I hope many of you were able to attend Total Solutions Plus the last week of October in Dallas, Texas. It is always very rewarding to gather with industry professionals and learn from them how they are overcoming the challenges and changes we are all experiencing.
Are you wondering what’s coming to a tile distributor near you?
The answer is probably not surprising to many of you. I’ve just returned from attending the Cersaie Tile Fair in Bologna, Italy, for the second consecutive year. What I learned is that tile manufacturers are heavily investing in the technology to produce panels/slabs of porcelain tile larger than 1.5m x 3m and in thicknesses ranging from 3.5mm to 30mm. The push to sell much larger panels/slabs is just around the corner for the U.S. market.
This is positive news for those of us who take the professional installation of our products seriously. The training, education, tools, equipment, warehousing and transportation required to properly install these products will separate those who invest in their craft from those who don’t. Once again, the role of professional tile setter will be associated with skill and craftsmanship and the value of all installations will increase. When all tile was installed using mud-bed or wet-set methods, trained and skilled craftspeople were a must. The value they brought was respected, rather than seen as a commodity that just about anyone could do. Unfortunately, in the last 20 years, that is exactly what tile installation has become: a commodity with declining value and stagnant wages.
This change will open the door for tile manufacturers, mortar manufacturers and labor associations to work together as never before. With many of the properly trained installers beginning to age out of the workforce, we must create a pipeline that recruits, trains and certifies a new generation of professionals. Wages must provide a viable career and keep pace with the skill and training required. The alternative is to miss a great opportunity and allow commodity products with commodity wages to take away market share.
We have a short window of opportunity. How will we respond? I look forward to hearing from you with your ideas and perspectives as we take on this challenge together.
This is my last president’s letter to you – the members – and industry at large. I must express my gratitude for the opportunity to serve. It has truly been one of the greatest privileges of my life. The staff of NTCA is second to none. They bring passion and devotion to their work every day because they love what they do. I want to express my heartfelt thanks to the staff and the Executive Committee for the help and support you have given me. Without you and your friendship it would have been impossible.
As I pass the gavel of the NTCA to your next president, Mr. Chris Walker, I do so with total confidence, knowing that he will take us to much greater accomplishments.
Keep on tiling!
Martin Howard, NTCA President
Committee Member ANSI A108