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Engineered Floors to open carpet tile facility

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Dalton—Engineered Floors is finalizing the site selection process for a state-of-the-art carpet tile facility in Northwest Georgia. Plans for this facility will be on the same scale and magnitude as the company’s other production facilities in the area. Engineered Floors’ manufacturing model minimizes energy, water usage and raw material transportation costs.

“Our PureColor Solution Dyed Nylon and Polyester fiber represents the best-in-class fiber system with built-in stain and fade resistance,” said Robert E. Shaw, chairman and CEO. “The PureColor fiber system will be the backbone of what we believe will be a superior carpet tile product.”

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RollMaster forms B2B partnership with Engineered Floors

Hammond, La.— Engineered Floors, in partnership with RollMaster Software, took a major step toward becoming an FCB2B Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 9.30.59 AM) trading partner this week. Working closely with RollMaster Software, Engineered Floors has successfully generated a fully functioning B2B Import Catalog and price list. Both companies are currently working to finalize the programming of all remaining electronic documents.

“Our clients have expressed great interest in receiving their product catalog as well as other FCB2B information electronically,” said Dev O’Reilly, president of RollMaster Software. “The RollMaster cloud delivery model enables everyone to participate immediately.”

This key partnership will result in Engineered Floors becoming B2B Compliant, benefitting all flooring dealers with B2B Import functionality as part of their business management software.

“The addition of Engineered Floors to the FCB2B partnership is an important step that is driven by the needs of our mutual clients.,” added Clay Rigsby, web development manager, Engineered Floors.” This furthers Engineered Floors as a technology leader in the floor covering industry.”

B2B technology enables software users to automatically send and receive key documents exchanged daily between manufacturers, distributors, and flooring retailers and contractors, such as pricing updates, purchase orders, and invoices, in a fraction of the time it takes to complete manually.

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Engineered Floors adds Sanderson to marketing team

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 11.15.52 AMDalton—Engineered Floors has hired Mike Sanderson as its vice president of product marketing. In this role, Sanderson will be responsible for developing product and market strategies that position the company to achieve long-term growth, while meeting annual revenue and profitability goals. He will continually identify and assess new markets, product and technology opportunities and ensure resources are in place to drive marketing strategy and capitalize on opportunities.

A 20-year veteran in the industry, Sanderson was the residential product marketing manager with Shaw Industries, where he designed, developed, created and maintained residential carpet products while considering trend, capacity, competition and line maintenance.

“Mike brings value to our company because of his extensive experience working within our industry,” said James Lesslie, assistant to the chairman. “He has particular expertise in product design and development, supporting sales and providing pricing strategies that will continue to propel Engineered Floors as the fastest growing carpet mill in the world.”

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Upstart ‘niche’ mills survive, thrive through innovation

January 19/26, 2015; Volume 28/Number 15

By K.J. Quinn

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 3.35.29 PMIn the past 10 years, the carpet industry witnessed the entry of new mills during a time when flooring sales were sporadic. But despite facing long odds and stiff competition, these start-ups quickly ramped up operations, carved a niche for themselves and helping them thrive.

“Most of [the new manufacturers] are focused on a specific part of the market and are not trying to be everything to every retail channel,” explained Ed Williams, president of Lexmark Carpet Mills’ residential division. “There is also the opinion that different retail channels want to have larger numbers of suppliers for various reasons.”

Each “specialty” mill that entered the scene in the past decade filled a void or specific market niche, and/or introduced innovation previously unseen in a business dominated by three major players who represent approximately 80% of carpet industry sales.

“We have fundamentally shifted how carpet will be made in the future,” said James Lesslie, assistant to the chairman, Engineered Floors. “That’s what makes us different. Our competitors might think we’re a bunch of weirdos, but it’s the same story we tell customers.”

