It was in May 2015 that we last visited Cosentino in Spain with some of our regular clients. On that occasion it was Andy Phillips and Naomi King who led the group; this time Naomi and Andrew King were the AG representatives.
In the atrium of the main Cosentino administration building – the Pyramid
The HQ and largest manufacturing plant of Cosentino is at Cantoria in Almeria province, about half way between Malaga and Alicante. The region has been a centre for marble quarrying and associated industries for thousands of years, and it was the gentle white stone from this area which is familiar to visitors to the Alhambra in Granada and other great buildings of the region.
Naomi and I were joined on our trip by friends from four local kitchen firms or building companies: Benjamin-Allen of Wivelsfield, HKS of Haywards Heath, Lewis Charles of Redhill and Oxted Kitchens and Bathrooms. All of these firms have done an increasing amount of business with us over recent years, and it was a great opportunity to get to know some of their people much better. The group really clicked; we had a great time together and would all do it again given half a chance!
Our group at the Cosentino quarry – photo by our guide, Jan
Our journey was from Gatwick to Alicante, and then by bus to Fines, the village closest to the factory. The flight was memorable for the fog over southern England, with Surrey and Sussex covered except for the Downs which lifted their heads above the blanket: we crossed them near Worthing.
From foggy West Sussex to the blue of the Med – not a bad place to be going in January!
In the picture at left, the band of mist hugging a valley through the South Downs is hiding the A24 near Storrington.
The Multi-Factory Cosentino Plant as it was in 2014 – significantly larger since then, and only one of six production facilities in Spain and in Brazil.
Photo from Cosentino’s own website.
I have been to Cosentino events before and I know that a warm professionalism is the hallmark of anything they put on. This was the same… nice hotel (every surface seemed to be clad in Silestone, Dekton or Cosentino natural stone… good food and a well-planned programme.
Hannah and Nikki from Oxted Kitchens looking at the design visualiser
Debra from Benjamin Allen with Nicola from Cosentino
Our programme for the visit was not that different from the previous one two years ago, when Andy and Naomi went, and their write-up can be seen here. I was impressed by the scale, the cleanliness, the automation, the commitment to quality control and to recycling of materials. Much has moved on since that last visit – Cosentino has been in a state of constant growth and development, with new production lines and larger factory space. It is that growth and sense of vision that most struck me, and I wanted to focus on it in this blog.
Dekton XGloss Halo for a stunning white, high-gloss, durable floor.
Lloyd from HKS at the marble quarry
The Cosentino family have been involved in marble quarrying and processing for two generations, but the real growth of their company has occurred only since 1990, when the first Silestone line was opened. That means that in around a quarter century Cosentino has grown from a small firm with less than 20 employees to a major multinational company with a presence in 32 countries and regular exports to 80.
Managing that kind of growth is a phenomenal challenge. And once you add in the element of technical innovation, it boggles the mind. The vast Dekton plant with its multiple production lines, smooth robotic pallet trucks and tiny staff is producing a material that was launched less than five years ago. I was involved in Research and Development years ago in the food industry, and I know something of the challenge of going from laboratory testing to production with a new product, even when the basic technology is tried and tested. The idea of going live with not only a new product but a whole new technology staggers me.
A small part of the Dekton plant
Justin from Lewis Charles in the showroom area
The machines in the first line have to be created from scratch by raw, bespoke engineering. Given the issues of scaling up there can be no way of knowing for sure quite how things will work out. Looking at the long rows of ovens and compactors, each line several hundred metres long, it is easy to imagine a set-up cost of hundreds of millions of pounds. That is perhaps half a billion before a single saleable slab is made, and before you can know for sure that it is all going to work.
To manage growth of that scale and speed needs a blend of ambition, wisdom and sheer nerve that can be found in few people. When you then meet Sr. Paco Cosentino as we did, and find him charming, respectful and hospitable, a good listener, still keen to find out what is selling in our market, and how his products are working out in our workshop and for our customers, you know you are in the presence of someone pretty special.
A slab of Orinoco granite in the Sensa warehouse
A slab of Silestone Carbono in the Pyramid
That is what I took away from the visit. We know Cosentino principally through their Silestone brand. We associate that brand with quality, consistency, innovation, design, good customer service and support. When you see what lies behind that, and the other Cosentino brands, and that it has all come about since 1990, you have to feel impressed. And challenged.
Andrew King, Sales and Marketing, Affordable Granite