With 40 years dedicated to create products that satisfy its consumers in their every day lives, Vitromex is a leading brand name in North America in ceramic flooring and accessories. Clear management vision and assertive decisions took the company to dynamic growth. Susana Baumann reports.
Founded in Saltillo, Coahuila in 1966, Vitromex is today a leading brand name in the manufacture and commercialization of wall and floor ceramic and porcelain tile. A part of Grupo Industrial Saltillo (GISSA) Vitromex is one of its core businesses, with the highest profitability and leadership in the markets it serves.
The company started operations in 1967 producing bathroom fixtures, accessories and complements in Mexico. In 1979, management made a decision to explore the production of ceramic wall and floor tiles. “With time, Vitropiso became a market name, a generic name to call tiles in Mexico,” said Rodolfo Fernández, CPA and general director of Vitromex S.A de C.V. Since then, Vitromex decided to specialize in coverings. In May of 2006, the company sold the bathroom fixtures, accessories and complements side of the business to a German manufacturer.
“We decided to focus on the ceramic and porcelain tile production, which has shown to be the most successful line of products. Recent trends in construction, remodeling and interior design are proving increased preference for ceramic tiles against other products such as wood or carpeting,” said Fernández. In truth, the national market has expanded in the last six years due to the increased effort of the Mexican government to boost housing developments. President’s Fox administration focused on developing new financial alternatives for people from all walks of life, from state and private employees to self-employed workers. As a result, the construction industry in Mexico experienced a substantial acceleration in new projects as well as remodeling and alterations.
New low-income and residential housing projects have developed steadily to moderate the more than six-million-unit housing deficit in the republic. Accordingly, the tile industry has shown signs of recovery after the 1999-2001 crisis, a consequence of the segment’s plummeting in the international markets.
For that reason, the company had steady 12 percent growth in the last five years, increasing its installed capacity to five plants hiring 2000 employees. Two plants are located in Guanajuato, one in Saltillo, and the other two are recently launched plants in Chihuahua and San Luis Potosí. These plants produce Vitropiso, the brand name for floor tiles, special pieces such as borders, trims and edges, and wall tiles. Location of these plants ensure the best supply of raw materials to maintain the high quality standard of Vitromex products, which allow the company to compete at national and international levels.
The Chihuahua plant was opened in 2004, with a $42 million investment, and generated 250 new jobs. This plant increased the company’s installed capacity by 20 percent and covered a wide market in the northern region as well as improved product shipping to the North American markets.
In 2005, the company also launched its San Luis Potosí plant, considered the largest and the most technologically advanced facility in Latin America. Production lines at this plant have the capability of manufacturing ceramic as well as glazed porcelain tiles of larger dimensions that will add to the variety, colors and designs already offered.
In Mexico, the company focuses on residential and institutional projects, and lately is targeting commercial developers. “We cover all market segments, from low to medium-high income consumers because we offer a great variety of products and prices,” Fernández added.
In addition to a deep participation in the national arena, strong expansion into international markets have resulted in exports to the United States, Canada, Bahamas, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Costa Rica and Chile, among other countries.
In 1998, the company established a subsidiary based in San Antonio Texas and distribution center in Laredo Texas, offering easy access and fast delivery service to distributors in North America. “Today, we export 15 percent of our production ‘north of the border’ and we continue to grow. Domestic production in the United States has shrunk, but worldwide imports have increased, which creates an aggressive competition in this segment,”
In Mexico, the company has developed a distribution network with trained specialists offering products in more than 650 points of sale throughout the republic. Distributors’ showrooms present integral solutions displaying the way beautiful designs with ambiance can be created by combining Vitromex products. To achieve maximum client satisfaction, the company has created training programs to its authorized distributors that stress providing advice and recommendations, full knowledge of the different lines of products, and installation assistance for each particular product.
“An important aspect of our success relies on the every day work of our sales teams, their solid experience in the segment, and their true commitment to the vision and goals of the company,” Fernández explained, “Final consumers in every region of the country can be assured that they will receive personalized attention in each of our authorized distributors, supported by the expertise of our sales force.”
These efforts have been supported by the company’s marketing department, which has concentrated on total satisfaction approach. A careful planning process of the marketing strategies has evolved into a solid marketing department. Specialists in different marketing areas define and administer the product portfolio, and the merchandising, promotion and advertising programs based on research of consumers’ preferences and participation at international events.
Likewise, products are backed with extensive research and development, an internal resource that follows the evolution of products and their technology, from inception to production lines. In focusing on consumer satisfaction and education, Vitromex created “Domus,” a multidisciplinary design center that works with the latest trends and lifestyle changes of consumers. “At Vitromex, we believe our ceramic tiles need to be at the forefront of innovation, continuously offering new designs, new shapes and forms, and a broad color palette from which our final consumers can choose,” Fernández said.
With Domus, the company follows up on international styles and fashion changes. Vitromex has received awards for five consecutive years at Coverings, the renowned international fair expo that takes place every year in Orlando, Fla. Coverings offers the opportunity to find the finest collection of tiles and stone products, as well as tools and machinery in America. Over 1,200 manufacturers from all over the world participate at this event from countries in Europe, Asia, North and South America.
