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NALFA celebrates 20 years of leadership, innovation

September 11/18, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 7

By Reginald Tucker

 

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 2.30.49 PMNew York—Current and long-time members of the North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA) convened here earlier this month to mark a significant milestone—20 years in the business. The event included an update on the standards-setting group’s objectives and goals, a recap of the state of the laminate flooring industry and, most importantly, the unveiling of a new website more indicative of 21st century technology.

The improved website—nalfa.com—sports a brand new look and feel with updated content and improved mobile access. It is designed to enhance the experience of consumers, trade professionals and industry members.

“We are excited about the redesign of our website,” said Dan Natkin, NALFA president. “We have worked hard to make the website user friendly for consumers who are researching their floor options while continuing to be the voice for the laminate flooring industry. We are proud of the final product.”

A few highlights of the revamped site:

Fresh new look. Reflecting a more modern 21st century feel, the new-look nalfa.com site—which features the NALFA 20th anniversary logo atop the homepage—provides easier navigation by using the top tabs or clicking on the photos. “Consumers can also view all images on one site instead of clicking through to the various members’ sites,” said Barbara June, who in addition to handling legal/marketing matters for Swiss Krono also serves on the website committee.

More consumer oriented. More consumers are conducting research online before they buy. To that end, the site reflects the customer as opposed to NALFA corporate.

Better responsiveness. “We didn’t have a responsive, mobile-friendly website—now we do,” June stated.

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 2.31.18 PMThe next step in the site’s evolution, according to June, will entail a search tool that lists all certified laminate installers by state.

“I would like to thank all the members for their time and input, especially Dan [Natkin], Travis Bass [executive vice president, Swiss Krono] and Roger Farabee [senior vice president, laminate and hardwood, Mohawk]. They went above and beyond the call of duty.”

State of the industry

In his address to members and guests in attendance, Natkin provided an overview of the laminate category in the U.S. “In 20 years it has become a $1 billion-plus industry. Members in this industry employ hundreds of people who are involved in the production of laminate flooring, and

the retailers and installers employ thousands who service the end customer.”

He also reminded attendees how the category has withstood intense pressure from competing flooring segments, particularly wood, LVT and, now, WPC.

“People forget laminate is one of the most environmentally sound products—and that’s coming from a wood guy. Laminate comprises 95% renewable content.”

More importantly, Natkin cited the high level of cooperation of NALFA membership, which includes the likes of Arauco, Armstrong, DMX Underlayment, IVC U.S., Kronospan, MP Global Products, Mannington, Mohawk, Pak-Lite, Pergo, Quick-Step, Sealed Air Floor Care Products, Selit Foam Solutions, Shaw Floors, Swiss Krono and Torlys. These companies, he said, represent the vast majority of laminate flooring sold in North America.

“There is a higher level of engagement in NALFA than any other trade organization in which I’m involved,” Natkin stated. “And as we enter our third decade of existence we’re continuing to serve as the police of the industry. We’re unique in that we are led by the members. The individual voices come together as the collective voice of NALFA. Each leader in this room dedicates an amazing amount of time, effort, energy and passion toward advancing our message around the goals of standardization and the benefits of laminate flooring to both the consumer and the industry.”

Not the same old laminate
“Both regular and associate NALFA members are continuing to invest millions of dollars in the production of laminate flooring in support of continued demand among consumers,” Natkin said. He cited a number of innovations, including water-resistant coreboard technologies, improved visuals and surface technologies. “It’s not the laminate flooring of 20 years ago,” he told attendees.

Mohawk’s Farabee agreed, adding the group is focusing on building a platform for the future. “It’s our job to remind people of the incredible benefits this category offers. It’s a wood-based product; it’s the most durable hard surface product outside of ceramic; it’s the easiest to install; it’s the most cost effective product on an installed basis; and it offers the most realistic visuals of any ‘replica’ product on the market. For consumers today, the potential for future sales is greater, particularly as we focus on new aspects such as moisture resistance. There’s a role for the laminate category to play with respect to the new products that are starting to emerge.”

 

Tribute to a colleague and a friend

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 2.33.22 PMNew York—The 20th anniversary celebration of the North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA) came to a close with a touching tribute to Bill Dearing, the man who served as its president from the group’s inception in 1997 until his passing in late 2016. Dearing, who not only presided over NALFA’s evolution but was also instrumental in bringing the Pergo brand to the U.S. market, lost his battle with cancer at the age of 75.

“We are members today because of Bill,” said Peter Barretto, president of Torlys, a long-time NALFA primary member. “He was a class act and gave to everyone in this room. He was the glue.”

Dan Natkin, current NALFA president who also serves as vice president of hardwood and laminate at Mannington, concurred. “Bill was always there for you if you needed anything. I considered him a colleague and a good friend.”

Natkin credited Dearing for bringing standardization to the laminate industry, eliminating the “Wild West” mentality that existed around claims. “He lived and breathed laminate flooring; he was passionate about it. He became synonymous with laminate flooring.”

Jack Boesch, marketing director for MP Global Products, a long-time NALFA associate member, recalled his early interactions with Dearing. “We were the first company outside the flooring manufacturers to get involved with NALFA, so naturally I asked a lot of questions about the laminate category. Bill welcomed me with open arms.”

Lars von Kantzow, former CEO of Pergo, hired Dearing in 1990 to help launch the Pergo brand in the U.S. “Dearing was literally Pergo’s first sales rep for Pergo,” he said (FCNews, Oct. 24/31, 2016). “He mapped out our distribution strategy and made the first contacts. He brought in retailers Carpet One and Color Tile, and then distributors such as Misco Shawnee, Bayard and William Bird. He was absolutely instrumental in putting Pergo on the map.”

