As with all décor and fashion items, ceramic tiles are subject to trends. With high-definition printing techniques, major manufacturers are able to create virtually any tile pattern the market demands. But not all consumer demands are aesthetic ones.
South African-based tile and bathroomware manufacturer Ceramic Industries’ research into the local market reveals an uptick in demand for locally produced goods that are made in a sustainable and eco-friendly way. “With South Africans focusing on their home renovations and creating work-from-home spaces in recent years, that trend has only grown stronger,” says Sales and Marketing Director Gary Bowler.
For the company itself, ecological responsibility is more than just a fad. “We’ve made it a core value at Ceramic Industries, because we realise our stakeholders are a broad group,” says Gary. “It includes our customers, our employees, the communities that surround us and the country at large.”
Proudly South African, proudly responsible
For 45 years, Ceramic Industries has invested in its seven local factories, constantly upgrading and innovating to meet the demands of the market. They’ve also invested in upskilling staff, and uplifting local communities with study bursaries and educational support. Every upgrade to their factories has come with energy- and water-use efficiencies – for instance, many of the factories’ kilns recycle heat for use in other processes.
They’ve also implemented simple but effective solutions like movement-activated lighting and solar-panel roofing at certain plants, and they’ve switched from fossil-fuel to electric-powered forklifts in their warehousing. In addition, approximately 95% of all packaging materials come from recycled paper.
Light, strong, eco
“One of the projects we’re most proud of is our EcoTec range,” says Gary. “It’s a real leap forward in manufacturing. Our team set themselves the difficult challenge of producing a thinner tile that was as strong and durable as the existing range.” The new production technique uses less clay in the manufacturing process to produce a lighter tile with all the strength and resilience of its predecessors. A consequence of this innovation is a reduction in gas emissions from the kilns, reduced packaging needs and a lowering of transport emissions, thanks to the lighter product.
When there’s a natural convergence between what customers are looking for and the values by which a company operates, it’s usually a recipe for success, whatever the trends. “We’re a proudly South African company, using locally sourced raw materials, a homegrown team and a commitment to sustainability,” says Gary. “We think that South African customers appreciate that.”