Portobello set to start up its new factory in Baxter

Portobello’s new state-of-the-art factory in Tennessee will be started up in April and will have a yearly production capacity of 3.6 million sq.m of ceramic tiles.

Luiz Felipe Lenzi Brito, CEO of Portobello America

In April, just as the latest new products take the spotlight at Coverings 2023 in Orlando, Florida, the Portobello technical team will be putting the finishing touches to the new state-of-the-art factory in Baxter, Tennessee, which is expected to give a big boost to Portobello America’s operations in the US market. The company’s staff are counting down the days to the start-up of the facility and are clearly thrilled about the opportunities offered by the 3.6 million sqm/year production site equipped with cutting-edge technology.

“We are building a state-of-the-art facility in Baxter,” Luiz Felipe Lenzi Brito, CEO of Portobello America, tells us. “Our goal is to be a one stop shop for our distributors. Our plan, from the beginning, was to produce porcelain tiles in sizes ranging from 30x60 cm up to 120x120 cm. We will offer products with matte, polished, and honed finishes, with colour body along with both rectified and pressed edge treatments. We also invested in a flexible small format production line. Here our focus will be wall tile solutions in sizes from 7.5x15 cm up to 30x60 cm with a high variety of fine finishes.”

The US operation in Baxter will give the Brazilian brand a clear competitive edge, although Lenzi Brito does not believe that the lower cost compared to currently imported products from Brazil will be the most important factor.

“While cost is a differentiator, I do not believe it is the major differentiator. We believe that what will make us successful with that factory is service, time to market, and a more assertive product for the market,” he explains. “In addition to our USA production, we plan to continue our strong outsourcing strategy bringing product from Brazil and other countries, complementing our lines and delivering a complete solution to our clients.”

Portobello’s startup in Baxter does not appear to have encountered any administrative hurdles.

“The cities of Baxter and Cookeville are supporting and embracing our project in a very enthusiastic way,” confirms Lenzi Brito. The recruitment process also went very smoothly, something that could not be taken for granted in a country with a very low unemployment rate and a shortage of manpower across all sectors

“This was a positive surprise for us,” says Lenzi Brito. “Up to this point we’ve been successful to attract and hire excellent talent in our region. Our intention is not to bring staff from Brazil, only in the start-up phase to help us with training and technical assistance. We could not be happier to have selected Baxter and Tennessee to be our home in the USA.”

Prior to opening the new factory, Portobello America has spent an intense and challenging year preparing for its new manufacturing presence in the US ceramic valley.

“Even though it was not an easy year for the USA ceramic tile market, we performed well,” says Lenzi Brito. “We expanded our client base, developed and launched more lines focusing on the USA market and ramped up our sales preparing for the startup of our new American factory.”

Nonetheless, Portobello America’s CEO warns that 2023 will be another far from easy year.

“Inflation and higher costs are impacting the market for sure. There is a lot of instability, coming mainly from logistics (internal and international) as well as fluctuating energy costs. These factors make it difficult to maintain a stable pricing strategy, especially for the companies that depend more on imported products. I believe we will face a deceleration in our industry, bringing us back to a prior to Covid “normal” stage. That said, even with this situation I believe that the domestic producers will seize the market opportunity, knowing that distribution will have to be more cautious in terms of inventory levels and time to market.”

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