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Domestic production remains at American OEM, Hearthwood Floors’ core

Burns, Tenn.—The family behind American OEM and Hearthwood Floors has a long-standing legacy of manufacturing quality engineered wood floors in America. Keeping manufacturing in the United States is a central tenant of the company’s promise to provide their customers with the most beautifully designed, highest quality products and responsive service possible.

For over 80-years, the Finkell/Anderson family has been committed to producing hardwood flooring in the United States and continues that commitment in a time where imported material has become the industry norm. In the last 10 years, Asian production of hardwood flooring has slowly increased, going from around 15% being imported in 2008 to more than 50% today. Even in such a difficult economic climate, the leadership at American OEM and Hearthwood has remained dedicated to “Made in America.”

“We are extremely proud to produce our flooring right here in the United States,” said Allie Finkell, executive vice president at Hearthwood, and great granddaughter of Andy Anderson, the inventor of engineered wood flooring in 1938. “Our legacy over the past four generations includes manufacturing everything from plywood to veneer to flooring in our domestic facilities. By doing so, we can maximize control over quality and service so our customers know they are receiving a superior product and the shortest lead times.”

Currently, there are no specific country of origin label requirements at the point of sale, so it can be very difficult to determine where products are made. “Made in America” is a prestigious designation because it requires “all or virtually all” of the components be of U.S. origin, and the manufacturing must be done on U.S. soil. At American OEM and Hearthwood, all of the wood sent to the state-of-the-art manufacturing plant is grown in the U.S., and all parts of the process are completed under the same roof in the company’s plant outside of Nashville, Tenn., to earn the “Made in America” label.

The mill features the longest wood floor finishing line in the world, to produce lengths up to 8 feet, as well as wide widths in a variety of species and platforms. It is flexible in the constructions it can produce, ranging from veneer core to HDF core, topped with sawn, sliced or rotary face veneers. Limitless design capabilities are achieved through a talented, hands-on workforce and industry leading staining techniques for every color of the spectrum. The American OEM/Hearthwood facility is efficient, and therefore has capacity to accommodate increases in the demand for domestically produced engineered wood flooring.

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Made in the USA: U.S. suppliers leverage advantages of domestic production

April 30/May 7, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 23

By Mara Bollettieri

Many domestic flooring suppliers cite numerous advantages in producing stateside. A huge benefit that Don Finkell, CEO of American OEM, pointed out is the ability to respond quickly to changing design trends in the industry. “We are closer to the market, so we are more aware of consumer preferences,” he explained. “In addition, consumer trends favor locally made products. American made has become a whole movement of its own.”

Others cite much shorter lead times as being a key benefit. “We have the ability to deliver product for large installations within four weeks,” said Michael Raskin, CEO of Raskin Industries. “In addition, we can fill in our domestic inventory to support distribution and our distributors can bolster their supplies if needed, which provides excellent support and turnaround.”

Matt Rosato, director of portfolio management, Anderson Tuftex, concurred. “When you have domestic production vs. something that’s sourced overseas, we are more agile and able to quickly hit lead times, especially for some project work. If it’s overseas, you’re looking for, after production time, 12-16 weeks of transit time into the U.S., where we can turn it around in a couple of days.”

For executives like Jimmy Tuley, vice president of residential resilient, Mannington Mills, being able to innovate and bring products quickly to market go hand in hand. “We’re also in control of our process. It’s one of the cores of Mannington—to be able to control your own destiny. And when you produce, you control that whole supply chain.”

Tom Lape, president, Mohawk Residential, can attest to that notion. Mohawk Industries is in the middle of a major push toward domestic production, with $700 million invested in five different plants. He noted that 90% of what the company produces is being sold right here at home. Beyond that, he said, “there is a high level of supplier reliability; the more you in-source, the more you create a more reliable customer and there are fewer big surprises.”

Onshoring creates jobs

Opening plants here at home, suppliers say, has increased the number of employees that suppliers need to hire. Paul Stringer, vice president of sales and marketing, Somerset Hardwood Flooring, shared that the number of employees has increased exponentially over the years now that the company has onshored production. “I started work at Somerset in 1999. At that time, we had roughly 225 employees; today, we employ more than 900 people throughout all of the Somerset operations.”