Engineered Floors was established in 2007, during a time when the carpet industry was mired in a deep recession. The residential carpet business was in a state of flux, having dropped nearly 50% from its peak in 2005. But the person behind the new company—industry icon Bob Shaw— gave credence that it could succeed. “We had a founder with a lot of experience in growing companies,” Lesslie pointed out.

Meanwhile, other factors came into play to create what Lesslie called, “the perfect storm. Polyester (PET) fiber went from No. 3 or No. 4 in residential volume and quickly became No. 1 in volume fiber. Solution-dyed became the fastest growing segment within polyester.”

Creating an edge in the market, Engineered Floors introduced a proprietary solution-dyed polyester fiber system called PureColor. What makes PureColor distinct is the color is part of the material and goes all the way through the fiber. By comparison, many other carpet fibers show color on the surface only, which can wear off or fade over time.

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 3.38.15 PM“It’s a tremendous challenge when dying carpet to make sure the color is consistent throughout the dye run,” Lesslie said, noting that putting the color into the fiber when it is made virtually eliminates “side match,” a major industry quality control issue. By tweaking the traditional carpet production process, the mill claims its quality levels are six times higher than the industry average.

A second major advantage is solution-dyed polyester carpet can be produced at less cost than competing products. Because of the way PureColor is made, the mill uses considerably less energy and 50% less oil than piece-dyed nylon. “We’re a ‘disruptive technology’ to the carpet industry,” Lesslie noted. “We streamlined carpet operations in one facility, but, more important, we eliminated the step of using water to dye carpet.”

Since its founding, Engineered Floors has executed a rate of growth and expansion not seen in the carpet industry since the late 1980s and ’90s— an estimated 400% over the past few years. Last year, the mill added

1 million square feet of capacity and announced another expansion that would more than double its workforce in northwest Georgia.

Innovation and growth in PET

One specialty mill that quickly established a reputation as a leader in the development and growth of the residential PET category is Phenix. The company believes polyester’s continued growth in residential is due, in part, to advances in extrusion equipment that helps create a uniform, highly bulked yarn.

“Our objective is to continue to leverage our ability to manage a complex manufacturing process and bring differentiated products to the market,” said Susan Curtis, vice president of marketing and product development.

Phenix has particularly found success in responding to market conditions with products that meet the changing usage of carpet. “As the consumer redefines how and where she will use carpet, we have the opportunity to rethink how these products interact with other finishes and provide differentiated solutions,” Curtis noted. “In addition, the strength of our retail partner relationships and their desire for a viable and creative alternative supplier has been an important factor.”

The company plans to continue bringing products to market which center primarily on PET and nylon “soft” carpets.

High-end styles provide competitive advantage

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 3.43.14 PMEach supplier that entered the carpet industry in the early 2000s quickly established its own set of competitive advantages. For instance, Moda, established in 2005, had a goal of providing unique styling with superior quality and service. In the past two years the company has reported double-digit sales growth, a notable accomplishment during a time when the carpet industry was still recovering from the recession.

“We introduced tone-on-tone patterns unique to the marketplace,” recalled Don Kazarian, president, noting patterned carpet and solid colors were in vogue. “We had 18 styles in [approximately] 30 colors and everything from a typical cut pile to some very unique, random patterns.” Price points ranged from around $20 to $50 per square yard uninstalled, with the high-end product consisting of an 80-ounce cut pile, or a heavy three-tone shag carpet.

All Moda products are made from nylon 6,6 Stainmaster continuous filament fiber and beck dyed. “Submerged in the dye for a period of time gives us better color continuity,” Kazarian said. “It virtually eliminates end-to-end side match issues and allows us to do custom colors.” One of Moda’s top-selling products, Treanna, is a random cut-and-loop carpet with three color options, retailing for about $45 per square yard uninstalled.

The mill is launching two TruSoft carpets featuring tonal cut-and-loop patterns and two TruSoft texture cut piles. “We offer a very liberal custom color program,” Kazarian added. “Continued product introductions have been key to our recent growth.”

