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ISFA’s Fabricator Forums: Two-Day Sessions Designed to Educate and Inspire

ISFA’s first Fabricator Forum of the year was a huge success. The event, which took place in Charlotte, North Carolina, included presentations and roundtable discussions on silica safety, empowering employees to become problem solvers, tooling best practices for porcelain and Dekton, and leveraging artificial intelligence.

“I took so many notes my hand hurts,” said Kari Chalmers of Humboldt Countertops and Surfacing. “Using AI to help write emails will be a game changer!”

Attendees toured two fabricator shops — The Art of Stone and Harkey Tile & Stone — where they had an OSHA overview designed to identify common oversights and maintain compliance.

“We first learned about silica at an ISFA event nearly 10 years ago,” said Troy Page of Ellis Page Company. “The silica presentation and overview included some updates that helped me identify some places we might have exposure. I recommend these fabricator forums; there were so many great takeaways.”

Feel like you’re missing out? Meet ISFA in St. Louis in September or Sacramento in June! Stay tune, registration opens soon!

Got an issue in your business that's weighing you down?

Tell us about it and we'll consider adding it to an upcoming event, virtual or in person.

ISFA aims to provide the tools and resources you need to break down barriers in your business. If you've got a problem, we've got answers!


ISFA Appoints New Membership Director

ISFA is pleased to announce the appointment of Heather Duve as its new membership director. In this role, Heather will lead the association in driving membership growth and retention, as well as contribute to the development of events, programs, groups, resources and other initiatives.  

Before joining ISFA, Duve served as the membership and development director at the Water Quality Association (WQA), an Illinois-based organization representing the point-of-use, point-of-entry water treatment industry in the United States. During her tenure, she oversaw membership recruitment and retention initiatives, facilitated member support and spearheaded sponsorship recruitment for WQA events.

Before her time at WQA, she held positions in member services for various associations, including the Urgent Care Association of America. Heather earned her degree in journalism from Bowling Green State University, and she maintains a Certified Association Executive designation from the American Society of Association Executives.

“I am thrilled to join the ISFA team,” said Duve. “And I’m looking forward to applying my expertise to drive membership growth and engagement through the strategic development of the value proposition and the creation and expansion of programs and resources that support fabricators and other industry professionals. I continuously seek innovative methods to enhance the member experience, and my dedication to delivering exceptional customer service is unwavering.”


Fabricators Eye Growth Opportunities by Upskilling with Solid Surface

ISFA was in San Antonio, Texas, for another Solid Surface Fabrication Training class this week. With shops in attendance from Alaska to Dallas, this two-day training course is designed to help those in the industry who are unfamiliar with solid surface fabrication learn best practices and get hands-on with the material and the tools used to fabricate it. 

More and more clients are asking for solid surface material, admitted Greg Routt of Lonestar Stone and Construction. We want to stay ahead and expand what we can offer as a company. 

Fabricators at Solid Surface Training March 2024

ISFA’s executive director, Marissa Bankert, joined the San Antonio training hosted at Gecko Solid Surface Solutions. It was her first opportunity to see the class firsthand and connect with some of the association’s newest members. Most of the attendees are currently working with other materials such as stone and quartz, said Bankert. But considering the viability of solid surface in commercial applications, there’s a growth opportunity for these fabricators to extend their offerings. That was the prevailing sentiment of many in attendance, along with the desire to keep up their education as fabricators overall.   

A special thanks to our 2024 Solid Surface Fabrication Training sponsors, Aristech Surfaces, Integra Adhesives, BB Industries, and especially our trainer, Aaron Davis, for being dedicated to the success of fabricators everywhere.  

The next Solid Surface Fabrication Training session will be June 4-5 in McSherrystown, Pennsylvania, which will include an expanded session on thermoforming. Stay tuned for more details. 

California's Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board Votes To Adopt Additional Silica Safety Requirements

An Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) was unanimously approved by the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards board on Thursday, December 14. The standard will go into effect on December 29 pending a final review by state officials. 

The new ETS requires that all fabrication of artificial materials containing more than .1% silica or natural stone materials containing more than 10% crystalline silica by weight be done using wet cutting methods. In addition, fabricators will be required to full-face respirators.


