Intervista su Versilia Produce
14 November 2022 |
Marble, in the last 5 years, increasingly niche product

We were interviewed by the editorial staff of Versilia Produce (information periodical of the Cosmave consortium) to talk about the industry's supply chain. We were able to bring the point of view of Davide Veronesi, Export Area Manager, and Tommaso Giacomelli Italy Area Manager.

Below is a translation of the interview:

Among the companies in the marble supply chain, Dellas is a major player in the tooling sector. Diamond discs and wires for processing natural stone are the workhorses of the group, which, like others, has had to cope with rising energy and raw material prices following the outbreak of war in Ukraine. 

Given the privileged vantage point of observation on the stone industry, we ask Tommaso Giacomelli and Davide Veronesi, sales managers for Italy and exports respectively, what is the current situation?
"Let's start with a first consideration: natural stone is still well present in the market, even though it has become an increasingly niche product in the last five years. At first, this was due to the customer perception that marble is considered a luxury good, while basic ceramics have for years been considered an affordable good with more competitive prices. This scenario is slowly transforming: natural stone is indeed a luxury good, if we consider the special processing on which we are very strong in Italy, but at the same time the finished ceramic product is growing, which is no longer to be understood as a mass good because today the sector is able to offer products that are comparable in cost to natural stone, if not even superior." 

What are the reasons for this trend? 
"In the last twenty years as a result of the strong demand for ceramics, which as mentioned above is considered a cheaper product, companies have developed ad hoc processing areas such as finishing, polishing, and squaring processes. On the other hand, ceramic companies have invested heavily in technology, so much so that we are now ready to overtake them. It is, in fact, possible to obtain ceramics comparable at a glance to a marble, including even the effect to the touch. We have to consider that the worldwide coverage of granite and natural stone is under 10 percent, the rest being carpet, wood, and other solutions. Natural stone is unique and spread in smaller quantities than ceramics; we can say that marble is leading this trend a bit. We are seeing a reversal in small workshops, the classic marble maker is being forced by the market to equip himself with numerically controlled milling machines and machining centers, water jets, etc., in order to go and process large ceramic slabs or other derivatives." 

Two years of pandemic, then the outbreak of war in Ukraine, which was followed by rising energy and commodity prices. What has been the impact on your company? 
"Price increases are being felt exponentially, this has forced us like others to adjust prices. It has been difficult, but customers have understood and we have overcome a complicated time for everyone. Never before have we seen business problems mixed with human problems as in the past two years. In the post covid year, we had a boom in work in the Apuo-versiliese area compared to previous years; however, in the face of increased demand there was a lack of raw material supplies and we encountered the opposite problem of not being able to meet all the demands." 

What were the main difficulties encountered? 
"Unlike others we have not encountered particular difficulties related to the procurement of raw materials, which for us are mainly steel - as we buy it in Europe - powders and diamond, while we have had problems in the receipt of goods. On this last aspect the lockdowns in China did not help. The war in Ukraine certainly hurt us from the sales point of view, as there are many ceramic companies on Ukrainian territory. Through long-term contracts we were able to buffer the period of the Covid and the war. We are waiting to see what will happen in the coming weeks, which will apparently still be marked by great uncertainty." 

As a result of the pandemic and the international economic situation, did the company have to make any changes to the operational structure? 
"The structure was already undergoing transformation thanks to the new project that was born in 2018, then realized with the merger of the partner company Peak, which specializes in tools for the ceramic industry, and was to be completed in 2023. The project has suffered some slowdowns, but we are working to recover. In addition, at the plant level we are trying to roboticize to increase efficiency; we have built a vertical warehouse that, although ready for some time in the company, we inaugurated after a few months because of the lack of a chip due to difficulties in sourcing raw materials."

How are you doing with your research and development department? 
"Our laboratory performs random quality analysis on raw materials to ensure their consistent quality. For both raw materials and tools, the solutions on the market are changing. We try to make more and more high-performance products that lead to higher yields; in this period when everything costs more, the customer is mistakenly led to think that the company saves on the tool, instead the opposite happens. We are continuing to invest in research and development to find innovative solutions compared to the traditional tool. Paradoxically, this is a very favorable period for investment."