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        Member Blogs from Turkey-David Benson, Architectural Ceramics, Inc.
        June 29th, 2015

        CTDA members recently traveled to Turkey on a Trade Mission and blogged about their experiences.

        Architectural Ceramics, Inc. takes on Istanbul: Part One

        When you are a part of the CTDA (Ceramic Tile Distributor Association), you’re given a unique opportunity to explore parts of the tile community you’d never have been able to before. As a member of the CTDA for over 10 years, Architectural Ceramics has time and again been able to expand our tile selections, our product knowledge, and our design network thanks to opportunities like this.
        Earlier this year, the CTDA approached its long list of members and suggested everyone join together for a trip to Istanbul on behalf of Turkish Ceramics Association of Turkey. In early June, Betty Sullivan and David Benson from Architectural Ceramics embarked on a journey with the rest of the CTDA to the country of Turkey. The trip was three days long, with the flight over spanning about 10 hours.

        Upon our arrival in Turkey, we were delighted to see that our trip from the airport to where we were staying offered several amazing views along the way. While it was a long drive, it felt amazing to be in such a new place with several days of excitement still in store for us. When we did finally arrive at the hotel, we were greeted and checked in flawlessly which was no surprise because the CTDA always makes sure to pick the most accommodating stays. After getting some rest, Betty and David headed to the opening reception on an amazing roof top, the nice breeze cooling them as they got to meet with many manufacturers and learn a little bit more about what was to come the next couple of days.


        Day 1 officially started the next morning, beginning with a European breakfast bar call Manzara. Manzara had everything from eggs, to sliced meats, to fresh honey literally hanging from the honeycomb. Everyone loved it! After breakfast, we went to our morning session, which was like a mini-tradeshow almost. We had the opportunity to hear from multiple professionals in the industry. Guvan, the head of a well known marketing group, taught us the history on ceramics in Turkey, as well as more about the culture itself. We were then introduced to the President of the Turkish Ceramics Association and we learned about the 30+ porcelain/ceramic manufacturers in Turkey trying increase exports to the USA, instead of just appealing to the European market.


        Trade shows are always exciting because they show us more of what their factories have to offer. Below are some photos of what really stood out from a product standpoint. A really great aspect to know is that Turkey can produce HD quality products, just like the US or Italy. However, consensus seems to show there is still a lot of growth that needs to occur.


        To learn more about Architectural Ceramics, Inc. click here.

        Ceramic Tile Retailer/Wholesaler Cuts Losses, Expands Business with Industry Specific ERP Software
        June 22nd, 2015

        Ton Holten began in the ceramic tile industry driving tile-laden tractor-trailers for a Dutch forwarding company from the far reaches of two continents back to his native Holland. In the 1980s, the Holten family moved to Canada and began Tilemaster, a retail and construction industry supplier in Aurora, Ontario, where it provides a vast array of metal, stone, slate and marble tiles, as well as countertops and related products.

        Early on at Tilemaster, Holten moved company accounting from paper ledgers to the computer, where Vigilant point of sale and inventory control software helped Holten control his business for over 20 years. But faced with a growing demand for tile fueled by a boom in local house building and a healthy economy, Holten moved Tilemaster from its original location to another in Aurora and opened a second store in Barrie, about 25 miles away.

        In 2005, Holten upgraded Tilemaster’s accounting software to Oneir Solutions Inc, a provider of scalable Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software that efficiently manages key business functions through one shared information database. But the new software runs on a modern-day Linux operating system, making it more capable of meeting the needs of an expanding business.

        The software update included modules that provided added capabilities to cover additional business areas and automate functions that had previously been performed manually. Yet on the Windows workstations where Tilemaster staff make entries at the sales counter, in the warehouse, and in the back office, there was little need for re-training.

        Jane Giggal, Oneir Solutions Inc. president, says, “We developed the upgraded software for growing businesses needing more capable, adaptable accounting and inventory control, and those with multiple stores or outlets.”

        Holten appreciated the result of upgrading Tilemaster’s accounting system.

        “By upgrading we were able to open and manage our new store in Barrie,” says Holten. “In the past, we did try a second store but had to re-enter the invoices from it by hand every night. Now with Oneir we’re always online with the new store in Barrie and can check stock, sales, and know what is going on in both locations up to the minute. We couldn’t have done that before.”