While the bulk of its business is conducted in Western states, Moda plans to expand its penetration nationwide, with an eye on Texas, south Florida and greater Chicago. Earlier this year, Moda became a specialty vendor to the National Floorcovering Alliance and was recently acquired by Royalty Carpet Mills, a move that provides access to tremendous manufacturing assets, Kazarian said.

Affordable fashion in high-end broadloom

In a similar vein, Dixie Home was introduced in early 2003 as a brand to provide stylish, differentiated products that offer affordable fashion in the more moderately priced sector of the high-end broadloom carpet market. Dixie Home styles are made from premium branded yarns and include traditional velvets, contemporary patterns and a wide range of textures in fashion-forward colors.

“We use premium materials throughout the manufacturing process, featuring an extensive array of Stainmaster products,” said Paul Comiskey, president of residential sales, The Dixie Group.

According to Dixie, the Dixie Home brand experienced rapid growth and enthusiastic market acceptance, surpassing the $100 million dollar mark in total sales.

Dixie Home’s manufacturing scale gives the mill flexibility, allowing it to quickly respond to new trends, keeping the latest patterns and colors within reach of a wide spectrum of soft floor covering consumers. Additionally, Dixie plans on expanding its pattern assortment with new technology.

Hospitality visuals meet residential Interiors

Lexmark, which produces commercial carpets for the hospitality segment, expanded its footprint when it entered the residential market in 2012 with a collection that included 18 styles. The line—which featured a high-end look that appealed to a broad segment of consumers—was designed based on extensive market research to determine the best products and price points. In 2015, the mill is introducing a residential line featuring unique styles based on linen and worn wood, designs typically seen in hospitality settings.

“Our key objective in the short term is to bring some differentiation to the marketplace, and our customers will see that with first-quarter introductions in 2015,” Williams said. “We will be offering a new collection of high-definition looks that will be very unique to Lexmark.” The new line is called Tailored by Lexmark (FCNews, Jan. 5/12).

Lexmark has made investments in its manufacturing operations within the past few years, which included opening a new, larger facility to accommodate new equipment and offer better service and unique styling. “Our competitive advantage is just being good in a lot of areas,” Williams said. “Sometimes it is the little things that count and it is easier to manage that if you are a smaller player.”

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Dream Weaver and Engineered Floors showcase nylon products at TISE 2015

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 10.27.00 AMDalton—Dream Weaver Carpet and Engineered Floors will introduce its 2015 line of nylon carpet, PureColor Solution Dyed Soft Nylon fiber, at The International Surface Event 2015 being held Jan. 20-23 in Las Vegas.

This new line continues with the same technology and benefits as PureColor Solution Dyed PET and PureColor PureSoft Cashmere Solution Dyed PET fibers. Engineered Floors will introduce up to 12 products in varying color palettes, weights, styles and textures under the Dream Weaver brand at booth #S6725.

“We see this as the future of nylon carpet,” said James Lesslie, assistant to the chairman at Engineered Floors. “With PureColor Soft Nylon, the color goes all the way through the fiber, just like a carrot. Our solution dye technology has revitalized the polyester carpet market producing carpets with industry leading quality, performance and design options. We are now extending our solution dyed manufacturing expertise to soft nylon fibers, but unlike the majority of nylon products currently on the market, ours has built-in stain resistance throughout the polymer. With stain resistance locked into the fiber, a consumer will never have to worry about the stain protection washing or wearing off.”

Attendees can also preview new merchandising displays as well as a new PureColor Soft Nylon video which highlights the company’s newest carpet production facility, the SAM plant.

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Signs indicate solid growth in most sectors next year

December 8/15, 2014; Volume 28/Number 12

Carpet

By K.J. Quinn

Like a mountain climber ascending closer to the summit, 2015 is expected to be the year when carpet finally reaches the heights industry pundits predicted would come soon.

And why not? The AIA Billing Index, multi-family housing starts, single-family new construction forecasts and other key economic reports point to a better year for construction spending in 2015.