Vitromex also participates at Surfaces, an equally important event of the ceramic industry that takes place annually in Las Vegas, Nev. More than 40,000 retailers, architects, designers, builders, installers and distributors from around the world attend Surfaces to follow trends in products, find answers and strategies, and seek opportunities to succeed. Surfaces not only offers more than 1,000 exhibiting companies and thousands of new products but also conducts training and education sessions on every aspect of business development.
“Participation at these events is an effort that we see fit for a company like Vitromex that has proven to be world class, and can compete with the quality standards, presentation and designs of any manufacturer out there,” Fernández remarked.
At a national level, Vitromex also participates in several annual events such as the famous Expo Ferretera in Guadalajara, state of Jalisco, a 17-year-old national expo that offers participation to small, medium and large companies in Mexico, the United States, the Caribbean, Central and South America; and the Encuentro Nacional de la Vivienda de la Federación Nacional de Promotores Industriales de Vivienda in Mexico City, a national event that gathers over 500 companies participating in the construction industry in Mexico.
Through its authorized distributors, the company also participates at regional fairs and expos in Mexico, such as Expo Mueblera in Chihuahua, state of Chihuahua, Expo Cihac in Mexico City, and Expo Constructo, in Cancún, state of Quintana Roo.
BEAUTY AND RESISTANCE
Vitromex products for floors, walls and accessories offer integral design solutions to create beautiful interior or exterior surroundings for residential and institutional settings. Floors are offered in glossy, semi-glossy, rustic and mat finishes, and also wood imitation texture. The glossy and semi-glossy finishes include over 40 varieties of color and décor combinations while the rustic and mat finishes offers over 30, which results in unlimited design possibilities.
Motives can vary from plain textures to marble and stone imitation, with the resulting advantage in lower cost. Colors offer a wide range from pastels to solids. Sizes of 13 by 13 inches and 13 by 6 inches also contribute to variety and infinite arrangement possibilities. The slabs are squared, with or without chamfering, and with a variable number of engravings that, once laid, match perfectly in the joints.
Wall tiles, on the other hand, add to an even greater variety. Besides over 30 different styles, each style includes a decorated insert piece that can be used alternatively, grouped or as an accent. Matching trims, borders and panels and a mix of different sizes and materials create interiors that can be decorated with contemporary or traditional finishes, marble effects or the material texture of natural stones.
This broad range of colors and textures, suitable for every application both as floor and wall tile, is stain and chemical resistant, easy to lay and keep clean, and is highly resistant to wear and tear over time. “Our products are quality guaranteed, have excellent performance through the years, and excellent price-value ratio for the final consumer,” Fernández added. Seventy five percent of the company’s production is dedicated to floor tiles while 25 percent is for wall and accessories, with an installed capacity of producing 54 million square meters annually. Projected sales for 2006 are in the range of (U.S.) $260 million.
“We are launching a new line in 2006, the glazed porcelain tile, a result of investment in new European and American technology for our San Luis Potosí plant. This tile is stronger than traditional tiles, and can be exposed to extreme temperatures without problems. It is in high demand in the United States and Mexico, and can be used outside or indoors,” Fernández explained.
This new tile, technological and eco-compatible, is ideal for a cozy environment in both residential and business spaces, and is enriched by the technological features of glazed porcelain, a creative process for use in bio-building industry. Glazed porcelain floor tiles for interior and exterior use are guaranteed for years against wear and tear, frost, excess heat, and stains.
To help final consumers, designers, architects and contractors find the perfect combination for their projects, the company has launched the “digital decorator,” a tool that allows visitors to see 14 million combinations of installed products in different rooms and settings. The system is simple and user-friendly, and the software can be downloaded from the company’s website in combination with the company’s product catalogue. The digital decorator presents different living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms, family rooms, kitchens, and bathrooms scenarios and exterior patios.
QUALITY THAT COUNTS
Vitromex international standards are supported by its ISO: 9002 certification, and a BVQI ISO: 9002 and ANSI/ASQC Q9002 certifications. In addition, the company obtained a quality recognition award in 2004 from the state of Coahuila. “These recognitions were for our efforts to change the ways of thinking and doing business, and to focus on total quality and competitiveness to confront the new challenges of globalization,” Fernández said.
In addition, the company obtained the Grand Award Excellence in Exhibiting at Coverings 2000, and the International Tile Stone Exposition Award of Merit at Coverings 1999, 1998, 1997 and 1996. Similar awards were received at the Construexpo 95 of the Cámara Guatemalteca de la Construcción in Guatemala; Expomateriales 94 in Hermosillo, Sonora; and the sixth Congreso y Evaluación de la Vivienda – A.D.I.V.A.C.- Expoadivac 94 in Monterrey, Nuevo León.
According to Fernández, high standards and competitiveness are essential qualities to access the international markets, while continuous improvement brings growth and expansion that generates employment and increased life quality for the Mexican people.
In addition to its commitment to quality and design the company also is committed to the environment and the community. “We need to work on a complete and integrated plan, with quality as the ultimate goal for the company, our employees and the communities we serve. We follow the culture of our parent company, Grupo Industrial Saltillo, that stresses on improving processes, innovation in design and quality of our products, increased services and assistance to our distributors and standing by our products with a 100 percent quality guarantee,” he concluded.