbide teeth replaceable. A good deal of the cost of a nipper goes into the carbide, but when the carbide is worn in other nippers, the nippers must be thrown away. Now, the customer can just replace the carbide tips of Barwalt’s Ultrabite Nipper and save money and time.

www.barwalt.com

Mediterranea presents: “Bellagio”

Mediterranea has developed the “Bellagio” collection of glazed porcelain tiles. Utilizing advanced synchronized Rotocolor technology, the Bellagio series is one of the most complete porcelain tile ranges manufactured in Turkey. The full range includes three large format sizes, accessory pieces and mesh-backed mosaics on 13″x13″ sheets. Bellagio comes in four sizes: 24″x24″, 18″x18″, 13″x13″ and 6.5″x6.5″, with a 3″x13″ surface bullnose. Available in five different colors—Scabos, Cream, Noce, Gold and Ivory—Bellagio exceeds the ADA requirement for Coefficient of Friction and is ideal for both commercial and residential settings.

www.mediterranea-usa.com

MOSAICS FROM FRESHWATER SHELLS

Hakatai Enterprises Inc. introduces its new Seashell series—a stunning line of luminous mosaic tiles for interior wall applications that captures the elegant look of natural freshwater shells. Grown in freshwater lakes and harvested by pearl-growing farmers, the shells are crafted into an exquisite series of ¾” x ¾” mosaic tiles characterized by their luxurious and luminescent qualities. The Seashell series is available in four striking colors: Bougainville, Cognac and Moonlight, which are artificially colored, and Mother of Pearl, which is the shells’ natural color. The series is suitable for dry, interior wall applications only and should be installed on walls that do not receive exposure to direct rays from the sun. Because the tiles are made from actual fresh water shells, any surface imperfections or variances are considered part of their inherent character and natural beauty. Tiles are mesh-back mounted for ease of installation, and un-sanded grout is recommended.

www.hakatai.com

Metronorm by KUTAHYA SERAMIK

Kutahya Seramik has launched its new series “METRONORM”, inspired by urban life. Reflecting urban life style, Metronorm collection’s designs are innovative, modern and assertive. Kutahya Seramik designs and manufactures a wide variety of tiles appropriate for bathrooms, bedrooms, offices, living rooms, and everywhere decoration takes place. The Metronorm collection is produced using new technology, to achieve different surfaces and sizes. The product range sizes include 10″x20″, 20″x20″, 20″x40″, 10″x40″, 6.5″x40″, 10″x30″, 13″x26″. Designs include Morocco, Garden Wall, Woody, Madera, Aura, Orient, Model, Wool City, Jazz Club, Crown, Cotton, Walker, Subway, and Cosmos.


Industry Insights
 
September 2nd, 2007

September-October 2007

POLYCOR INC. JOINS ROCAMAT S.A.

Polycor Inc., the Quebec based group that serves the broad dimensional stone market through the synergy of its combined stone supply subsidiaries, has now joined Rocamat S.A., FRANCE. The new group will count more than 1,000 employees, and its sales will exceed 180 M$ Can. Management remains the same; no reduction in the number of employees is envisaged at Polycor, nor at Rocamat and the companies continue operating under their respective names. The existing business relationships as well as customer service will not be affected by this transaction. “This grouping fits perfectly in our development plan,” said André F. Scott, Vice-President Corporate Affairs at Polycor. Indeed, it will enable both companies to broaden their respective product lines and provide access to new markets.

LATICRETE® APPOINTMENTS

LATICRETE® has appointed Ken Duquette to the position of technical sales representative for North and Central Florida, where he will focus primarily on building and maintaining LATICRETE sales and customer relations in the Orlando and Jacksonville metro regions. Duquette brings 23 years of professional experience in sales and customer service to LATICRETE. LATICRETE has appointed Lee Malmquist to the position of technical sales representative for the Inland-Northwest territory, consisting of Eastern Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Malmquist arrives at LATICRETE with 21 years of outside sales experience in the floor covering industry. The company has also appointed Brian Carlson to the position of technical sales representative for the California Southern region, including Northern Los Angeles County, Ventura County and the Southern portion of Kern County, which consists primarily of Bakersfield. Carlson comes to LATICRETE with extensive knowledge of its innovative product line, experience he gained first-hand as an outside sales representative with Tile Industry Sales, Inc., an independent sales firm that featured the LATICRETE System. Carlson will continue to service existing clients in the territory, while working to drive demand for LATICRETE system materials by searching out new relationships with architects, contractors, distributors, builders, design centers and specification writers.

MILES DISTRIBUTORS

Miles Distributors, Inc., a five-location ceramic tile and stone distributor in Michigan, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, contined its commitment to its employees and the industry through its association with the Ceramic Tile Distributors Association, including company president Doug Miles’ assumption of the CTDA presidency for 2007. In addition, sales and marketing manager John Zolman is active on three CTDA subcommittees. All of Miles’ employees at each location have passed the CTDA online training course; and three staff members—Cindy Walter, Showroom Manager, Scott Wykoff, vice president, and John Zolman—are among the first 38 industry professionals who have successfully completed the Certified Ceramic Tile Salesperson (CCTS) program.

TRUSTY STEP LAB ADDRESSES REVISED ASTM 1028-06

Trusty Step International announced the opening of a new tile-testing laboratory to test all types of hard mineral surfaces, including tile, marble, granite, etc. All tests will be in compliance with the recently revised ASTM 1028-06, “Standard Test Method for Determining the Coefficient of Friction of Ceramic Tile and Other Like Surfaces by the Horizontal Dynamometer Pull-Meter Method.” Test results will be provided to clients, enabling them to know the SCOF of a tile before purchasing or specifying it. This will let them know if that tile complies with the American’s With Disabilities Act requirements of 0.06 for horizontal surfaces and 0.08 for ramps, in all public buildings.