A number of industry executives are cautiously optimistic carpet sales will grow 3% to 5% across the board in 2015, with growth varying by end-use sector.

James Lesslie Assistant to the chairman, Engineered Floors

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 2.17.50 PMIt’s difficult to predict 2015 specifics. However, we expect growth in hard surface options to continue putting pressure on carpet categories.

The builder and multi-family sectors remained strong during 2014, but residential replacement business overall seemed to be soft. For 2015 to show positive growth, residential replacement volume will need to pick up.

Invista expects another positive year in 2015, with growth coming from key nylon 6,6 programs, such as Stainmaster PetProtect, as well as the expansion of our branded polyester programs. We will continue driving the Stainmaster PetProtect program with an expanded product assortment and continued advertising. This has proven to be a successful approach in meeting a specific consumer need. We will also introduce a refreshed product offering in our TruSoft and Active Family product categories in 2015.

T.M. Nuckols Senior director, product strategy, Invista

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 2.17.56 PMIt’s difficult to predict 2015 specifics. However, we expect growth in hard surface options to continue putting pressure on carpet categories.

The builder and multi-family sectors remained strong during 2014, but residential replacement business overall seemed to be soft. For 2015 to show positive growth, residential replacement volume will need to pick up.

Invista expects another positive year in 2015, with growth coming from key nylon 6,6 programs, such as Stainmaster PetProtect, as well as the expansion of our branded polyester programs. We will continue driving the Stainmaster PetProtect program with an expanded product assortment and continued advertising. This has proven to be a successful approach in meeting a specific consumer need. We will also introduce a refreshed product offering in our TruSoft and Active Family product categories in 2015.

Paul Comiskey President, residential sales, The Dixie Group

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 2.18.03 PMWe expected 5% to 7% of real growth this year, and we’ve been roughly flat. The industry pundits were all wrong. As we go into next year, I think the carpet market will eventually pop open and we’ll have a good year. A lot of us are thinking maybe 2% to 3% growth.

I think in 2015 you will see the builder and multi-family segments grow faster than the residential sector. What’s interesting on the builder side is seeing if carpet will continue to get its share or lose share to LVT.

The residential business is strong at the high and low ends. The low end is driven by multi-family housing and first-time home ownership and seems to be doing pretty well. People are also updating their houses for sale and market resale seems to be very good.

We’ve been fortunate enough to grow somewhat faster than the industry, and we hope to do that again next year. We are making major investments in the wool side of the business, particularly with the Masland brand. We continue to invest in tufting equipment as we try to provide new and innovative products and develop new markets. In the high-end part of the residential market we’re seeing patterns expand, so investing in new tufting technology will enable us to move into two- and three-color patterns.

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State of the industry: Carpet looks to play catch-up in tough year

September 15/22, 2014; Volume 28/Number 7

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 11.17.06 AMThe carpet category grew both in dollars and units virtually every year for 50 years. But the flooring industry was then hit with the worst recession in its history, and since then carpet has been slowly on the mend.

According to carpet executives, by the end of 2014 housing starts will have recovered 70% of 2006 historical highs, with 93% by 2015. The carpet industry has recently rebounded somewhat following a brutal, weather-related slump during the first two months of this year, albeit not as robustly as some had hoped.

“Most of us agree that, on average, the carpet industry in 2014 is up modestly overall after a 2013 that was up 3% to 4% over the previous year,” said Karel Vercryussen, president and CEO, Beaulieu America. “That’s not exactly a cause for celebration, but it’s encouraging in terms of sales and shipments. But, when considering where carpet has been heading these last several years, there is cause for some celebration.”

Tom Lape, president of residential, Mohawk, said there is, in fact, good news out there. “Consumers are coming back, and they are shopping.” He cited some encouraging housing and economic data as well, including existing homes under contract are the highest in 11 months, new home sales are bouncing back and mortgage applications are higher. “Mortgage apps were down double digits early in the first quarter and have bounced back.”

