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Investing in technology for a bright, stylish future

FOR over 45 years, Ceramic Industries has been a leading player in the ceramic tile and bathroom ware manufacturing sector. During this time, the company has worked tirelessly to ensure the highest manufacturing quality, anticipate world trends, and provide the Southern African market with products that suit their needs and tastes.

It’s been a long and successful journey, yet Ceramic Industries is a company that’s constantly looking to the future. “I think it says a lot about our commitment that we’re investing in our factories, our people and our environmental performance,” says Commercial Director Gary Bowler.

Over the last four decades, the company has sustained their investment in world-class machinery, from Italian-made SACMI presses and kilns, high-definition printers, Geiss vacuum-forming machines for their acrylic baths, robot spraying arms, and BMR polishing and rectification equipment. This has ensured that their factories are able to produce local products equivalent in quality to the best in the world.

As part of a company-wide commitment to sustainable manufacturing and as a way to increase efficiencies, Ceramic Industries began implementing environmentally responsibility production methods some years back. This was driven by the company’s values, but was also echoed in their customers’ changing needs.

“We’ve always relied on research to anticipate the needs of the market so that we’re able to respond quickly,” says Gary. “The global pandemic accentuated what our research was already showing – that consumers are actively seeking globally competitive, locally produced product, which are manufactured in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner.”

With the various lockdowns, many South African customers focused on their living spaces. Online searches for locally produced, eco-friendly products increased significantly, and a considerable amount of money was spent on upgrading and refurbishing work-from-home spaces. “During this period, we spent time analysing our supply chain and the sustainability of our manufacturing processes,” says Gary. “We spent valuable resources on improving efficiencies with the intention of reducing our carbon footprint, utilising the most sustainable products in our manufacturing process and entrenching our position as a sustainable and credible manufacturer and employer.”

One major change instituted by the manufacturer was the development of an innovative new tile production method. Their range of EcoTec tiles are made using less clay, but result in strong and durable products that comply with all necessary SABS specifications. A consequence of this innovation is a reduction in gas emissions from the kilns, reduced packaging needs and a lowering of transport emissions thanks to the lighter product. In addition, the manufacturer reviewed their packaging needs, and approximately 95% of all packaging materials are now from recycled paper.

New investment in manufacturing equipment continued throughout 2021, including a R350 million reboot of their SAMCA Floor Tile factory. Old equipment was dismantled and replaced with a state-of-the-art SACMI Continua+ tile press and 241m-long, energy-efficient kiln. The new machinery comes with considerable savings on electricity, gas and clay wastage. The tile press is suited to larger formats, and the factory is testing sizes up to 1 800 X 3 000mm – when these are ready, they’ll be the only South African-made slabs on the market.

Another recent investment, this time in Ceramic Industries’ Gryphon factory, has been a BMR polishing plant that turns out polished and rectified tiles in a range of formats. “We’re excited to be able to offer our retail partners South African-made, large-format, rectified tiles and polished products” says Gary. “We’re satisfied that they’re of the absolute highest quality and will enter the market at competitive prices compared to imported products.”

By investing in their factories and rooting decisions in sustainability and customers’ needs, the company believes they’re setting themselves up for success. “We call ourselves the Creators of Style,” says Gary, “and part of that means creating the conditions for a prosperous future in South Africa. That’s the kind of future we’re working towards.”

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