HATCHER JOINS FLORIM TEAM

Dawn Hatcher has joined Florim of Clarksville, Tenn., as a Marketing Specialist for the Midwest/East region. She is based in Lansing, Michigan. In her new role with Florim, Hatcher will offer tailored marketing support to distribution customers throughout her territory. From showroom and product display expertise to product presentations and sales training, Hatcher will partner with customers to ensure Florim’s Esquire and AFI brands are well represented in the marketplace. Hatcher joins Florim following three years as an independent sales agent representing Italian and Spanish factories. “Dawn is a strong addition to our team,” says Ron Spezzaferri, Regional Vice President of Sales for Florim. “Her energy, market knowledge and commitment to providing great service is already having a positive impact on our customers.”

LONE STAR CERAMICS ACQUIRED

Lone Star Ceramics, manufacturer of unglazed porcelain dot-mounted mosaics based in Dallas, Texas, since 1949, has entered into an agreement to be acquired by the Elgin Butler Company of Elgin, Texas. The Lone Star plant will be immediately relocated to the Elgin Butler corporate headquarters property (25 miles east of Austin) to benefit from the large scale ceramic production, engineering and resource infrastructure present there. The company expects the newly-renovated Lone Star plant to be fully operational and producing fine unglazed porcelain mosaics and trims by December 2007. Elgin Butler is the leading manufacturer of glazed brick and structural glazed tile since 1873, with a loyal network of distributors and architects across the United States. “The addition of Lone Star commercial mosaic products will not only help our existing Elgin Butler Distributors capture projects,” said Matt Galvez, new Lone Star owner (and former President of Florida Tile), “But it will also enable us to bring Elgin Butler engineering and marketing resources to Lone Star to benefit the network of Lone Star independent distributors. The marketplace desperately needs a second domestic source of high quality, unglazed dot-mounted porcelain mosaics; and we plan to service this category to the best of our ability.” Elgin Butler also recently acquired the McIntyre Tile Company of Sonoma County, California (www.mcintyre-tile.com), a leading producer of beautiful, hand-made upscale artisan tile and decorative tile since 1972. The artistry and porcelain experience of McIntyre Tile will also contribute to the revamped Lone Star product offering when production restarts in December 2007.

ASCER AWARDS

The sixth Architectural Ceramic and Interior Design Awards organised by ASCER (the Spanish Ceramic Floor and Wall Tile Manufacturers Association) will be judged by a jury of top professionals chaired by Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura. The total prize fund available for the Awards is 50,000 euros: 20,000€ for the architecture prize, 20,000€ for the interior design category and 10,000€ for the Degree Projects category. The Awards are given to architectural and interior design work considered to have made the best use of ceramic tiles made in Spain and are being sponsored once again by Vodaphone Spain, the Port Authority of Valencia and Gas Natural. The Architectural Ceramic and Interior Design Awards have evolved significantly thanks to the increasing quality of the work entered for the competition and the substantial standing and professional approach of the candidates. The winning entries in the architecture category for the last few years prove the point. These include: the Castilla La Mancha Archives in Toledo by Guillermo Vázquez Consuegra, the Spanish Pavilion at the Aichi Expo in Japan by Alejandro Zaera and Farshid Moussavi, the renovation of Santa Caterina Market in Barcelona by Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue and the Peñíscola Conference Centre by Ángela García Paredes and Ignacio García Pedrosa. The closing date for receipt of entries and all required documentation is October 31st.

comunicacion@ascer.es

Q.E.P. ANNOUNCES OPERATIONS IN CHINA

Q.E.P. CO., INC. has received final approval from the People’s Republic of China has to establish a wholly-owned subsidiary in Shanghai. Operating under the name Harmony Depot, Q.E.P. is now licensed to purchase and market a broad range of goods for distribution into the Chinese domestic and export markets. Over the past two years, Q.E.P. has been expanding its presence in Shanghai with the objective of supporting its operations in sourcing more cost effective products for customers throughout the world. Lewis Gould, Q.E.P.’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said “The approval of Harmony Depot is an important milestone in expanding our worldwide market and is a natural extension of our Shanghai operations. We will now be capable of further enhancing the value of services and products to our existing customers and of being a direct player in the rapidly growing Chinese market.” Q.E.P. Co., Inc., founded in 1979, is a leading manufacturer, marketer and distributor of a broad line of flooring tools and accessories for the home improvement market.

Manufacturer Unveils New Branding & Marketing Initiatives

Florim, previously known as Florim USA, is launching sweeping new marketing strategies, starting with the company’s name modification and the full re-branding of its Esquire and AFI (formerly “American Florim”) brands. Florim’s changes reflect the ongoing corporate investment in and commitment to the U.S./North American marketplace. The dropping of “USA” from the corporate name denotes the company’s heightened, synergistic association with parent corporation The Florim Group of Italy. Florim is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Florim Group. “We are part of a respected company and a member of a renowned family of brands,” states Florim Executive V.P. of Sales and Marketing Jim Dougherty. “It’s time we make the most of this association, in our name and in how we do business.” Both of Florim’s U.S. brands have undergone thorough image transformations to support their defined personalities. From the launch of new product lines and the discontinuation of select past products to the creation of new logos and the redesign of all marketing materials and merchandising, Esquire and AFI have experienced revolutionary alterations. “We are differentiating our brands,” Dougherty states. “Esquire and AFI have distinct images, and, most importantly, we are introducing carefully selected, Italian-designed products to fit each brand’s unique style.” Esquire is now defined as “tradition with class.” AFI (pronounced “af-ee”) is the new name of what was known as the “American Florim” brand. AFI is home to products deemed “urban casual,” and consequently, its new product introductions are contemporary, natural-look lines with wide appeal. Notably, the re-branding initiatives come in tandem with the introduction of numerous new, strategically designed product lines, all originating from Italian design through The Florim Group’s team of experienced professionals. Florim, headquartered in Clarksville, Tenn., is a domestic manufacturer of porcelain tile products for residential and commercial installation. A subsidiary of The Florim Group of Italy, Florim USA is the maker of the nationally distributed Esquire and AFI brands and is aligned with sister companies Floor Gres, Rex, Cerim and Casa Dolce Casa.

www.florimusa.com


One – on – One…with Ed Metcalf
 
September 2nd, 2007

“Growing Along with the Tile Industry”

By Jeffrey Steele

September-October 2007

For years, Ed Metcalf has been widely regarded as one of the tile industry’s preeminent experts on installation products. And it’s no wonder.