Noting that the residential carpet segment has been playing catch-up following the dismal start to 2014, Shaw president Randy Merritt sees the overall category as “close to flat” at this point. “The average selling price of carpet is down slightly for the first time in several years due to the influx of PET at lower prices and the general weakness in the remodel segment. The winter of 2014 was exceptionally harsh across the country and led to the slow start of the year. We believe this slowed the new home construction process, and we will need a strong finish to the builder business.”

Lape and others talked about a bifurcated market in which the commodity end of the category and the premium side are showing buoyancy while the middle of the market is most challenging.

Overall, James Leslie, assistant to the chairman at Engineered Floors, suggested macro forces favor an upward trend in buying. “There is pent-up demand out there. Even with millennials starting families later and buying homes later, there will be a breakout. The macro forces indicate it is going to happen. We feel we are in the best part of the year right now–September and October.”

Larry Heckman, president of Best Buy Flooring, agreed there is pent-up demand out there, but suspects some of the reluctance on the part of consumers is the result of unsettling events in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. “As soon as we get some [positive] news, we’ll have people spending money and buying. The overall pulse I get is that we’re up as a market.”Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 11.17.43 AM

In 2008, carpet represented 51.3% of the industry, according to FCNews estimates. By 2011, that number was 47.4%; by 2013 it was 46.9%. No one denies the gains being made by hard surfaces at the expense of soft surfaces, particularly in high-traffic areas in the home where hardwood flooring and LVT are being put down as “easy-to-care-for” alternatives.

“The multi family business is an example of where we are seeing more LVT going in places where carpet used to go,” Merritt said.

T.M. Nuckols, senior director of product strategy at Invista, added that LVT is taking away share from carpet by creating looks at price points previously not available in hard surface offerings.

Fiber

Polyester has grown significantly during the past several years at the expense of other fibers, especially nylon, and executives see that trend continuing.

As well, polyester has evolved from a nice value alternative to nylon to a strategic component of every carpet manufacturer’s overall product offering. Vercryussen said polyester is also shedding its image as the low-price fiber and is steadily closing in on nylon in terms of acceptance driven by improved performance.

Mohawk’s view is that its own triexta fiber and polyester are the growth platforms in today’s market. “Polyester really sets the foundation combo of value and performance,” Lape said. “We believe triexta is at the top of the pyramid for performance characteristics and design and styling, particularly the soft attributes. You can’t get that softness in nylon and polyester.”

Executives agreed that nylon, which still dominates the commercial marketplace, is not going away. “We recognize that even though polyester has come a long way since its introduction, there are still many dealers and consumers who prefer nylon,” Vercryussen said. “We think consumers are more ‘fiber agnostic’ these days, thanks to advances in polyester technology and similar warranties between nylon and polyester carpeting.”

Merritt said excess capacity in PET today is contributing to a very competitive environment. “There is very little staple polyester being sold. The industry is now predominantly filament—nylon, PET and some polypropylene.”

Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 11.18.33 AMEd Williams, president at Lexmark Carpet, said the surge polyester has enjoyed in recent years may be slowing a bit; and with multi-family as one of the stronger segments, momentum may be swinging back toward nylon, at least in that sector. “In talking to various people there is a lot of work being done in the nylon area on the part of the mills,” Williams said.

Trends and innovations

The soft craze that hit the market a few years ago shows no signs of abating, and manufacturers are seizing that opportunity with ever-softer products that are resonating with consumers who can literally feel the difference. According to Merritt, credit goes to advances in tufting technology, which continues to evolve and produce aesthetically pleasing, stylish patterns. “Carpet is generally a soft product today—softer than ever.”

To meet the growing need for soft, Beaulieu America recently introduced two entries into the popular super-soft category: Bliss Vivid and Bliss Hypnotic. Both products are companion textures made of Tryelle, the super-soft PET filament fiber.