        One of the reasons Holten implemented the ERP system upgrade was to accommodate new storage for rapidly growing inventory in Aurora.

        “Now we have a new 40,000 square foot warehouse,” says Holten. “To efficiently manage the 3,000 different kinds of tiles, we need to be very specific. We have to show on the invoices how many tiles the warehouse has to pick, so the order taker knows how many boxes and how many loose pieces he has to pick.”

        To make that work, Holten needed additional controls over his inventory. So Oneir Solutions Inc. developed a “Tile Calculation” option available to clerks and other users at Tilemaster’s point of sale.

        “When a Tilemaster customer orders so many square feet of tile, the clerk can access the Oneir software, which calculates the required number of pallets, boxes and individual tiles, rounded up to the nearest unit,” explains Giggal. “That ensures that all tiles get paid for and that the correct quantity is calculated – rather than leaving it up to a warehouse clerk to do the math.”

        The software also shows on each invoice the weight of the order – so that the pallets of tiles shipped are not too heavy for the vehicles carrying them.

        “The weight feature double checks that the amount ordered is the same as the amount shipped,” says Giggal. “That means the shipping department cannot mistakenly send an order of 100 boxes when it should have been only 100 pieces. This provides much tighter control over valuable yet vulnerable inventory assets.”

        Giggal, given her background as a financial controller, has made sure that such controls have become a major part of the accounting software, which has helped to stem losses that were bleeding Tilemaster.

        “Because the people in the warehouse used to have to make their own calculations on how much tile a customer needs, I estimate we were losing $2 – $3 on every order,” says Holten. “We fill 20,000 to 25,000 orders a year. By upgrading to Oneir we’ve avoided the mis-shipments of too many or too few tiles going out to a contractor and have recovered more than a year’s wages.”

        Similarly, Holten uses the software’s order taking and invoicing capabilities to control costs and run Holten Impex International, the wholesale side of his business.

        That’s not to say that the always practical Holten didn’t consider other software systems when making his expansion plans for his businesses.

        “We did look at other accounting system suppliers,” admits Holten, “But their costs were way out of reach. Not just the initial costs but also the maintenance contracts were far higher. Even if their software were free, the fees we would have paid them over the year would have exceeded the total cost of Oneir, which is very affordable.”

        For more information contact:
        Oneir Solutions Inc., PO Box 112, Queenston, ON L0S 1L0; Phone: (877) 322-3580 x1; Email: info@oneirsolutions.com; or visit the website: http://www.oneirsolutions.com/

        Walk-In Shower Designs by Arizona Tile
        June 12th, 2015

        Walk-in showers are perfect for bathrooms of all sizes, adding elegance without compromising function. Walk-in shower designs bring a modern feel to any bathroom while allowing for efficient use of whatever amount of space is available. Below are some fabulous walk-in shower design ideas to consider; also, be sure to check out our Pinterest Board with amazing variations of walk-in showers!

        If you want to create a seamless transition between the shower area and the rest of the bathroom, a glass-enclosed walk-in shower is the perfect way to do so! This shower design is beautiful and luxurious, providing the look and feel of a spa.

        When combined with light-colored design elements, such as white subway tiles, the atmosphere of the bathroom becomes pleasantly light and airy. For smaller bathrooms, this combination is a real winner as it gives a more spacious appearance.

        Walk-in shower designs without doors add openness by creating continuity throughout the bathroom. Keeping the shower floor level with the bathroom floor, as pictured here, is a smart way to integrate the shower area with the rest of the room, as well as eliminating the possibility of tripping over a ledge when stepping out of the shower!

        Check out the Arizona Tile Just Imagine Design Tool and upload your bathroom to discover what your new bath could look like or use one of our many templates to see how your bathroom remodel could enhance your home. We’d love to discuss your walk-in shower design ideas for your bathroom. Please stop by any of our Arizona Tile locations to speak with one of our professionally-trained consultants. We’re always happy to help assist!