Ed started his education in the business almost 30 years ago, establishing a rep agency while still a college student in San Diego, Calif. He spent the subsequent years honing his expertise, then in 1985 joined Bethany, Conn.-based Laticrete International, first as an independent sales rep, next as region sales manager, then with Laticrete’s Marketing, Technical Services and Product Development departments.

He has since been elevated to president, North America Division, for Laticrete, the leading privately-held, American-owned company in the industry.

Ed recently granted TileDealer a lengthy interview, and in this engaging talk shares his thoughts on Laticrete’s established and new products, the home building slump, the green building movement — and the challenge of lowering a golf handicap.

TileDealer: Tell us a little about your life and career, and how you reached the presidency of Laticrete?

Metcalf: I was born and raised in Pasadena, Calif., and attended San Diego State University. I started Tile Industry Sales while in college in 1979, representing a line of hand tools, and helped get that company into the ceramic tile business.

The tile industry in San Diego and southern Calif. was — and is — full of really good and talented people, and I found a niche to serve. It was a blast, and the relationships that developed with the contractors and distributors who were my customers made me want to stay in it forever.

When I got the offer to join Laticrete as a region sales manager, I was ready to make a move in my career, even if it meant leaving California to go “back east.”

Because my wife is from Connecticut, we felt it would work from a family perspective. I sold the agency in 1992, and joined the team at Laticrete headquarters in Bethany, Conn. in January 1993. Later in 1993, the national sales manager left the company, and at that point I was promoted into that role.

From the end of 1993 on, I have been responsible for the North America sales operation at Laticrete. I learned a lot, and the owners trusted me with more and more responsibility. In addition to sales, I went into marketing, technical service and then product development. I was appointed president, North America Division, in 2005.

I love working in this growing industry now more than ever, and love the people who help make it such a fun and challenging business in which to work.

TileDealer: Take us through the major categories of Laticrete’s products.

Metcalf: We’re unique in the industry in that our sole focus is on installation products for ceramic tile and stone. That’s been a defining characteristic of Laticrete since its inception in 1956. We focus on mid- to high-end products that add lots of value for distributors, contractors and end users. Our best-selling product today is SpectraLock Pro Grout, launched in 2002, which went from zero to our number one product in about 18 months. The main benefits of SpectraLock are ANSI 118.3 compliance, color consistency, high stain resistance and extreme ease of use.

The waterproofing and anti-fracture category is a big one for us. Forty years ago, the company innovated with the first thin, bondable, waterproofing membrane. That product, Laticrete 9235, fast became the number one product in its category, and still is today. In addition, we just introduced Laticrete HydroBan, a membrane that requires no fabric, bonds to a huge range of substrates, and can be flood tested within 24 hours. That’s a time frame that anyone can live with. It’s a big advantage over all the other competitors in the category.

The third product category in which we’re very active is premium multipurpose thin-sets. This is a very fast-growing category overall, driven mostly by the increasing size and density of the ceramic and porcelain tiles on the market today. The larger format introduces a whole set of new challenges for installation.

More and more, the market is demanding higher bond strength, slip and slump resistance, and the ability to “build” to compensate for uneven substrates.

The fastest growing products we offer in this category are Laticrete 255 Multi-Max, and Laticrete 254 Platinum Multipurpose. These have each been out for about three years, and they both are growing so far this year at about 80 percent plus.

TileDealer: Looking at today’s economic environment, has the housing slump impacted your firm?

Metcalf: Along with everyone else in the industry, Laticrete has been affected by the steep drop in new housing construction. But unlike some of our competitors, this was a very small part of our business compared with commercial and residential remodeling.

We’re actually having a very strong year in our “distribution” business as well as the “home center” side, and we are up overall in the strong double digits.

We’ve brought out a lot of new products that have been big hits, and which have added new sales for us and for our distributors. With expanding distribution nationwide, we feel that we and our distributors are very well positioned for the eventual recovery of the new home building market.

TileDealer: How do the distribution and home center sides of the business differ?

Metcalf: We’ve learned a lot about the home center channel in our 10 years working with Lowes. Most fundamentally, the key differences are in the product range and product packaging that is offered.

We have clearly differentiated both for nearly all of our products offered through each channel, and are sensitive to the struggles that floor covering and tile dealers have in competing with giants such as The Home Depot and Lowes.

Still, we’ve found that strong dealers can always compete based on service and product offering, and will always have a firm position in the minds of the American consumer. We feel the future is bright for distributors who specialize and who focus on adding value for their customers.

The distributors who will do well in this business going forward will do so by offering the best product and the most specialized service, because in the end that’s what the most desirable contractors and end users demand and value.

TileDealer: Are home improvements proving to be a positive for Laticrete?

Metcalf: Any time new housing slows down, remodeling and renovation gain momentum. Since we tend to do better in these types of projects where quality is more highly valued by the end user, this is a positive development for Laticrete and our distributors.

TileDealer: What types of improvement projects tend to benefit Laticrete the most?

Metcalf: The most common home improvement projects are focused on the kitchen and bath, but we’re seeing more and more tile installed throughout homes these days.