Best Buy’s Heckman said consumers are buying into the ultra-soft trend as long as the product delivers on performance with the latest in designs and colors, such as earth tones, brown grays and tan grays.

Nuckols said while ultra-soft products are hot, there is still a market for products that are soft, but not quite ultra soft.

In the meantime, innovation is the engine that is driving this soft trend.

Mohawk, for example, is reinvesting and expanding its triexta platform with up to 100 launches planned. “Triexta now plays in all levels of the market, all distribution channels,” Lape said. “It was launched in the ‘06 time period, which means it was launched in the face of the biggest downturn ever in flooring. That shows the legs of this product.”

Commercial

The commercial segment is up slightly in dollars in 2014 when compared to 2013, and probably flat to slightly down in units, according to industry executives.Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 11.18.58 AM

Jack Ganley, president of Mannington Commercial, said 2014 started off sluggish as companies took a wait-and-see approach before releasing dollars for capital projects. This hesitation was largely due to continued economic uncertainty.

Lee Martin, president of Masland Contract, a unit of The Dixie Group, said the overall commercial segment is somewhat more active than 2013 and certainly stronger than 2012. “My feeling is that the commercial segment is up in dollars and probably flat to a small increase in yards,” he said.

Much of the commercial growth is in hospitality and assisted living, although the overall healthcare segment has experienced a slowdown in growth, Ganley said, as that sector waits to fully understand the implications of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

“We continue to see moderate growth in both the corporate and retail sectors, along with higher education,” he said. “Publicly funded K-12 and acute care facilities are lagging.”

Ganley said one of the major innovations/trends shaping the market in 2014 is the combination of carpet and hard surfaces. This blend, he said, “can increase long-term appearance retention through the installation of hard surfaces in high-traffic areas of a project, transitioning beautifully to carpet in open areas of a floor plan.”

As modular carpet continues to grow and take share from broadloom—it now represents about 50% of the commercial market—executives said there is increasing interest in different size formats and shapes. Additionally, there is “a fresh interest in innovative yarn processing to create unique textures and visuals,” Ganley said.

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PET developments address color, performance

July 7/14, 2014; Volume 28/Number 2

By Louis Iannaco

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 11.27.38 AMWith the development of soft carpet fibers in recent years, there’s no doubt the proliferation of these super soft yet durable yarns into the marketplace has been the major trend in the soft broadloom category. Mills continue to perfect and fine-tune their soft products while at the same time working on the next big thing.

So in addition to soft, or as a subsequent result, what else do the mills have going on when it comes to polyester? The emphasis is on making more colors available, increasing performance and developing proprietary initiatives such as odor-resistant technology and stain resistance. Executives from several of the industry’s major polyester producers recently gave FCNews details on the latest from their respective companies and the segment overall.

According to James Lesslie, assistant to the chairman, Engineered Floors, while soft continues to be the fastest growing category within polyester, combining beiges and grays—as the company does with Dream Weaver’s natural Tonal Solids collection—remains the fastest growing trend. “The unique ability to blend colors with solution-dyed fibers allows us to create new looks with an endless array of color combinations.”

Polyester continues to be a favorite with many of Beaulieu America’s dealers. In order to respond to demand, two of the mill’s most popular polyester collections, Bliss Healthy Touch and Bliss EverClean, received updates this year. “We added 84 SKUs to Healthy Touch and 54 to EverClean,” noted Matt Johnson, senior director, product management, residential division.

Both collections bring the softness and inherent stain resistance of the company’s polyester together with proprietary features such as Magic Fresh odor reduction, 3M Scotchgard and, in the case of Healthy Touch, Beaulieu America’s antimicrobial Silver Release treatment. “We plan to continue improving and expanding our polyester line in 2015,” Johnson said.