The creation of more jobs, in turn, sparks work in other industries as well, executives say, thereby stimulating the overall American economy. Mannington’s Tuley illustrates how opening plants throughout the U.S. has done precisely that. “If you look at a plant that’s growing and expanding, chances are there’s a restaurant in that area that’s opening, there are roads that are being worked on—all sorts of service industries spring up around manufacturing facilities.”

Anderson Tuftex’s Rosato also believes there’s a direct correlation between plant openings and the creation of jobs in surrounding communities. “We have a large project in Alabama with Shaw that we are investing millions of dollars in, stimulating local jobs in that state as well as other states in which we manufacture—be it California, South Carolina, Tennessee or Alabama. This is definitely impacting and increasing the workflow and job creation in those states.”

Don Maier, president and CEO, Armstrong Flooring, also feels his company is contributing to the increase in jobs in certain states. “Our domestic manufacturing supports local jobs, and we are a significant employer in many of the communities where our U.S. plants are located,” he stated.

Inherent challenges

Despite all the advantages to onshoring, there are some inherent challenges. The most prominent is the void associated with the rise in manufacturing job openings vs. the lack of a skilled workforce to fill those positions. Somerset’s Stringer can attest. “I think this new generation has frowned on factory work or production work,” he told FCNews. “Young people today want to work on computers or sit in front of a screen. They don’t see themselves doing physical labor.”

Vance Bell, chairman and CEO, Shaw Industries, concurs that finding employees in this modern age is difficult. However, he said, the company is trying to encourage people to work in this field. “We believe we have an opportunity to educate students about the rewarding careers available in manufacturing and the diversity of career paths they can take here at Shaw.”

But even in cases where you have skilled employees, there’s still somewhat of a learning curve—especially when opening up a new plant. “It’s extensive and it takes time to train people, to get equipment exactly how you want it,” Mannington’s Tuley said. “It’s a major undertaking to be able to do manufacturing in the U.S.”

Other challenges that suppliers face is the competitive pricing of products from overseas. “The most notable is the battle against cheap imports,” said Frank Douglas, vice president of business development, Crossville.

Some consumers, he noted, are indifferent when it comes to the whole Made in the USA movement, opting instead for less expensive goods.

Potential impact of tariffs

Many flooring industry executives say it’s too soon to tell whether policies instituted by the Trump Administration have helped accelerate domestic production (see related story on page 20). On some level, though, many feel the mere threat of U.S. tariffs on some Chinese imports could indeed enhance domestic production.

According to Gregg Link, senior director of product management, Dal-Tile, those who make products overseas may be at a disadvantage if these tariffs are enacted. But that’s a big if. “For those that don’t have manufacturing capability and have a heavier reliance on sourced goods—and in particular China—that’s obviously going to be something that they’re going to question,” he said. “I don’t think there’s any definite direction.”

American OEM’s Finkell sees the threat of tariffs on some imported goods as beneficial to Made in the USA. “I do believe that uncertainty around what President Trump will do with tariffs is helpful to the domestic industry. Prudent buyers are increasingly hedging their bets so as to not to have all of their eggs in the import basket if a trade war breaks out or significant tariffs are imposed on imported wood floors.”

Mannington’s Tuley is uncertain about the threats as well but feels those who onshore have the upper hand. “It’s so difficult to tell in our current environment what could happen. Certainly, tariffs could change the pricing structure of flooring products if they’re taxed in certain ways. And that could give companies that manufacture in the U.S. an advantage. But it’s so hard to predict what’s going to happen.”

Shaw’s Bell feels that regardless of whether the tariffs happen or not, Made in the USA is the way to go. “We just believe it makes economic sense for any company to have some level of in-market production for their products,” he said. “That is the overall trend globally.”

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Made in the USA: Domestic production hits its stride

April 24/May 1, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 23

By Ken Ryan


Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 2.36.11 PMOn April 18, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to implement the “Buy American, Hire American” rhetoric of his campaign. The executive order came as part of the President’s effort to prod U.S. businesses to invest more money domestically and create jobs for American workers.

If the President was looking for an industry that could serve as the role model for this cause, he might consider the flooring sector. Led by the major manufacturers, the flooring industry has been doing its part to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. and create thousands of new jobs.