        About Arizona Tile
        Founded in 1977 in San Diego, California, Arizona Tile has grown into a nationally recognized commercial and residential distributor with more than 25 showrooms throughout seven Western states. Arizona Tile is one of the largest independently-owned importers of stone in the United States, offering more than 230 varieties of granite, travertine, onyx, slate, marble, limestone and quartz, plus medallions, porcelain tile, glass tile and other design creations. Founded by John Huarte, former NFL player and Heisman Trophy winner, the company is still family-owned after more than 35 years.

        Trade Mission to Turkey
        June 3rd, 2015

        Thirty Three members and guests have traveled to Istanbul to enjoy four days of meeting with Turkish Ceramic suppliers, networking, enjoying the sites and eating fabulous food! Members are able to meet one on one with suppliers and get new information on products and trends. This is also a great networking opportunity for our members to get to know each other better in a fun environment.

        We will be sharing the adventures of our members on this blog. Check back daily for new stories. You can view all of the pictures on our Twitter page.

        Tuesday, June 2: Mark Carlson, Century Tile

        Arrival day at CTDA Trade mission to Turkey. Long flight over for all. 9-13 hours depending on where travel originated from. Istanbul is the only city in the world sitting on two continents, Asia and Europe. With an unofficial population of about 20 million people, travel from the airport to the Conrad Hotel took as long as 1 1/2 hours. Beautiful reception on a roof deck looking over the Waterfront capped off a long day for all. It was a great time for many of the CTDA Members to reacquaint themselves with the Turkish delegation, some of those were also in attendance for the last Turkish Trade Mission back in 2006.

        Wednesday, June 3: Mark Carlson, Century Tile

        Day 2 is in the books. One thing that surprises most people who come to Turkey is the food. Over the years of travel, this is my sixth trip to Turkey and it has become my favorite location for food. Their mastery of the use of spices to accent flavor and not control flavor is excellent. Even the Hotel breakfast was spectacular.

        The event officially started with a presentation from the Turkish Ceramic Federation. Ctda president Tom Kotel gave an update on the business climate in the States and commented on how this was our second Trade mission to Turkey, the last being in 2006. The Federation set up basically a mini Coverings. There were 17 factories who had set up small booths displaying their new and best selling patterns and designs. All the factories are using the most up to date production techniques such as Ink Jet digital printing, Porcelain body productions, rectification and many are involved with the new trend in thin panel production. This allowed CTDA members to spend the day visiting and talking with the factories, determining which had the best opportunities for their individual needs and their market requirements. Many have showrooms in the Istanbul marketplace and arrangements were made to visit various factories on Thursday.

        At night, we were hosted on a 4 hour boat tour of the Bosphorus River, enjoying great Turkish wine, fabulous views, a narrated guide of the seaside from Saffet Emre Tonguc who is a noted author and travel guide, and another fantastic meal on the boat. The evening was topped off with a belly dance presentation with many of the CTDA members showing off their dance capabilities or in my case the lack their of.

        Thursday, June 4: Mark Carlson, Century Tile

        Many trips to various factory showrooms kept most CTDA members busy in the morning. It was impressive just how large and well laid out some of these showrooms were. While the trade show layout in the hotel gave most members a general overview of the factory and their offerings, this gave members a chance to see the entire collection and spend some time with the representatives discussing their offerings.

        Travel within Istanbul gives me an appreciation of just how good I have it back in Chicago. I can take the worst traffic day back home during a rush hour, and multiply it by about 5 as far as density of cars and trucks trying to traverse the city. What makes this even more challenging is that this occurrence happens all day long. Many of the roads were laid out hundreds of years ago, before the enormity of 21st Century traffic demands were in existence.

        The afternoon was a time of exploration for most members. Walking the foot traffic only streets of old Istanbul, experiencing the views from the top of the Galata Tower or traveling to explore the Golden Horn was on the agenda for most.

        The day was capped off with an elegant dinner on the shores of the Bosphorus River. The setting was spectacular the food was fantastic and an evening of music and dancing was enjoyed by all. Mr Bahadir representing the Turkish Federation and manager from one of the factories, thanked the CTDA members for attending the Trade Mission and told us of the plans of the Turkish Ceramic Federation to continue this type of gathering, hopefully starting in the US in the not too distant future. An exchange of appreciation was delivered eloquently by both Tom Kotel current CTDA president and by Jack Knies past CTDA president. I can safely say that a great time was had by all.

