Four CEOs reveal their stance on the environment, domestically made products, and embracing new technology.
"The next 12+ months will continue to present a challenge for the tile and flooring industries. The industry will most likely remain flat during this period with potential for growth opportunities in 2012."
- Stephan Liozu, President/CEO, ARDEX Americas

Four CEOs reveal their stance on the environment, domestically made products, and embracing new technology. They are (from left): Rodolfo Panisi, CEO, StonePeak Ceramics; Stephan Liozu, President/CEO, ARDEX Americas; Michael Franceschelli, CEO, Florida Tile; and Al Collison, President/CEO, MP Global Products.

The construction sector, especially the flooring industry, has had a difficult time recently. Many have taken large financial hits, while others have weathered the storm.

In light of this, we asked several well-experienced leading industry executives for their insight on keeping the tile and stone segment strong. We asked about the challenges shaping the tile industry, how they differentiate their business from others in a highly competitive market, their response to the demands for greater environmental responsibility, and finally, their perspective on the near- and long-term prospects of our industry.

Al Collison

Al Collison, President/CEO, MP Global Products

“Green” and “Environmentally Friendly” have become buzzwords in the building products industry. Truly, sustainable building products are increasingly sought-after for both commercial and residential building projects. More and more owners and developers want to build “green” to improve their image and reduce potential liability for health problems resulting from allergens that may be an ingredient of certain products. Bad indoor air quality can cause anything from eye irritations to allergies and beyond.

If you doubt the popularity of “Green” products, just think to yourself, “How many of those Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulbs do I see on store shelves today compared to three or four years ago?”

However, caveat emptor (let the buyer beware) that not all green claims are 100% proven.

We all know the truth gets stretched by many a marketer trying to sell a product. Companies often tout “Green” but can’t substantiate their claims with verifiable data. Their environmental advertising statements are often vague, suggesting they are “saving the world from global warming” but when pressed hard, have no way to prove it. So how do you know if the product you’re purchasing is truly recycled or will not make you sneeze? It’s easier than you might think: look for a symbol or seal that can prove certification by an independent lab or industry organization.

There are three generally recognized methods of certification a manufacturer can use: First-party certification (essentially self-certification); second-party certification (assessment by a trade association or other organization); and third-party certification (uses unbiased, independent laboratory testing or detailed evaluations of claims that cannot be verified through testing).

Discerning architects, contractors and consumers look for products that are genuinely certified as “green,” and not just telling a green story.

Michael Franceschelli

Michael Franceschelli, CEO, Florida Tile

Just about everything at Florida Tile is new. A new corporate identity. A new product look. New headquarters. This is an exciting time for Florida Tile and for our customers.

From the influence of our international parent company, Panariagroup, we are seeing the results of the forethought and investment that has and will continue to go into our business. From increasing production capacity in our manufacturing facility, to the years of digital printing experience, and the benefit of a streamlined R&D process that combines a keen eye for trends with a domestic factory that has the technology to produce it.

Just as each piece of tile contributes to the overall look and design of a project, so, too, does each element of the new Florida Tile brand. We have are determined to meet the ambitious goals we set four ourselves. They include not only becoming the most recognized brand in the industry, but also a leader in style, environmental responsibility and opportunities for our customers to make a profit.

As one of the few remaining domestic manufacturers it is our responsibility to champion the benefits of products “Made in USA” and never compromise on quality or service. Ours is and always has been a great reputation; together we can make it an outstanding one.

Ambitious as it is, our mission is nonetheless achievable, and we’ll do whatever it takes to make it so. We’ll continue to explore new channels and revisit existing ones to see how we can make them more efficient. My plans are to visit as many showrooms and customers as I can, to speak to them personally. I want to hear what they have to say, listen to their problems and their goals, and let them know that Florida Tile’s success is closely integrated and dependent on their own achievements.

Rodolfo Panisi

Rodolfo Panisi, CEO, StonePeak Ceramics

The tile industry has changed a lot in the past few years. Thankfully, our company’s growth has not been affected. Our roots are in the commercial arena, and we have been able to keep our business growing throughout the last few years. StonePeak’s factory is about the only tile factory in United Sates that can produce commercial rated tile surfaces, and because of this our popularity and partnerships are constantly growing in the market.

We made the right investment five years ago to open a domestic factory, and now we are seeing the positive results. We are continuing to invest in our factory by introducing new technologies, which will give us the expected edge in the years to come.

Another investment we are making is to adhere to our motto of environmental sustainability. We believe we cannot run our production facility without an extreme attention to the environment.

New technology, environmental sustainability, service and partnership in the market are our Groups’ goals for the future, and we are looking forward to an even more successful 2011.

Stephan Liozu

Stephan Liozu, President/CEO, ARDEX Americas

ARDEX understands first-hand the difficulties the tile industry has faced in the current economy. Many reports have confirmed a slide of up to 40% in tile installations and sales since the end of 2008. As a global leader in tile and stone installation products, ARDEX remains committed to aggressive strategies for product and technology innovation to offset the economic decline. High-performance, innovative products matched with strong customer service are important keys for success in any economy, but are even more critical in a difficult economy.

Continued innovation that provides real, tangible benefits on the jobsite combined with a commitment to outstanding customer service and technical support separates ARDEX from the rest. We are committed to providing our customers with products that reduce time, cost and risk of an installation to give our customers a distinct competitive advantage in the current economy.

We developed key strategic objectives and held steadfast to these objectives without wavering every time the market shifted, but they also allowed for enough flexibility to make adjustments as necessary. The organization has proactively taken steps to reshape some of our structure to maximize the expertise among cross disciplinary teams to execute tactical objectives.

ARDEX is fully engaged in active research and development to ensure our products reduce our environmental footprint without sacrificing quality and performance. This includes evaluating the raw materials in our products, as well as examining the manufacturing and operations processes including recycling efforts and low-energy, high-efficiency equipment. ARDEX high performance products reduce installation time and are very durable which reduces the energy and raw materials usage. ARDEX products also contribute to valuable LEED® points for qualified projects.

The next 12+ months will continue to present a challenge for the tile and flooring industries. The industry will most likely remain flat during this period with potential for growth opportunities in 2012. Companies that have prepared themselves with strong, aggressive strategies will find themselves positioned very well for growth, while others that remained stagnant will be presented fewer growth opportunities and find resurrecting from the economic fallout more difficult.