Italy-based Laminam manufactures and distributes natural surfaces for interior and exterior design applications. Its products are distributed in over 100 countries worldwide, and the company has experienced rapid and consistent growth in North America since it entered the market in 2011.
In the United States and Canada, Laminam surfaces are distributed through a network of distributors, select fabricators, and retailer showrooms. In July 2023, Laminam announced plans to open five new state-of-the-art showrooms with adjoining distribution centers across key locations in North America. Goals for the expansion include increasing the company’s presence in the retail market; supporting high demand from fabricators, kitchen and bath retailers, and the architecture and design community; and providing the highest quality of natural surfaces with quicker lead times.
Four of the five new showrooms and warehouses will be located in Canada’s major cities of Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and Calgary, with the company’s first U.S. distribution center strategically located in Houston, Texas. The facilities will vary from 16,000 to 40,000 square feet of combined showroom and warehouse operations. The Toronto location is scheduled to open this spring, and the remainder are underway.
Corporate Expansion Plans, Site Selection & Facility Design
In an exclusive interview with Philip Eeles, President, Laminam North America, we discussed Laminam’s current corporate expansion and its new facilities.
What were the factors that made this expansion necessary for Laminam?
The surface category has been growing exponentially in the last few years, and Laminam believes North America will be the largest market to grow our business. With increasing demand, to establish our market presence, it is necessary to have stock available locally to quickly fulfill orders.
Why did Laminam decide to expand its operations in these five locations? What factors make each of the locations work?
We looked at the general market economy, demographics, and growth opportunities of each region. We are strategically positioning ourselves in cities that allow us to reach the most important markets logistically, and where there is economic development and growth happening. We use market data, such as the Construction Industry Statistics, to understand which regions are investing in the construction sector and have the best potential for success.
Four of the expansions are in Canada, with Laminam’s first U.S. distribution center in Houston, Texas. What in particular made Texas—and specifically, Houston— the right choice?
Texas is a region that has been steadily growing economically for the last several years. Houston is in an ideal location, near the port (which makes it easier to receive containers), in the center of the main cities in Texas. We foresee many business opportunities in that market.
All the cities we are positioned in offer a great pool of skilled professionals in our industry that we can benefit from having on our team.
Did the local workforce play a role in your site selection decision for these facilities?
It is important to us to hire local people that can grow with the company. All the cities we are positioned in offer a great pool of skilled professionals in our industry that we can benefit from having on our team. It makes the hiring process easier, and we prefer to hire local people who understand the unique characteristics of their market, instead of having to relocate professionals.
Have local communities been supportive of these projects? How have local organizations been involved?
We are creating local jobs, not only in sales but also with warehouse and administrative staff. And by supplying new products to the local clients, they are also benefiting from our presence, as it gives them new design options. They can grow their business, and everybody benefits.
Moreover, we work with local organizations, such as the NKBA [National Kitchen & Bath] local chapters, to teach industry professionals about our products, and also collaborate with the industry in improving standards, creating events to develop business and so on.
Did you consider other locations? What process did you use to choose the ultimate locations?
We considered many locations, and this is just the beginning of our expansion in North America. For now, we have chosen to start with the places where we feel the return on investment will be fastest, with some great flagship locations for the business long term.
Do you foresee any further expansion?
Absolutely. We have an ambitious growth plan for the next five years and this is just the beginning. Many States in the United States have no representation of our brand, and there are lots of opportunities to grow and expand in the U.S. market.
What is the main purpose of your new showroom/distribution center facilities? How does the design reflect that?
A Commitment To Innovation, Sustainability
Laminam’s investments in innovation and sustainability are a major driver in its continued development. The company is committed to achieving circularity and safeguarding biodiversity through a range of sustainable practices. This includes transitioning away from traditional energy sources to renewable solar energy practices, reducing waste, and promoting recovery. In 2022, the company solidified its commitment by obtaining the ISO 14064-1 for Carbon Footprint and ISO 20400 for Sustainable Procurement certifications.
“Homeowners are constantly looking for sustainable options when it comes to the material selection for their homes,” stated Philip Eeles, President of Laminam North America. “We’re so proud that Laminam slabs feature 20-60 percent pre-consumption recycled materials in our slabs, which can contribute to LEED certification.”
The company’s commitment to sustainability goes beyond the product. From employee welfare to responsible procurement, efficient manufacturing practices, waste control and reuse of packaging materials, Laminam continuously invests in improving its sustainable practices.
Laminam has developed an innovative new production process that includes highly automated technologies typical of Industry 4.0, such as digital printing systems, dry cutting systems and internal logistics managed by automatic laser-guided vehicles. These methods and technologies increase energy efficiency while reducing the company’s environmental impact.
We want local representation, and having a local showroom and distribution center is key. Our products are design-oriented and are all about touch and feel. People need to see the large-sized slabs to appreciate the beauty of the products, which is not always possible through a small sample. We want to wow designers and clients when they come to our showroom, to make them feel welcomed and inspired by the design possibilities they have with our products.
In what ways are Laminam’s sustainability goals reflected in these facilities?
Our product is all about sustainability. We manufacture our products using Industry 4.0, and we have several ISO certificates and Sustainable certificates, such as Environmental Product Declaration. All of our products contain 20-60% recycled content in them, and they are fully recyclable. Through our showrooms, we want to let people know what we do, and how we collaborate for a better environment using sustainable practices.
Through our showrooms, we want to let people know what we do, and how we collaborate for a better environment using sustainable practices.
Do these facilities reflect your corporate culture in other ways?
Yes. All our locations are being set up to reflect the same look and feel as our headquarters in Italy. From the furniture to our policies and procedures, we try to maintain the same high standards that Laminam has everywhere else in the world.
Did you include any employee amenities when designing the new facilities?
Each facility design includes adequate parking for employees — which can be a real challenge in some of these urban centers. We also included change rooms for the team, a full kitchen with an eating area and resting area, ergonomic furniture and proper lighting.
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Please share any other important factors that influenced the location and design of Laminam’s new facilities.
One important feature we were looking for was high ceilings in the warehouse. In the future, we will install overhead crates to make the movement of materials much more efficient in the warehouse.
Our buildings are in great locations that are accessible from all parts of the cities they are in. We chose buildings that were newer, with an aesthetic that would complement our brand and an energy-efficient build, with less maintenance. We want the building exterior to reflect what is on the inside, where customers and employees will feel well and welcomed at our facilities.