June 26: Volume 32, Issue 1
By Ken Ryan
Ceramic tile remains a heavily imported flooring product, with imports making up 68.6% of U.S. tile consumption (in terms of square feet) in 2016, down a tick from 68.7% in 2015, according to the Tile Council of North America (TCNA). A decade earlier in 2006, however, imports represented 80% of U.S. consumption.
Industry observers say the trend toward lowering imports as a percentage of consumption as more product is made domestically is likely to continue as both U.S.-based and foreign countries begin manufacturing operations in the states. Advances in digital printing technology and increased investments in American manufacturing capabilities have helped elevate the cache of tile products made in the U.S.
The biggest splash was made by market leader Dal-Tile, which began producing tile out of its $180 million, 1.8-million-square-foot facility in Dickson, Tenn. The Dickson plant will employ the latest advanced decoration technology, including the company’s Reveal Imaging capability, to produce ceramic tile. The plant will also have the flexibility to produce larger format and plank format tiles marketed through its five leading brands in North America: Daltile, American Olean, Marazzi, Ragno and Mohawk. The Dickson plant will feature glazed porcelain capabilities as well as technology to meet the need of the commercial market through technical color body products, plus in-line rectification and polishing to meet market requirements.
Foreign investment is also occurring in the U.S. The Wonderful Group, a tile and ceramics manufacturer based in China, is investing $150 million in a 500,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in Tennessee.
Likewise, Landmark Ceramics, part of family-owned Gruppo Concorde of Italy, christened its North American headquarters in Mt. Pleasant, Tenn., in 2016, with a goal of producing high-quality porcelain tile 24 hours a day. The plant’s initial production run commenced June 30, 2016. Landmark Ceramics employs 130, including administration and sales staff, and will add around 40 more with the third shift that is coming online in 2017.
“To invest in the U.S. market is always a good investment,” said Federico Curioni, Landmark Ceramics president. “We are able to reach the largest and biggest supplier when you make the product here. There’s only so much you can do from Italy. The United States is just such a vast market.”
Add Florim USA, part of the Florim Group of Italy, and Florida Tile to the list of ceramic tile companies that invested in new production equipment at existing U.S. facilities.
Industry observers say among the benefits to selling domestically are quality control and quick supply. They note that domestic producers are less exposed to risks they cannot control such as exchange rate fluctuations and ocean freight price increases due to capacity shortages. In addition, domestic facilities offer manufacturers an ideal location from which it can ship to a majority of the U.S. population quickly and efficiently.
Florida Tile, which touts its Made in USA story, manufactures the bulk of its products from its headquarters in Lawrenceburg, Ky., which it said is within 500 miles of 80% of the U.S. population.