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Intl. Marble Industries, Inc. Creates New Opportunities Through Marketing and Innovation Print E-mail

As was the case with many cast polymer manufacturers, for Intl. Marble Industries, Inc. (IMI) in Woodstock, Georgia, business was booming before the current economic downturn. According to owner Dirk DeVuyst, he and his employees had their hands full servicing all the accounts they had at the time. From 2004-2006 alone, the company manufactured and installed products including vanity tops, tubs, tub surrounds, and shower bases for approximately 16,000 of the 60,000 homes built annually in the Atlanta area.

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IMI has been a loyal Gruber customer since 1996 when under Dirk's leadership, IMI became an early adopter of the ULFF tub molds which immediately solved the thermal shock problems he had inherited from the prior owner, thus firmly establishing IMI in the Atlanta area as a reliable tub manufacturer and installer. The company later became one of the first purchasers of Gruber's Autocaster™ continuous casting system, which Dirk lauds as "the best investment I ever made." The machine been used to cast literally millions of pounds of cast polymer at the rate of thousands of pounds a day. "It is truly like the 'Energizer Bunny'... It just keeps going," says Dirk.

Dirk developed his reputation as an "outside the box thinker" early on when the company became known for a 5-day manufacturing schedule for its products. On the 6th day, the products were on a truck, ready to be installed at the job site. Eventually, the company was able to pare this schedule down even further to 3 days by keeping standard product sizes in stock and working off job specs so countertops could be installed the day after the cabinets. In addition, they pre-fitted their tubs with hydro systems, enabling them to ship both tubs and shower pans within 48 hours.

Then came 2007... and they had to "think way outside the box!" It became readily apparent that the single family home market, which had always been their bread and butter, would be slow in returning, so IMI went in search of other markets they could serve. Today, IMI serves 5 different markets instead of relying on just one:

  1. Exporting stand-alone luxury tubs to European distributors. The tubs include a "carved out of stone" Roman-type design which he developed by casting two tubs and fitting them together to create an integral overflow system in the middle. The design was further fine-tuned into a one-piece tub with a built-in overflow. Today those tubs represent one-quarter of his business with European distributors.

  2. Manufacturing specialty products for the remodeling industry. IMI created a custom shower base that can be incorporated into other products, allowing specialty remodelers to sell additional products to customers at increased profit.

  3. Developing unique wall panels for the hospitality industry, offering small samples within a week through rapid prototyping for initial approval by the customer.

  4. Supplying finished product for other cast polymer manufacturers allowing them to offer a broader range of products than their current tooling allowed. Some stopped manufacturing altogether and focused on selling and installing.

  5. Supplying finished product to single-family home builders.

 

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IMI fully appreciates the need for better marketing in today's business environment. "You need to let people know what your capabilities are, or it doesn't matter what you have to offer" according to Dirk. IMI utilizes e-marketing,  CMR software, and has marketing materials ready to go for each and every new product brought to market.  They also test markets a new concept in particular geographic areas before mass marketing it and gauges customer reactions.  Dirk admits sometimes results can be underwhelming,  but when something "hits"  it can be equally overwhelming!  "The results can be phenomenal," raves Dirk.

"Regional manufacturers should work together more closely," says Dirk, "playing to their strengths, whether those be manufacturing, marketing, shipping, or installing.  This would allow small local providers to keep working in today's regulatory environment."

He adds, "We need to be open to new processes and market them properly.  We also need to manage business relationships.  Let your customers know what you can do for them.  Stay in touch as often as possible.  We need to ask for the order!  We can't just sit and wait for the phone to ring.  We all need to be more proactive."

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