Family company lays the foundation for success
Robert de Verteuil is one of the Directors at Micro Milling Ltd along with his father, Maurice and brother, Gregory. Micro Milling Ltd is a Trinidad-based, family-run company that produces sand/cement blends for the construction, home building, and contracting industries. Micro Milling grew out of a sand processing venture that de Verteuil’s father founded in 1974. At the time, the original company produced different grades of sand that were used for some oil field applications, water filtration, or were sold to other companies that would use the raw sand for their own blending purposes. In addition, before coal slag became a more preferred product, the company’s sand was also used for sand-blasting rust off of ships and oil rigs.
De Verteuil recounts Micro Milling’s evolution to what the company has become today: “We had a lot of expertise when it came to sand and sand sizing, and we had been speaking with some European experts about blending – we’d never done blending, before. We started doing some testing of blending sand and cement together with some additives, and that’s how we came up with products. There were two other local producers at the time – they were producing good products, but we thought that with some emphasis on quality and good service we could enter that market. And that’s how Micro Milling was formed.”
When the new company started in 1995, it only had one product – regular thin set, which is used for the installation of ceramic tiles, quarry tiles, brick pavers, clay tiles, and concrete tiles – one single plant, and about five employees. Today, over 50 Micro Milling employees at three plants turn out the following products: Regular and Premium Thin Set (White & Grey), Sanded and Unsanded Tile Grout in a wide range of colors, Plaster Mix, Concrete Mix, and Sandstone Render, which is used as a finishing material over plaster, brick, or concrete substrates. The company’s products are sold all over Trinidad, as well as in Guyana, Barbados, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Dominica, and Antigua.
Micro Milling gets its raw sand from quarries on the island and its cement from Trinidad Cement Ltd. Then it does all the processing. It does not sell any of its products direct to consumers, but rather relies on hardware or tile stores for their distribution. They, in turn, act as the company’s sales force.
De Verteuil explains how the company’s commitment to servicing the users of its products plays out in its day-to-day operations: “We have a good relationship with the tilers as well. Trinidad is not a very large place. We know some of the main tile contractors in the market. We keep our ears to the ground and make sure they are happy with our product. If they’re not happy, say, with the way something is drying, if it’s drying too fast, or too slow, if it’s not sticky enough, if they don’t like the packaging – we listen to those guys who actually use the product. I think that’s very important.”
De Verteuil further clarifies what sets Micro Milling apart from the competition: “We focus so much on quality. We spent quite a bit of time, effort and money setting up our own internal lab a couple of years ago. It has all the latest equipment capable of doing all the tests related to all the standards that our products meet. Usually, what companies do, is they send their products to the [United] States – there’s a place called the Tile Council and they test for ANSI (American National Standards Institute) standards. This process could take up to three months before results are received . . . but we do all our own testing. We do send it to the States to be verified that our tests are correct, but that is a large part of ensuring quality for us.”
In its ongoing quest for that high level of quality, Micro Milling hosted a training workshop, last year, at the Royal Hotel in San Fernando, Trinidad, conducted by the National Tile Contractors Association, Inc. (NTCA), the largest tile contractors association in the world, with over 1,000 members. Geared primarily towards local tilers and contractors, it was attended by approximately 50 tilers and distributors. The workshop covered a variety of topics, ranging from the preparation of substrates to grouting. The workshop was such a success, that de Verteuil hopes to hold similar events in the future.
How does Micro Milling stay ahead of the curve? “In our type of business, when it comes to plants and machinery, upgrades are a constant thing, always on your mind. Anything to improve your processes, or better your service toward your customers – it’s an ongoing thing. Over the past three or four years we’ve done a lot of upgrades. We built a new thin set plant and a new grout plant. We’ve raised our capacity to a level where we can actively seek out new export markets and we’re comfortable that Trinidad is serviced.” In addition, the company has added some new product lines, such as plaster mix and concrete mix. It also has begun offering smaller, more convenient, five-pound bags of tile grout for the do-it-yourself homeowner.
Although de Verteuil would like to expand the company’s export range, he is mindful of the particular restrictions that his products impose: “Because it’s a heavy product, I can’t compete with Florida, for instance. I can’t send product to Florida and be competitive with guys that produce product there. So, my range is the English speaking Caribbean countries for now, but I don’t see why, in the near future, we can’t get into some of the islands that speak Spanish and French, as well.”
As Micro Milling Ltd. grows, adding more diversity to its product lines, and broadening its markets, it will be able to build on its 20-year history of providing quality service to its customers. After all, it has already laid the foundation for its success.
AT A GLANCE
WHO: Micro Milling Ltd. WHAT: A manufacturer of thinset, grout, plaster, and concrete products WHERE: Point-a-Pierre, Trinidad, W.I. WEBSITE: www.micromillingtt.com