That’s one reason we entered the floor-warming market with Laticrete FloorHeat. Consumers view floor warming as an affordable luxury, and it can be added at not much additional expense. FloorHeat is an energy-efficient mesh-mounted floor warming system that’s thermostatically controlled.

We’re the first company in our industry to offer this type of product, in combination with all the other materials you need to get the project completed. The product just launched this spring, and the results have exceeded our expectations.

TileDealer: A big trend these days is green building. How do Laticrete’s products fit with that trend?

Metcalf: Laticrete was the first in our category to address this mega-trend by securing GreenGuard certification for all of our specification-grade products.

Green building is finally achieving critical mass nationwide. And we project that a larger and larger percentage of commercial and residential projects will incorporate LEED standards in some fashion each year. GreenGuard is independent certification that our products comply under LEED guidelines.

TileDealer: Is the green building trend a lasting phenomenon, or a passing fad?

Metcalf: This is undoubtedly a mega-trend. More responsible building practices are becoming economically, as well as morally, desirable. For government and large corporate projects especially, it’s become a political imperative.

TileDealer: What are the biggest challenges Laticrete faces short term? Long term?

Metcalf: Short term, our biggest issues are managing high growth rates and our major capital expansion program.

We’ve added a lot of capacity at all plants, and are nearly finished converting all plants to our state-of-the-art recyclable plastic packaging, replacing paper bags. So far, we’ve done very well through the transitions and have been able to maintain high service levels.

Long-term issues include finding enough qualified people to staff all the new positions we need to fill, as well as dealing with the consequences of continuing increases in raw material, commodity and fuel prices.

TileDealer: What does Laticrete do best? What are the company’s strengths?

Metcalf: For 50 years our strengths have included strong innovation in products, and excellence in marketing. We believe that this combination has actually accelerated the growth in consumption of ceramic tile and stone in the U.S. over the past few decades.

We’ve always focused on promoting tile first, and then counting on getting our share of the related installation product sales that follow.

TileDealer: What’s ahead for Laticrete?

Metcalf: As the guy ultimately responsible for sales, I can tell you that in the immediate future we’ll be working hard to soak up all the new capacity being installed in our eight plants nationwide! Also, our R&D department has been massively expanded and we are working on some really interesting product and application innovations for 2008 and beyond. In general we’ll continue to maintain our position as the leading privately-held, American-owned company in our industry.

TileDealer: What’s ahead for you personally?

Metcalf: I have three daughters who all have to get through college, so I’m not planning on retiring anytime soon. My immediate personal goal is to get my golf handicap under 12, to stay healthy, and to demonstrate gratitude for all the blessings that have come my way.

Source:

Ed Metcalf

President, North America Division

Laticrete International

Bethany, CT

203-641-0592


Common Misconceptions
 
September 2nd, 2007

September-October 2007

Cork is a highly misunderstood material in the US market. Since it has an appearance similar to particleboard in some ways, many people assume that it has similar characteristics. We’d like to take this opportunity to dispel any misconceptions.

Cork will absorb water like a “sponge” if it gets wet.

Incorrect. Think of the most common use for cork, wine stoppers. Cork has been used for wine stoppers for hundreds of years primarily because it does not absorb water or liquids. Cork has also been used for years in buoys, lifejackets and other floatation devices, again because it does not absorb water and can remain buoyant for years. A cubic inch of solid cork immersed in water for 48 hours will gain less than 3% in weight due to water absorption. A cubic inch of solid wood or unglazed clay-bodied ceramic tile would gain many more times this percentage in weight of water if immersed for 48 hours.

Composition cork material will fall apart if it gets wet after it has been installed.

Incorrect. That may have been the case over 25 years ago when animal protein binders were used, but not anymore. Since the early 1980’s non-water-soluble polyurethane binders have been used to adhere the granules together to make quality composition cork products. These polyurethane binders also produce no post-installation off gassing and do not leach into ground water supplies. Products constructed with these types of binders can be totally immersed in water for 30 days or more and show no signs of structural deterioration.

Cork will “swell” with exposure to moisture and cause finish floor coverings to fail.

Incorrect. Because cork absorbs so little water, it is very dimensionally stable. When exposed to 100% Relative Humidity conditions for 30 days the dimensional change in the grade of materials used to manufacture certified underlayment-grade product is less than 3%. In a 6mm thick piece of material this would represent an increase in thickness of less than 1/120 of an inch.

Cork will compress and crumble under heavy loads and traffic.

Incorrect. Unlike open or even close-celled synthetic foam materials, cork consists of an interlocking structure of 14-sided polygons called tetracadecahedrons. These totally sealed gas-filled cells have a very tough outer surface that is almost impossible to break. Because of this unique natural attribute, cork has a compression/recovery rating of close to 100%. Unlike many foam and fiber-based products, it will not collapse over time with traffic. The binders used to adhere the granules of certified underlayment-grade cork products together are designed to create a permanent structural bond between the particles.

Cork will support the growth of mold and mildew if used in a moist environment.

Incorrect. Going back to the traditional use of cork in wine stoppers, solid cork is used for sealing fine vintage wines precisely because it does not readily support the growth of mold and other biological agents that can cause spoiling of the wine. Additionally, the granules of cork used to make certified underlayment-grade products are coated with a polyurethane binder, which enhances their natural microbial resistance.

“Cork is cork” and all cork underlayment products are the same.

Incorrect. Properties such as density, particle size and consistency of particle size are very important and vary widely from one manufacturer to another. Density affects the structural stability of the product and the sound attenuation quality. A product that lacks density will be too delicate to use as an underlayment and a product that is too dense will have poor sound attenuation characteristics. A product that has too large of particle size or a wide range of particle sizes in the mix may lack the structural integrity to be effectively used as an underlayment.


