Special report on surface design: Big slabs for big ideas

Special report on surface design: Big slabs for big ideas

After introducing Maximus, the largest slab to be manufactured in the region, RAK Ceramics will launch this autumn a new collection with a strong focus on customisation to meet the needs of architects and designers

The significant drop in oil prices has had an impact on some vital sectors of the economy, especially infrastructure and real estate. However, RAK Ceramics remains very positive about the continued growth of the construction industry across the GCC.

“Performance in our core markets is solid despite ongoing global economic challenges,” says Stefan Schmied, President of the Tiles and Sanitaryware Division at RAK Ceramics, adding that Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar are the leading consumers of ceramic tiles in the Middle East.

Schmied adds: “This will continue to increase as these countries have secured the rights to host international events, such as Dubai Expo in 2020 and the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar. In Saudi Arabia, the Saudi National Development Plan to improve housing is also an exciting project.”

Along with market fluctuations, Schmied explains that China presents the most imminent challenge for the flooring market in the region.

“China produces low-cost products that appeal to the high degree of price sensitivity in the GCC tiles market”, says Schmied, “and this influx of Chinese products has forced many GCC manufacturers to target only the high-end market, as Chinese products tend to dominate the low-end. The same applies for Indian manufacturers in the wall tiles sector.”

Schmied says that the company is well prepared for risks that may arise from events such as the postponement of new projects, slow growth in the construction sector and general uncertainty regarding the impact of lower oil prices in the GCC.

Maintaining its strong global distribution network mitigates the impact of a downturn in one particular region.

“We have been very successful in implementing the appropriate risk management measures and throughout the financial crisis of 2009 we maintained a strong performance across all our business units,” he says.


From a single factory in Ras Al Khaimah, RAK Ceramics has grown to become a global player and has 16 plants including 10 for tiles, two sanitaryware and one for tableware in the UAE and one plant for each in India, Bangladesh and Iran respectively. It has a global annual production capacity of 110 million m2 of tiles, 5 million pieces of sanitaryware, 24 million pieces of tableware and 600,000 faucets.

As one of just a handful of manufacturers in the world with cutting-edge Continua+ technology, RAK Ceramics is now able to produce extra-large porcelain slabs. Maximus Mega Slab is RAK Ceramics latest manufacturing advancement, standing at an impressive 135x305cm. It is, according to Schmied, the largest slab to be manufactured in the Middle East.

“We are one of the largest ceramics’ manufacturing plants in the world, with the latest technologies all under one roof. From 10x10cm up to 135x305cm, we can produce tiles of any size, any colour and any design, allowing us to produce bespoke tiles to meet the needs of whatever architects or designers desire,” says Schmied.

This autumn RAK Ceramics will launch its latest collection with a strong focus on creativity and customisation as Schmied notes that customisation is one of the biggest trends in interior design for the hospitality sector.

“Hotels with inspirational designs have even become travel destinations in their own right and many hotels and restaurants, along with commercial buildings, have been turned into memorable spaces through their use of design,” he says. “Boutique hotels are re-inventing spaces using creative recycling as well as raw materials, which lead to more sustainable venues.”

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Speaking of sustainability, RAK Ceramics has also developed a range of products designed to promote energy efficiency and environmental sustainability.

“In tiles, we were the first to produce RAK Slim, an environmentally friendly tile, which has the same finish and features of a standard tile but consumes 50% less raw materials,” adds Schmied. “Our wood art collection is designed to look and feel like real wood, but without the need to cut down trees. In sanitaryware, we became the first manufacturer in the region to introduce a 2.5 litre half flush and 4 litre full flush for our water closets in 2009, and in 2014 we launched Eco Fresh – an advanced urinal sanitation system, which uses unique ‘odour trap’ technology and requires absolutely no water to flush.”


As the lines are becoming blurred with the integration of indoor and outdoor spaces, surfaces play a very important role.

“Nature is brought inside in every possible way through wood panelling, stone decoration, lush greenery or indoor waterfalls,” Schmied says, adding that mixing is a must whether that be colours, textures, designs or sizes. “The new trend is a mix and match fusion of contemporary and classic design and the most important feature is the way we use different materials. Mix and match is a modern way to use ceramics bringing together traditional and modern materials, small sizes with super-sized slabs, different shapes and shades of colour, creating an exciting new style of surface design.

Natural looking inspired tiles: In its recent launch, RAK Ceramics presented e a balanced portfolio of products consisting of the solid, marble, concrete, wood and metal ranges. The designs come in different colours and are continuously developed according to customer needs. Commenting on the current trends, Schmied says that natural soft hues such as shades of grey, tortora and sand beige, with some bright colour insertions, are ideal to create particular contrasts, along with the use of natural looking materials such as fabric, wood and stone effect.

“Also for us a new trend is the research into soft surfaces that give warmth and a comfortable feeling to the ambiences,” he says.


Despite uncertain markets, the company’s net profit increased by 10.8% for the first quarter ended 31 March 2016.

As with any manufacturer in the building materials market, delays to projects, projects being cancelled or changes to project requirements are among some of the major challenges RAK Ceramics faces both in the region and around the world. With 25 years of ceramics’ expertise, its products are featured in some of the most iconic buildings in the world, such as the Burj Al Arab, Atlantis on The Palm, Ferrari World, Wembley Stadium, the O2 Arena, Mercedes Benz showrooms, airports and shopping malls.

Stefan Schmied, President of the Tiles and Sanitaryware Division at RAK Ceramics

In 2015 the company’s products were used in more than 160 projects worldwide, including Carrefour, Qatar; Ford Showroom, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Hilton, UAE; Ibn Battuta Mall, UAE; Infiniti Showroom, Kingdom of Bahrain; Al Ain Hazza bin Zayed Stadium, UAE; The Address, UAE; and Kuwait International Airport, Kuwait.



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