        Friday, June 5: Mark Carlson, Century Tile

        The last full official day of the trade Mission gave all CTDA members a chance to explore the history of Istanbul. We broke out into three smaller groups and spent the day exploring some of the wonders of Istanbul. Many of the members commented about how young our country is compared to some of the sites we visited. After a quick stop at the spice market, the group paid a visit to the Hagia Sophia Museum. The Hagia Sophia was constructed in 537 and spent the next 1,000 years as a Greek Orthodox Church and a Roman Catholic Church before being converted into a Mosque and now a museum. This was the largest church at the time and was completed in only 5 years. It was interesting from the perspective of all the different types of stone that was used in the Church. It was all cladded in a stone veneer which was cut using Silk thread, sand and water. An amazing technology for the time. A visit to the 3rd Century Cistern which provided running water to the palaces, a walk around the Hippodrome and mandatory visit to the Grand Bazaar. This shopping complex of over 4,000 stores was constructed 50 years before Columbus discovered America. Between 250,000 to 400,000 visitors travel the bazaar daily.

        The trip to Turkey at the guests of the Turkish Ceramic Federation was a complete success. Many relationships between Turkish factories and CTDA members were formed and just as important many hours of valuable networking between members were spent. Being able to spend casual time discussing business, common issues and strategies with other members was greatly appreciated.

        A big Thank You to the Turkish Ceramic Federation and CTDA putting this trip together.

        Architectural Ceramics Receives Best Of Houzz 2015
        June 2nd, 2015

        Architectural Ceramics has been awarded “Best Of Houzz” by Houzz, the leading platform for home remodeling and design. The comprehensive tile and stone company deemed “where the architects and designers shop” by Washingtonian Magazine was chosen by the more than 16 million monthly users that comprise the Houzz community.

        The Best Of Houzz award is given in two categories: Customer Satisfaction and Design. Customer Satisfaction honors are determined by a variety of factors, including the number and quality of client reviews a professional received in 2014. Design award winners’ work was the most popular among the more than 16 million monthly users on Houzz, known as “Houzzers,” who saved more than 230 million professional images of home interiors and exteriors to their personal ideabooks via the Houzz site, iPad/iPhoneapp and Androidapp. Winners will receive a “Best Of Houzz 2014” badge on their profiles, showing the Houzz community their commitment to excellence. These badges help homeowners identify popular and top-rated home professionals in every metro area on Houzz.

        “ACI has a worldwide assortment of ceramic, porcelain, natural stone, slate, marble, limestone, glass and metal tiles, with an extensive supply on hand, ready for pickup or to ship from our Rockville, MD and Chantilly, VA warehouses. In addition, Architectural Ceramics has over 30 specialty vendors which can be special ordered for your project.”

        “Houzz provides homeowners with the most comprehensive view of home building, remodeling and design professionals, empowering them to find and hire the right professional to execute their vision,” said Liza Hausman, vice president of community for Houzz. “We’re delighted to recognize Architectural Ceramics among our “Best Of” professionals for customer satisfaction as judged by our community of homeowners and design enthusiasts who are actively remodeling and decorating their homes.”

        With Houzz, homeowners can identify not only the top-rated professionals like Architectural Ceramics, but also those whose work matches their own aspirations for their home. Homeowners can also evaluate professionals by contacting them directly on the Houzz platform, asking questions about their work and reviewing their responses to questions from others in the Houzz community.

        Follow Architectural Ceramics on Houzz


        About Architectural Ceramics
        Architectural Ceramics (ACI) is a comprehensive tile and stone company servicing the design industry, including, but not limited to, the homeowner, designer, builder, contractor, architect and installer. Established in 1983, Architectural Ceramics is a family-owned and operated corporation. ACI has six convenient locations in the Greater Washington Metropolitan Area: Maryland: Baltimore, Bethesda, Rockville and Virginia: Alexandria, Chantilly, and Falls Church.

        About Houzz
        Houzz is the leading platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish – online or from a mobile device. From decorating a room to building a custom home, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world. With the largest residential design database in the world and a vibrant community powered by social tools, Houzz is the easiest way for people to get the design inspiration, project advice, product information and professional reviews they need to help turn ideas into reality. For more information, visit www.houzz.com

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