Cersaie CELEBRATES 25-YEAR ANNIVERSARY
 
September 2nd, 2007

September-October 2007

For a quarter of a century, Cersaie has claimed the top spot as the premier International Exhibition of Ceramic Tiles and Bathroom Furnishings. With over 1,000 exhibitors hailing from 32 countries and a 156,000 square meter show floor, the 5-day trade fair, held this year from October 2-6, 2007, has distinguished itself as a springboard for innovation, cutting-edge products, modern designs and foremost trends. To celebrate Cersaie’s 25-year anniversary, show organizers Edi.Cer in conjuction with Confindustria Ceramica and BolognaFiere have planned an enriching program of events dedicated to industry, art and culture.

The 2007 spotlight will be on “Creativitiles,” a special exhibition that explores the versatility and multifaceted capability of Italian ceramic tile. Curated by Professor Enrico Manelli, Director of the Accademia di Belle Arti of Ravenna, the one-of-a-kind exhibit will feature 16 famous paintings that have been recreated using Italian tile collections already available on the market. Covering close to 600 square meters of space, these original artistic creations, which combine scenographic and trompe-l’oeil techniques, will include:

  • “The Kiss” by Francesco Hayez
  • “Il Pergolato” by Silvestro Lega
  • “Portrait of Fritza Riedler” by Gustav Klimt
  • “Die Empfindung” by Ferdinand Hodler
  • “Venus of Urbino” (detail) by Titian
  • “Jeanne Hebuterne” by Amedeo Modigliani
  • “Fumee” by Georges Barbier
  • “Still life of a melon and a vase of flowers” by Pierre Auguste Renoir
  • “The Kiss” by Gustav Klimt
  • “Soldier of the first division” by Kazimir Malevič
  • “Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh

The informative 2007 general conference program will offer a broad range of events including technical seminars organized by Centro Ceramico Bologna, the economic conference sponsored by Confindustria Ceramica and the CTI International Press Conference organized by Ceramic Tiles of Italy in cooperation with the Italian Trade Commission ICE.

Continuing a tradition that began in 2000, an internationally acclaimed architect or interior designer is annually commissioned to design the show’s poster. Toyo Ito, who is considered to be one of the world’s most innovative and influential architects, created this year’s image. His works, which include both public and private spaces, are inspired by early modernist movements, minimalism and nature. Ito is the eighth international architect who designed the poster of the exhibition after Antonio Citterio (Cersaie 2006), David Palterer (2005), Hani Rashid (2004), Denis Santachiara (2003), Massimo Iosa Ghini (2002), Alessandro Mendini (2001) and Ettore Sottsass (2000).

Cersaie will therefore be a key appointment for all industry professionals—whether distributors, architects, building companies, interior designers, installers or students—as Bologna becomes the heart of the ceramic tile and bathroom furnishings world for five fulfilling days in October.

For additional information, visit Cersaie’s official website:

www.cersaie.it.


Sales & Marketing: Selling to “Online” Homeowners Takes New Communication Skills
 
September 2nd, 2007

Why it takes more than a website to build an online business

By David Lupberger

September-October 2007

Years ago, it was pretty simple for home improvement professionals to market their services to new customers. They bought an expensive ad in the yellow pages in hopes of someone calling. That was before the internet began changing our society and the very way commerce is conducted in the world.

From the advertiser’s point of view, we can target our advertising and marketing messages. And not only are clients referring us to people they know—countless others have access to the good and bad experiences they’ve had with us.

On the customer side, your potential clients are becoming more internet savvy—and even internet dependent. Today’s homeowner expects to do all the above in a matter of minutes. The internet is a tool for them to see more, learn more and connect faster to those in your business than ever before. It’s educating them on the details of the industry and the impressions—good, bad, fair and unfair—that were left with previous clients. The information available about your business is growing as fast as the opportunities for you to grow with it.

Golden Opportunities

The internet also allows businesses to market services to target customers. You don’t need to pay for 10,000 direct mail pieces in hopes of getting a few jobs in return. Expensive advertising in “offline” media might still be a way to reach thousands of people at once. But the internet connects businesses to those who actually need a specific service.

“As more people use the internet for services like ours, the more we see home service professionals decreasing or eliminating their ‘traditional’ means of advertising,” said Michael Beaudoin, co-CEO and co-founder of ServiceMagic.com, the nation’s leading online referral source for homeowners looking to connect with home service professionals. The company processed 2.4 million service requests from online homeowners in 2006—up from 1.7 million the year before. The company also gives each member of its network the opportunity to build an online profile to deliver the details sought after by consumers.

“This year alone we expect the professionals in our network to turn more than $1.2 billion in projects from the leads we’re generating for them,” Beaudoin said. “Today’s homeowners are definitely getting used to finding what they need online.”

As more of the internet generation become homeowners, these numbers will continue to grow. Traditional advertising (what’s now known as “offline” marketing) is still effective. But to get the most of your advertising dollar and to target the “online” homeowner, new methods of client acquisition—and even client interaction—must be considered.

So, here are some ideas that might give you just enough to go on and some key terms you should have in your vocabulary.

A website is just the beginning

The important thing is that you are on the web to begin with. Building a website for your company isn’t an easy thing. If you want something that looks professional, then you should consider turning to a professional to design the website for you. Potential customers might be turned away if it isn’t attractive.

The three major search engines, (Ask.com, Yahoo.com and Google.com) are the bridges that will connect the casual internet user to your company website. These websites are constantly scanning the web and storing information on the jillions of websites.

Your website should include a lot of “tags.” Tags are keywords that search engines actually look for, in order to more closely match the keywords typed in by the consumer. It’s the most direct way to “lead” your potential client to your website. This is Search Engine Optimization.

There are many ways to start generating some business from internet users, but just make sure of three things: that you can be “Asked,” “Yahooed” and “Googled.”

