As an engineering graduate of the world’s third-oldest technical university, Arim-Inc. owner Nilgun Bandari thoroughly understands the critically important role that quality materials play in the final outcome of any construction process. Her laser-sharp attention to detail and commitment to flawless workmanship had led to rapid advancements in the hurly-burly world of New York City design and construction—first as an estimator, then as job supervisor for a Metro Station construction site, and finally her selection in 1999 as one of six engineers tasked with the oversight of American Airlines’ massive overhaul of its terminal at John F. Kennedy Airport. It was a career path that was not only bright, but secure: the American Airlines project alone would end up spanning eight years.
But Bandari wouldn’t be around to see it reach fruition.
It was during the JFK Airport project that Bandari was introduced to terrazzo, a centuries-old flooring technique that reached peak popularity in the U.S. in the Art Deco period of the 1920s and 1930s. In terrazzo, Bandari saw an outlet that would leverage the synergy between her highly developed engineering skills, creative passions, and meticulous eye for details. By 2002, she had founded Arim to purchase and distribute the various types of aggregate materials—marble, stone, glass, and mother-of-pearl, to name a few—manufactured by crushing facilities that are commonly used in terrazzo.
Throughout the company’s first few years, Bandari wore dual hats, responsible for selecting the aggregates while simultaneously establishing relationships with the architects and contractors who would transform them into utilitarian pieces of artwork. As the business grew, however, she became increasingly aware that as long as Arim remained simply a distributor, quality control would remain to a large degree in the hands of her suppliers—and they didn’t have the end-use expertise to fully appreciate the overarching need for both consistency and quality in their deliverables.
“Terrazzo aggregate quality control is very difficult to understand for aggregate crushers,” says Bandari. “Terrazzo aggregate needs to be dry, dust-free—dampness or dirt is not acceptable. Some suppliers understood our needs better, but no one understood exactly why we were so meticulous about our quality measurements.” Simply put, what some suppliers deemed “good enough” wasn’t always meeting the needs of Arim’s customers—terrazzo contractors who needed aggregates that are sized and sorted based on standards developed by the National Terrazzo and Mosaic Association (NTMA).
What Arim needed was what Bandari succinctly describes as “full quality control,” and in 2015 it took matters into its own hands with the acquisition of its own production facility in Turkey. The site selection was a natural: Arim had been importing aggregates from Turkey for years, and favorable trade relations between the U.S. and Turkey helped streamline the process. What’s more, Arim has a business relationship in Europe and the Middle East—and Turkey has a very strategic location to serve all European and Middle Eastern customers.
As a manufacturer and distributor, says Bandari, Arim is poised to meet it clients aggregate needs on a scale that couldn’t have been achieved as only a distributor. Bandari says the facility can produce 100 tons of aggregate daily—five containers’ worth—and that “our delivery time has decreased by several weeks. We can now supply any size aggregate crushed or tumbled—we can even premix products. These are value-added features our customers have been asking for.”
And to ensure that the increased output doesn’t come at the expense of quality, Arim has taken the extra step of acquiring ISO 9001 certification for its plant. An international standard that lays out requirements for a company’s quality management system, ISO 9001 ensures that companies consistently deliver products and service that meet the demands of customers and the requirements of regulatory bodies, such as the NTMA. More importantly, however, it meets the demands of Nilgun Bandari. “Quality, quality, quality,” Bandari says. “We want to serve the highest quality products to our customers, and this is one more way to help us do it.”