The vote comes on the heels of an engineered stone ban in Australia. Authorities there unanimously agreed to impose a national ban on the material beginning July 1, 2024. The motion is in reaction to a surge of silicosis cases among workers, especially fabricators of countertops and similar applications.


Heading to Coverings? Don't Miss These Fabricator-Focused Opportunities

New trends, innovations, and techniques are all in a stone’s throw at Coverings 2024. Coverings offers essential opportunities for stone fabricators to discover innovative equipment, products, tools and materials to keep current with the latest trends. Find sources for natural and dimensional stone products from around the globe that meet LEED criteria. Participate in complimentary demonstrations and seminars for technical and marketing know-how to improve your ability to market and sell to specifiers and dealers.

Coverings ISFA Booth 6306 Promo

For the second year, ISFA is a proud sponsor of the Fabricator Stage in Hall C, Booth 6203, just a stone's throw away from ISFA's booth, 6306. The Fabricator Stage will focus on the most relevant topics for tile and stone fabricators, providing you with the information and ideas you need to move your business forward and complete your next project. The stage was a hit at Coverings 2023, so we’re expanding the programming and adding afternoon happy hours for 2024!


Silica Safety: ISFA Weighs in When Forbes Asks, 'Are America's Favorite Countertops Going Away?'

For years, designers and specifiers have been recommending quartz countertops as way to elevate any space. Writer and Designer Jamie Gold, who frequently covers wellness design and housing trends, looked beneath the surface to discover that engineered stone has a dangerous side. Are America's favorite countertops putting those who fabricate the material at risk?

According to the American Lung Association, approximately 2.3 million U.S. workers are exposed to silica in the workplace, including 2 million in construction. Gold said she wasn't aware of the risks to fabricators when she was recommending the material to her clients.

Now she wonders, "As designers and homeowners — particularly Millennials and Generation Z — weigh human issues more than ever in product selection, this becomes a powerful consideration. It is too for regulators here and abroad, as new worker safety rules and even a national ban go into effect."

Gold reached out to ISFA to learn about safe fabrication practices and how the industry creates regulations that protect fabricators from the risk of silicosis while manufacturers innovate safer materials.


Technistone, A Subsidiary of Wilsonart, Vows To Stop Doing Business with Noncompliant Fabricators

According to KBB Review, Czech-based quartz manufacturer Technistone will stop supplying materials to fabricators who dry cut slabs, in the wake of ongoing controversy about the safety of engineered stone. The company, a subsidiary of Wilsonart, said that its new policy reaffirms its commitment to the safety of its workers and the wider industry as a whole.

Despite countries such as Australia banning the product outright, companies and organizations still stress that the material is safe and responsible to use so long as safety protocols are observed.

Following the Australian government’s decision, Caesarstone released a business update stating, “the products are safe to fabricate under safe working practices.”

Technistone has said that going forward, it will not supply its materials to those who don’t cut engineered stone slabs using wet cutting techniques. It added that this decision is in line with its commitment to safety standards within the industry. 

ISFA Fabricator Profile:
Tower Industries

Founded by father-and-son team Bob and Todd Werstler in 1995, Tower Industries is known nationally as a manufacturer of solid surface shower and restroom products.

Located in Massillon, Ohio, about an hour south of Cleveland, the company expanded to include a stone fabrication division, Tower Countertops — now one of Ohio’s leading custom surface fabrication and installation providers. As a family-owned and operated company, the Tower team takes pride in delivering premium surfaces built from quality materials supported by reliable customer service.

Tower Industries Meridian Panel CastingHumble Beginnings
Todd looks back at how it all started. His father, Bob, got his start in the plumbing trade, eventually owning a plumbing business and then a hardware store. Later in his career, he worked as a sales representative for a cultured marble company. Meanwhile, Todd went off to college to pursue a degree in business. It was then he discovered a passion for economics. After college, Todd worked for a transportation company, where he gained valuable cross-functional experience and a prowess for management. But the entrepreneurial spirit was alive and well in the Werstlers.

“I wanted to work for myself,” said Todd. “I wanted to create something unique — find a niche in the marketplace.” With a deep understanding of cast polymer products, Bob’s idea was to delve into solid surface. “In the ’90s, solid surface was seeing extraordinary growth in popularity,” Todd recalled. “So we huddled together and carved out an opportunity.”