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) describes your efforts to make sure those search engines rank your site as high as possible when they return a list of websites they found for the consumer. Assuming that #1 is where you want to be ranked, then you have to bury enough searchable keywords in the text of your website. This is a basic task that builds in complexity as more SEO pros (yes, there are people who do this for a living) try to tap into what resonates best with the search engines.
  • You should also know about (and consider using) Search Engine Marketing (SEM). Basically, SEM is paid SEO. If you’ll notice, when a search engine turns up a page of results, there are positions on the page for “sponsored listings.” The companies you see there are in a bidding war with each other. They’re all paying the search engine for keywords or key phrases (tags). Obviously, the company who offers the most for a keyword gets the most prominent position. If you see a “sponsored listing,” then you know that those companies are running a Pay-Per-Click advertising campaign.
  • Pay-Per-Click (PPC) is just as it sounds. Advertisers pay every time someone clicks on the link to their website. It could be as little as ten cents a click or as high as several dollars, depending on what the bid was. Successful PPC users have the time and the resources to win the bidding wars and make adjustments to their keywords.

Yellow Pages meet the Internet Yellow Pages

Even though the poll referenced earlier shows the internet outpacing the Yellow Pages, it doesn’t mean that the YPs are going away quietly. The Internet Yellow Pages are trying to pick up where the phone book versions left off. But, it’s not apples to apples, as they say. IYPs have been forced to mold themselves in the shape of internet search engines. You can pay up front and buy a standing advertisement. Or, in some IYP directories you have to bid for keywords just like the search engines have you do. It’s a give and take. If you pay for a standing ad, you’re not taking full advantage of the cost-savings of the internet (but at least you’re still on the web in some capacity!). In the other case, you’re spending your valuable time and energy managing keywords when you could be out working jobs.

Online Lead-Generation Services combine the best of both worlds. You get the functionality and the access the internet provides, as well as cost-effective marketing methods that target the people you want. In some cases, they even connect them directly to you. And the service does the vast majority of the work for you.

These companies should have the staff, the expertise and most importantly the time to manage thousands of keywords for the SEO efforts. They handle the complexities of the paid search engine marketing and the pay-per-click campaigns—and they do it well. By enrolling in these services, you should expect them to set you up with an online profile, which is sort of your own, little website. This profile can be found by search engines and brought up on the results page after a search. It’s a way for consumers to find out about you on the web and also for the company to prescreen the homeowner so you don’t have to spend a lot of time talking to people who aren’t looking for your services.

By now, you may have heard stories about the websites that allow consumers to post comments about the service industry. They can do so anonymously, which can lead to abuse in the form of fraudulent and damaging postings. However, online lead generation services should maintain a verified rating and review system. Simply put, that means that only people who’ve actually been customers are allowed to post comments and the integrity of such comments is verified. This protects the integrity of the system and the reputation of the business. Hopefully, your clients are savvy enough to figure out which systems are dependable and which are not. If they are, ask them to post a comment about your services.

Homeowners are catching on to these services, finding them to be “one stop shopping.” They can locate professionals who handle the specific task they want to tackle. They can be confident that these professionals meet certain qualifications. They can read reviews from other customers, as well as see pictures of other projects completed by these home service professionals.

Getting your company online is essential for future growth, and perhaps survival. It should be considered a mandatory element of any marketing strategy. It is becoming the new industry standard.

ServiceMagic®, Inc., headquartered in Golden, Colo., uses proprietary technology to match consumer service requests with local service professionals. The company addresses more than 500 different home service needs that range from simple home repairs and maintenance to complete home remodeling projects. Its 48,000 home service professionals are prescreened to help consumers connect with licensed and insured home service professionals. Visit http://www.servicemagic.com.

 


Installer Update
 
September 1st, 2007

Setting the Record Straight on Cork Underlayments for Sound Control

Setpember-October 2007

By Larry Lyons

Sound control for hard surface flooring in multi-family construction can be a complicated and contentious topic. With the large number of condo projects being built over the last few years and the increased interest in “downtown living,” even in smaller urban markets and in suburban areas, there has been increased attention focused on this issue.

This increased attention has brought many new manufacturers and technologies to the market, in the category of “sound control underlayments for hard surface flooring” applications. Because composition cork products have been used successfully for many years in these types of applications and represent the single largest share of the market in direct bonded applications, cork is often the target of competing manufacturers. In the interests of leveling the “playing field,” I would like to provide a few facts, just to set the record straight.

The material that we know as cork consists of the bark of the cork oak tree. The European variety has the species name Quercus suber. There is also a distant cousin of the European cork oak grown in China and other parts of Asia with the species name Quercus variabilis, also known as the Chinese cork oak. Although the fleshy bark is referred to as “cork,” the Chinese cork material has very different properties than the European species. For the purposes of this article, all references to cork will relate to the properties, harvesting techniques and processing of the European species of cork, Quercus suber.

The unique natural qualities of cork make it a most effective material for the control of impact sound transmission in hard surface flooring applications. The physical structure of cork, with nearly 200 million completely sealed air-filled cells per cubic inch, makes it a very effective acoustic insulating material. This same physical structure also provides cork with the ability to be repeatedly compressed and yet recover nearly 100% of its original shape and size. These combined benefits make cork an ideal and time-tested choice for sound control underlayment applications.

In addition, the granular structure of cork underlayment provides the function of crack suppressing, by allowing the subfloor and the tile to move, in plane, at different rates. A qualified cork underlayment product combines the resilience necessary for acoustical performance, with the structural stability required for direct bond tile applications. Many millions of square feet of cork underlayment products have been successfully installed under tile and a wide variety of other finished flooring materials in projects all over the world.