Many industry members and associates were on hand for the tribute, including Roula Dearing, Bill’s wife of many years.

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MP Global event celebrates 20th anniversary

August 28/September 4: Volume 32, Issue 6

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 12.03.29 PMNorfolk, Neb.—MP Global recently commemorated 20 years in the business by holding a special “employee appreciation” event to mark the milestone. The event included a golf outing, special recognition of longtime workers as well as food, fun and activities.

Beyond the fun-filled festivities, the event provided an opportunity to reflect on the company’s storied history. When Al Collison, founder and president of MP Global Products, inserted the key for the first time into the large vacant building that is now the headquarters, he stopped before pushing the door open and asked himself out loud, “Well, I wonder how this one will turn out?” Having just sold his shares to his cellulose insulation company he ran for many years, he felt there was more he could be a part of and build.

Fast forward 20 years, MP Global Products has stood the test of time, positioning itself as a leader in the underlayment industry. Starting out, MP Global made carpet padding, which Collison admits now that floating floor underlayments were the farthest product from his mind. “QuietWalk was discovered almost by accident,” he recalled. By his account, a former colleague said he was onto something with this thin, dense pad with a vapor barrier on it that could be installed under laminate, a product category that was soaring in popularity in the late ’90s. Once the new product was tested and developed further, it quickly became the underlayment many installers preferred under floating floors.

“What makes QuietWalk so different than other underlayment products out there is it’s made from 94% recycled textile content,” said Jack Boesch, MP Global’s marketing director. “We like to say we were green long before being green was popular.”

Because of the natural fiber makeup of the product in the patented manufacturing process, MP Global’s fiber-based underlayments inherently have zero off gassing and are third-party certified for clean indoor air quality, passing all California requirements for clean air.

Legacy of innovation
Since the early days, MP Global has evolved products into what flooring trends have demanded. The company recently launched QuietWalk Plus, which—unlike like its older sibling, QuietWalk—can be used under floating applications. QuietWalk Plus also offers one universal underlayment that can be floated, glued or nailed down. The secret is in the vapor barrier, which is engineered to accept glue or a mechanical fastener. “So many things have changed in recent years with flooring innovations, we realize we need to adjust to those changes as well,” Collison said.

Having many new innovative products to offer, MP Global is positioned to be the one-source underlayment provider for all dealers’ or distributor needs. “Because of our vast assortment of underlayments for virtually any type of flooring on the market, we can mix one truck with all the different products,” Boesch added.

More importantly, MP Global cited the teamwork employees exhibit day in and day out as its greatest asset in the last 20 years. “We are all in this together,” Collison said. “It is pretty special that we have enjoyed success, and it could not have happened without every member of our team.”

 

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Karndean celebrates Korlok release at corporate headquarters

Screen Shot 2017-09-05 at 10.28.31 AMExport, Pa.—Karndean Designflooring welcomed area architects, designers, retailers and homeowners to its U.S. corporate showroom and headquarters outside Pittsburgh to celebrate the new Korlok collection—an innovative plank featuring rigid core technology, comprised of 12 colors in a 56 x 9 format.

At the event guests received a passport and traversed on a tour of the facility, where they discovered the global inspiration story behind each Korlok design at themed stops along the way. Karndean Designflooring’s internal product designers drew inspiration from North American and European woods, including Texas Ash, Oak and Butternut. The event also included interactive product demonstrations and giveaways.

Korlok features several elements that help both the speed and ease of installation. Its layers of premium performance include: a pre-attached acoustic foam backing, eliminating the need for a separate underlayment and making Korlok Karndean’s quietest floor to walk on; a 5G locking mechanism that allows installers to quickly click and lock planks together; proprietary, waterproof K-Core technology, providing a rigid core that allows for installation over most existing hard floors, such as ceramic or hardwood; and K-Guard+ surface protection, which provides hygienic, durable surface protection. These elements keep subfloor preparation to a minimum and make installation adhesive-free.

“As interior designers, we constantly seek the most high-quality products to enhance our interior spaces,” said Nancy Spears of Savoy Interior Design. “Korlok is at the top of my list for looking, acting and performing like wood, but has qualities that go beyond hardwood like that it doesn’t promote microbial growth, has acoustical qualities to meet educational and business needs, and is a true floating floor that can go over uneven surfaces.”

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American OEM honors workforce with annual BBQ

Turney cookout serving line 2016Burns, Tenn.—American OEM held its third annual Staff Appreciation Lunch at the Turney Center Correctional Facility, the company’s manufacturing location, July 14. The celebration was created to recognize the efforts of the company’s 200 offender workforce and correctional officers for their hard work, and to ensure they feel a part of the American OEM family, according to the manufacturer.

During the event management staff served the offenders a home cooked meal prepared by Todd Braun, American OEM’s COO. In order to feed the crew, Braun and a team of other employees worked for three days to barbecue over 300 pounds of meat.

“Serving the staff is our way of showing them their tremendous efforts throughout the year do not go unnoticed or unappreciated,” said Doug Van Nest, vice president of manufacturing. “They are fundamental members of our team and without them we could not be successful.”

Last year’s celebration included a motivational talk by U.S. veteran, Christian Brown, who has the company’s hardwood floors installed in the smart home he received from the Gary Sinise RISE Foundation. This year, American OEM highlighted key production milestones and showed the workers and Department of Corrections staff a snapshot of company activities from other areas of the business.

“It is important to show our team how the job they do every day ties into other parts of our company and help make us successful,” explained Allie Finkell, executive vice president. “Product photography, displays with our products at retail and seeing the final product of trade show booths they built in the plant provide them with a big picture perspective they would not otherwise be exposed to in their role.”