Brazil's biggest manufacturer of porcelain tiles announces plans to double revenue in the next two years. Reuben Ford analyzes an approach that aligns ambition, quality and customer satisfaction.
Click here to read the complete illustrated article as originally published or scroll down to read the text article.
With highly technological infrastructure, Cerâmica Elizabeth based in the north-east of Brazil, sets itself aside from run-of-the-mill tile producers. The company makes more ceramics than any other in the region and is the national leader in porcelain tiles.
Investment in imported production equipment, training and techniques has made the Elizabeth brand synonymous with quality and innovation. The company displays clear enjoyment for the business, priding itself on meeting the ever-changing demands of interior design.
Two new factories will open at the end of 2014 and in 2015. The expansion is part of accelerated growth strategy that targets 100 percent in the coming two years.
“Cerâmica Elizabeth was born to face the future. Planned investments and professional training schemes make the company highly competitive and self-sufficient in many aspects,” begins Commercial Manager, Juarez Júnior.
From Ceramic to Cement
When it was founded in 1984, Cerâmica Elizabeth (Elizabeth Ceramics) had its sights set on making a mark on the industry. The first major step came in 1986: expansion of the company’s ceramics factory in the northeastern city of João Pessoa. Three years later Cerâmica Santa Maria was launched, producing ceramic bathroom furniture known in the market as Louças Sanitários Cerâmica Elizabeth. Growth continued and in 2001 the group opened Porcelanato Elizabeth – the porcelain tile production company.
From 2004, twenty years after its launch, Cerâmica Elizabeth began consolidating its brand in South America, Eua, Argentina, Uruguai, Paraguai, Bdivia, Peru, Mocambique, Panamá, Trinidad e Tabago, Purto Rico, Chile and Belize. “The company gained ground primarily through competitive pricing, quality and product diversity with various colors and designs,” Juarez says.
In 2009 the Elizabeth Group defined its national presence by opening a facility in the south of Brazil. Elizabeth Sul, in Criciúma, Santa Catarina state specializes in polished porcelain tiles.
In 2011, the sale of Elizabeth Louças Sanitárias inspired a new project headed by the founder and President of the Group José Nilson Crispim, Elizabeth Cimentos (cements). In December 2014 the new facility, which will be the largest in the Elizabeth Group, begins operation.
Elizabeth has four plants in Brazil: three in João Pessoa in Paraíba state, producing ceramics and porcelain and the porcelain factory in Criciúma (whose current extension work will be complete in 2015).
“Our entrepreneurial spirit is insatiable. In 2013 plans were formalized for the installation of a huge ceramics facility in Goianinha, Rio Grande do Norte state. With a production capacity of three million square meters a month, it will be the largest in the sector,” Juarez says. The $175-million, state-of-the-art factory (Elizabeth RN) is scheduled to open in 2015.
Technology, 24 hours a Day
With the highest production volume of porcelain tiles in Brazil, Elizabeth prides itself on the latest technological innovations.
The kilns function round the clock, every day of the week. Cerâmica Elizabeth has come forward leaps and bounds from the hand-crafted tiles it produced back in 1984. “We have developed a means of producing high detail on a large scale, faster and with even better quality,” Juarez continues. The ‘means’ he refers to is revolutionary high-definition printing technology that reproduces patterns and designs on ceramic and porcelain.
“The HD technology is imported from Spain–we have more of these printing machines than any other company in Brazil,” Juarez says. The research and development team at Elizabeth analyzes national and international market trends to identify trends and the technology is used to design and reproduce a wide variety of styles.
Juarez elaborates: “We send professionals to trade fairs worldwide – most recently in Italy and Spain – in search of inspiration and the very latest ideas and fashions. It is not just a question of first-rate technology, but also being the first to bring out new designs.” The European HD industrial printers successfully and precisely reproduce cement, watermarks, wood grain, enamel, stone, granite and mosaic effects.
Elizabeth combines technology and design with a superior knowledge of the market. According to Juarez, continued growth and success are based on careful positioning. “Ceramic tiles are more popular with the middle class and lower-income customer (known in Brazil as the nation’s C, D and E classes). Porcelain tiles are more expensive and form part of more exclusive interior design projects.”
Despite directing product lines at specific markets, Elizabeth does not compromise on quality. The principal phases in tile manufacture are preparation of the raw materials, pressing, glazing firing, sorting and packaging. “There are two processes for raw material preparation, or grinding: dry and wet. In Brazil dry grinding is more common; it produces a slightly inferior quality tile. Elizabeth is part of the 30 percent of producers who use wet processing Juarez explains.
Both ceramics and porcelain are of equal importance to the group. Revenue is generated almost in equal shares, although the volume of ceramic tiles made is higher owing to lower cost. Thanks to technology and visibility, porcelain tiles are arguably more associated with the Elizabeth brand image.
Elizabeth is a nationwide company. The choice of opening a factory in the south (Santa Catarina) was a strategic decision, which considered the national market. Meeting market needs is clearly one of the company’s objectives. The new cement factory is a step Juarez describes as “a logical progression within the segment” and forming “part of our general context of products.”
Elizabeth has plenty of reason to celebrate as the company completes its 30th year. The two new facilities are projected to boost the group’s already above-market-average 12 percent annual growth to 100 percent over the next two years.
All eyes are on the market leader as its top technology and accelerated growth plans promise continued innovation in Brazil.