Last week, I attended ISFA’s “Grass Roots Regional Gathering” in New Boston, Michigan, at the headquarters of International Logistics and Stone Distribution.
To my eye, about 100 people attended, mostly from fabricators based in Michigan and Ohio. Since I’m new, it was interesting and useful for me to meet customers based in my area and learn “local color” about the industry. For example, multiple people told me that countertop trends in the Midwest lag behind the coasts by a couple of years. Good to know.
Lag or not, the hot topic of the day was the session on “ultra-compact surfaces,” presented by a Dekton representative. The conference room for this session was bursting, but I managed to poke my head through the door. The general characteristics of ultra-compact surfaces were covered – the key aspect of manufacturing is that they are made from a sintering process that fuses particles into a new material. The result tends to be highly impact-resistant and weather-proof.
After the “unbranded” portion of the session, the presenter continued with specifics about Dekton, which is the ultra-compact surface that Cosentino has invested more than $200 million to develop. He suggested that one of Dekton‘s big advantages will be the availability of 3cm material (later in 2014).
There was a lively Q&A, during which I learned more new things about my customers (slabs have tension? I had no idea … Dekton’s tension is radial out from the center, apparently). Talking with a few people after the session, it sounded as though their biggest concern was repairability – there’s not a large body of knowledge yet on how to deal with repairs in the real world. I was surprised to hear that fabricators weren’t too concerned with new tooling requirements – in general, they just wanted to know, “Do customers really care about this new kind of material?” Most expected to take a wait-and-see approach until customer demand proves itself.
I’m not a fabricator, but I am a homeowner … and I’m bullish on ultra-compact surfaces. In my short time in this industry, the most striking countertop I’ve seen – the only one that really made me say, “I want that in my house!” – was a light-colored, 1cm, ultra-compact-surface countertop that appeared to float above the showroom kitchen cabinet. The fabricator told me that such a thin countertop wasn’t practical before these extremely hard surfaces were developed. I just thought it looked incredibly clean and modern – it made me want it. The big question for me is whether designers embrace these new products … it will be interesting to see what they come up with.
My goal for attending this ISFA gathering was more about learning than selling. But Moraware is a sponsoring vendor, and we had a table, and I had a computer (although the smallest computer I own) … so I spoke with several existing and potential Moraware customers and demoed our software a few times. Since we do most of our business remotely, it was a treat for me to speak with customers in person.
… and I look forward to seeing more customers in person this week as well. Harry and I will be at the Park Industries Digital Stoneworking Expo in Waco, TX this Friday … if you are there, be sure to come up and say hi!