Contrary to popular belief in some circles, all “cork” products are not the same. Just as you would not choose the least expensive grade of plywood for an underlayment application, one should not choose a “cork” product based solely on cost. The quality providers of cork underlayments, like AcoustiCORK and WE Cork, have very specific standards for their underlayment products. The particle size, density (weight per cubic foot), binders and compression and recovery characteristics are very carefully controlled for these products. The result is products that are consistent from one run to the next and that deliver consistent performance in the field. These products have documented Sound Test data, as well as Robinson Wheel testing and Shear Bond testing that certifies their performance and suitability for tile applications.

These types of products comply with the product definition for cork underlayment noted in the TCNA Installation Handbook detail F-135-07. When you specify or install products manufactured to these exacting standards, you get a product that is designed to deliver the maximum impact noise reduction benefit, retain its dimensional stability and last through decades of service, in both residential and commercial applications. With that being said, there are a number of generic imitators providing “cork underlayment” to the market that do not meet those same standards. To create these price point products, the manufacturers/importers often reduce the density (cork granule content) beyond the levels defined in F-135-07 or bring in products from China that are not the same species of material as European Cork. These types of products should be avoided, particularly for direct bond tile applications.

Non-cork competitors

Since cork underlayments have been successfully used in sound control applications for decades, they are the target for many manufacturers of different technologies who cite “superior acoustical performance over cork.” All types of claims are made in advertising and marketing materials; mostly based on manipulated installation techniques, the use of elaborate suspended ceiling assemblies, field test data from very favorable sources or installations, loose interpretation of test data and/or comparison of test data that is not based on the same types of construction details. There are even some manufacturers who have had their underlayment tested for IIC performance, without a floor covering installed over it, just to have the highest possible number to put on a product data sheet. On a millimeter per millimeter thickness comparative basis, a quality acoustical grade cork underlayment is as, or more effective, in impact (IIC) sound reduction than any other material on the market.

Environmental benefits

The 2007 TCNA Handbook has an advisory regarding Sound Rated Floors (pages 77 & 78). As one of the primary authors of this industry consensus document, I can attest to the quality of information that it provides. In addition, if you would like more information on the topic of Sound Rated Floors, I would suggest checking out the AIA-CEU course that our company provides on the topic, which is hosted on the website www.AECDaily.com. It is an objective look at the topic, the code issues, the challenges in meeting the code requirements in different construction details, and the range of solutions available, with their relative strengths and weaknesses. The course meets the AIA guidelines and is not an “infomercial” for our products.

Cork also has some environmental benefits that most other products cannot match. It is a truly renewable and sustainable resource. Unlike solid wood, composite wood products, paper and other renewable resources; no trees are cut down to make cork products. In fact, cork oak trees in Portugal, Spain and most other producing countries in the Mediterranean area are protected by law. To harvest cork, the bark is stripped from about 1/3 of the tree every 9 to 12 years. This process actually enhances the life span of the tree. The manufacturing process of cork products also produces a near zero waste stream and results in no toxic emissions.

Cork products meet many of the key criteria of the organizations that promote and support green building initiatives. The use of qualified cork products in a project can help it qualify for credit points under the LEED™ GREEN BUILDING RATING SYSTEM in the following areas:

MR 4.1: 5% Recycled Content of total building materials (post consumer + ½ of post industrial)

MR 4.2: 10% Recycled Content of total building materials (post consumer + ½ of post industrial) (Most cork products are approx. 85%+ post industrial recycled content by weight)

MR 6: Specifying rapidly renewable building materials for 5% of total building materials.

MR 7: The Use of a minimum of 50% of wood-based materials certified in accordance with the Forest Stewardship Council guidelines.

EQ 4.1: Low Emitting Materials Adhesives & Sealants (Adhesives Specified meet SCAQMD Rule 1168)

EQ 4.4: Composite wood or agri-fiber products must contain no added urea-formaldehyde resins.

In addition, some suppliers can now offer 100% FSC certified (chain of custody) material for specific projects or applications.

Successful sound control applications require the presence of a resilient material in the floor assembly to attenuate IIC (Impact) Noise. A quality cork underlayment can provide the resilience required for code complaint IIC noise reduction and the stability required for a responsible and quality tile installation. Different types of assemblies have different types of needs, and there is no single product or solution that is appropriate for all types of assemblies. For the best results, look for a manufacturer who can supply acoustical testing data that most closely matches the floor covering choice you will be installing and the construction detail that the materials will be installed in. Many suppliers have only one tested assembly that may not correlate well with a real world installation. If they do not have a tested assembly that best approximates your conditions, you may be better served finding a supplier who does.

Larry Lyons, CSI, is Sales & Marketing Manager for Construction Cork Products, Amorim Industrial Solutions.


C-TPAT: The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism
 
September 1st, 2007

September-October 2007

Since 9/11 the challenges of border security have become increasingly important. This is especially evident in international industries like ceramic tile. The Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT) is a voluntary government-business initiative to build cooperative relationships that strengthen and improve overall international supply chain and U.S. border security. The program recognizes that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) can provide the highest level of cargo security only through close cooperation with the ultimate owners of the international supply chain such as importers, carriers, consolidators, licensed customs brokers, and manufacturers. Through this initiative, CBP is asking businesses to ensure the integrity of their security practices and communicate and verify the security guidelines of their business partners within the supply chain. What follows is some basic information regarding C-TPAT from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website at http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/newsroom/news_releases/08282007.xml

Q: What kinds of businesses can apply for C-TPAT?

A: Currently, open enrollment for C-TPAT is available for the following business types related to the U.S. import supply chain cargo handling and movement: U.S. Importers of record; U.S./Canada Highway Carriers; U.S./Mexico Highway Carriers; Rail Carriers; Sea Carriers; Air Carriers; U.S. Marine Port Authority/Terminal Operators; U.S. Air Freight Consolidators, Ocean Transportation Intermediaries and Non-Vessel Operating Common Carriers (NVOCC); Mexican and Canadian Manufacturers; Certain Invited Foreign Manufacturers; and Licensed U.S. Customs Brokers.