Anecdotal research shows by the end of 2017, there will be 13 new LVT, sheet, rigid core and carpet plants completed in the U.S.—a testament to the so-called “reshoring” or onshoring movement—a term used to describe the return of manufacturing to U.S. shores.

Cathy Gundlach, vice president of merchandising for Flooring America/Flooring Canada, International Design Guild and The Floor Trader groups, said there is a lot to like with this trend. “We continue to see manufacturing plant investments and openings into the U.S. marketplace for the production of flooring from our key suppliers, which in turn is growing the assortment of Made in USA goods available to our consumers.”

Industry observers say onshoring is rapidly gathering steam among flooring manufacturers. While full capacity has been slowly ramping up, executives point to 2017 as the year when production really gains a head of steam.

What manufacturers are doing
Shaw has invested significantly in manufacturing capacity with the recent completion of its new LVT facility in Ringgold, Ga.; the opening of a new carpet tile facility in Adairsville, Ga.; the expansion and modernization of an extrusion facility in Columbia, S.C., and the expansion of its hardwood manufacturing facility in South Pittsburg, Tenn. “In 2017, we’ll truly begin to see the benefit of those investments with each entering a full year of operation,” said Randy Merritt, president. “That gives us even greater ability to meet customers’ quality and service needs with a diverse portfolio of products.” In addition, by the end of 2017, Shaw will have completed its 67,000-square-foot Create Centre in Cartersville, Ga., which will house the commercial division’s marketing and design teams.

Mannington, which launched its “Let’s Make Some Noise” campaign promoting domestic manufacturing back in 2011, now has its production tentacles spread throughout the U.S. The company manufactures all residential and commercial sheet vinyl as well as VCT in Salem, N.J.; all laminate in High Point, N.C.; all carpet in Calhoun, Ga.; all rubber in San Jose, Calif., and Eustis, Fla.; more than 80% of hardwood in Epes, Ala., and High Point, N.C.; and most LVT in Madison, Ga.

Not to be overlooked, Armstrong continues to support U.S. manufacturing. Alterna, its highly successful engineered stone, is produced in Kankakee, Ill. This is in addition to the LVT plant it added in Lancaster, where the company repurposed an unused building and outfitted it with state-of-the-art equipment to manufacture Vivero luxury flooring and Natural Creations with Diamond 10 technology.

Mohawk operates domestic manufacturing facilities for every category of product—including carpet, hardwood, laminate, ceramic and resilient—and has a footprint that stretches from coast to coast. It recently expanded its plant in Melbourne, Ark., to be the only one in the country capable of producing both solid and engineered prefinished hardwood flooring with larger dimensions and more characteristic styling. Meanwhile, Mohawk’s divisions are making big news with new production facilities popping up all over. IVC’s Moduleo LVT collection is U.S. made. Dal-Tile’s plant in Dickson, Tenn., has reached full production and is making color-body porcelain that will boost capacity and technical capabilities.

Other tile companies such as Crossville and Florida Tile are growing their U.S. production roots. The latter’s manufacturing plant, distribution center, corporate offices and showrooms are all located in the U.S. Florida Tile has joined over 180 other domestic building product manufacturers in the “We Build American” initiative.

Mullican recently announced plans to bring full production of all sawn engineered products to the U.S. beginning early summer 2017. Plans to transition additional overseas production to the U.S. will be announced in Q3. “Since 2012 we have converted much of our engineered hardwood production from imported to domestically manufactured product,” said Neil Poland, president, Mullican Flooring. “The transition of our sawn lines to the U.S. is a natural extension of that movement.”

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Mannington Commercial producing click LVT domestically

Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 9.05.02 AMCalhoun, Ga. — Mannington Commercial said it has become the only manufacturer to produce click installation system commercial LVT in the U.S.

The company is manufacturing its LockSolid lines of LVT entirely in its Georgia facilities. 

The patented floating floor system can be installed over subfloor, existing surfaces, and areas where moisture is a challenge or asbestos removal is a problem. 

Since beginning on-shoring production of Mannington and Amtico LVT products in 2013, Mannington said it has already seen a 30% increase in jobs in its plants in Madison and Conyers, Ga., with more than 200 additional jobs to be added by the end of 2014.

Mannington said that domestic manufacturing enables the company to deliver LVT with much shorter lead times–seven business days as compared to an industry standard of 14 weeks–and better customer service.