Q: How were these trade participation categories selected?

A: CBP is responsible for screening all import cargo transactions. Utilizing risk management principles, C-TPAT seeks to enroll compliant low-risk companies who are directly responsible for importing, transporting, and coordinating commercial import cargo into the United States. The goal is to identify compliant trusted import traders who have good supply chain security procedures and controls to reduce screening of their imported cargo. In turn, this enables CBP to focus screening efforts on import cargo transactions involving unknown or high-risk import traders.

Q: How do eligible companies apply to participate in C-TPAT?

A: Businesses must apply to participate in C-TPAT. Participants complete an online electronic application on www.cbp.gov that includes submission of corporate information, a supply chain security profile, and an acknowledgement of an agreement to voluntarily participate. In completing the supply chain security profile, companies must conduct a comprehensive self-assessment of their supply chain security procedures using the C-TPAT security criteria or guidelines jointly developed by CBP and the trade community for their specific enrollment category. The criteria or guidelines, available for review on the CBP website, encompass the following areas: Business Partner Requirements, Procedural Security, Physical Security, Personnel Security, Education and Training, Access Controls, Manifest Procedures, Information Security, and Conveyance Security.

Q: What are the benefits of participation in C-TPAT?

A: C-TPAT offers trade-related businesses an opportunity to play an active role in the war against terrorism. By participating in this first worldwide supply chain security initiative, companies will ensure a more secure and expeditious supply chain for their employees, suppliers and customers. Beyond these essential security benefits, CBP will offer benefits to certain certified C-TPAT member categories, including:

  • A reduced number of CBP inspections (reduced border delay times)
  • Priority processing for CBP inspections. (Front of the Line processing for inspections when possible.)
  • Assignment of a C-TPAT Supply Chain Security Specialist (SCSS) who will work with the company to validate and enhance security throughout the company’s international supply chain.
  • Potential eligibility for CBP Importer Self-Assessment program (ISA) with an emphasis on self-policing, not CBP audits.
  • Eligibility to attend C-TPAT supply chain security training seminars.

Q: How will the partnership work on an ongoing basis?

A: Upon satisfactory completion of the C-TPAT Online application and supply chain security profile, participants will be assigned a CBP C-TPAT Supply Chain Security Specialist (SCSS). A SCSS will contact the participant to begin the C-TPAT validation process.

Q: What happens if a company fails to meet the C-TPAT minimum security criteria or guidelines?

A: Failure to meet C-TPAT commitments will result in suspension or removal of C-TPAT certification status and associated benefits. Benefits may be reinstated upon correcting identified deficiencies in compliance and/or security.

Q: Where can I get more information on C-TPAT?

A: C-TPAT information is maintained on the www.cbp.gov web site.

Q: What exactly are CBP expectations for the C-TPAT participant?

A: To make a commitment toward the common goal of creating a more secure and efficient supply chain through partnership. CBP understands that it has entered a new era and requires the assistance of private industry to ensure increased vigilance throughout the supply chain. CBP recognizes that just as it protects the trade and our borders, businesses must ensure that their brands, employees, and customers are protected to the best of their abilities.

Q: Will the information our company provides to C-TPAT be confidential?

A: All information on supply chain security submitted by companies applying for the C-TPAT program will be confidential. CBP will not disclose a company’s participation in C-TPAT.

Q: As a company, we are very interested in C-TPAT but we are not interested in spending a lot of money or increasing our liabilities if something goes wrong. Is it still possible to participate in C-TPAT?

A: The decision to join C-TPAT is voluntary. Not all companies may be in a position to meet C-TPAT minimum security criteria or guidelines.

All eligible companies that import into the U.S. or provide import cargo movement or handling services should assess their supply chain security procedures to determine if they can qualify. CBP intent is to not impose security requirements that will be cost prohibitive. For this reason, we worked in concert with the trade community in developing security criteria and guidelines that reflect a realistic business perspective. Potential C-TPAT participants may find that they already have many of these guidelines in place.

C-TPAT is also not intended to create any new ‘liabilities’ for companies beyond existing trade laws and regulations. However, joining C-TPAT will commit companies to follow through on actions specified in the signed agreement. These actions include self-assessing security systems, submitting security questionnaires, developing security enhancement plans, and communicating C-TPAT guidelines to companies in the supply chain. If a company fails to uphold its C-TPAT commitments, CBP would take action to suspend benefits or cancel participation.

Q: What is the overall vision for C-TPAT in the coming months and years?

A: CBP recognizes that a safe and secure supply chain is the most critical part of our work in keeping our country safe. For this reason, CBP is seeking a strong anti-terrorism partnership with the trade community through C-TPAT. Trade partners will have a commitment to both trade security and trade compliance rooted in their business practices. CBP wants to work closely with companies whose good business practices ensure supply chain security and compliance with trade laws.

Q: Is the C-TPAT program a viable consideration for medium or small size companies?

A: CBP encourages all companies to take an active role in promoting supply chain and border security. C-TPAT is not just a big-company program. Medium and small companies may want to evaluate the requirements and benefits of C-TPAT carefully in deciding whether to apply for the program. Moreover, even without official participation in C-TPAT, companies should still consider employing C-TPAT guidelines in their security practices.

Learn more at the CTDA Management Conference!

Suzanne M. Richer, founder of Customs & Trade Solutions, Inc. and a licensed Customs Broker, has over twenty three years in international supply chain management, having served in the Ports of Detroit, Miami, Newark and Philadelphia. She’ll be presenting “How to Avoid Shutdown During Port Disaster” at the CTDA Management Conference, November 8-11!

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