As noted, the trend toward softer fibers in polyester carpet continues and Shaw is innovating to meet that demand, said Trey Thames, vice president, residential marketing/product development. “A good example of Shaw’s latest PET evolution is the Clearly Chic Collection, introduced earlier this year. Not only a ‘super soft’ carpet, the collection is available in bold colors and features ClearTouch Platinum PET construction with a high twist yarn that also offers great performance.”

As Shaw focuses on innovative processes and sustainability, another initiative for the mill is its recently announced $17 million investment in the new Evergreen recycling facility in Ringgold, Ga., which will process both nylon and polyester carpet (see story on page 3). Complementing Shaw’s carpet recycling portfolio, “Evergreen Ringgold will create a high purity post-consumer recycled material that can be used in a broad range of applications,” Thames noted.

Extruding excellence

Investing in fiber technologies continues to be key for the industry’s major polyester producers. Mohawk is continuing what it started two to three years ago in reinvesting for the future by making considerableScreen Shot 2014-07-14 at 11.28.04 AMcapital investments with heavy emphasis on extrusion and product innovation.

According to David Duncan, senior vice president, marketing and sales operations, the mill is currently well positioned with a full assortment of next generation fiber technologies in SmartStrand as well as polyester BCF and nylon platforms. “As we continue into 2014, we believe we now have the capacity and capabilities with our patented Continuum PET BCF technology to lead the industry in the next round of polyester innovations.”

Susan Curtis, vice president, marketing and product development, Phenix Flooring, believes polyester’s continued growth in residential is due in part to advances in extrusion equipment that help create a uniform, highly bulked yarn. “Polyester has a naturally soft hand and feel,” she said, “and improved yarn bulk adds tactile value. Continued advances in polyester resin chemistry intended for bottles and packaging have improved the performance of BCF PET, making it a more flexible fiber.

“Additionally, a stable polyester supply chain with huge scale creates favorable economics for PET as carpet yarn consumes only .5% of the supply—even at half the North American residential carpet market.”

As previously noted, creating new looks through the blending of colors is paramount among polyester’s latest innovations. At Lexmark, Ed Williams, president, residential, believes the development of new patterns through the use of colors is critical when it comes to polyester and the different looks it can offer.

“We’re working mostly on pattern designs in different color combinations to give a sophisticated, toned look,” he said. “We’re also focusing on broad-based looks that will have widespread appeal. We’ve just shipped two post-Surfaces introductions—Chesterfield and Chandler Heights—that have new and fresh color the market seems to embrace.”

Larry Heckman, president, Best Buy, noted the prevalence of polyester styles continues in the marketplace because they can be produced at very competitive price points. This has helped polyester become the mainstream residential carpet choice in many markets across the U.S.

Styling has come a long way in space dying and yarn blending, Heckman said, while polyester’s natural characteristics play a significant part in providing value by being virtually stain proof with very low static build up. “Today, polyester can be extruded in ultra-soft deniers for exceptional underfoot comfort, which is in high demand.”

Best Buy’s polyester improvements have come from advances in extrusion techniques that include fiber design, enhanced yarn drawing and crimping. “This improves features such as tensile strength of the yarn and bulking characteristics for a bigger value and hand,” Heckman explained. “It also improves brightness and luster levels of the yarn which are important characteristics for better performing and better selling styles.”

The next major advancement is space-dyed solution-dyed polyester, he noted. “This is one of the biggest technological breakthroughs in polyester styling—creating crisp and bold color clarity in both jewel tone colors and cut pile berber space dye styles. Best Buy has been one of the pioneers to perfect this new process. It’s done on our new computer controlled space dye line.”

According to Heckman, the technology is a combination of applied space dyes and heat levels. The new line heats the yarn to a maximum level just below the melt point to allow dye to penetrate the fiber core, which is then quick cooled through a cooling chamber. The process is completed with saturation steam heat by a heat set unit. “The result is a rich space dye with great color clarity and crisp color bursts.”

Performance counts

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 11.27.59 AMWhen you have a major shift like soft in the industry, it can take retailers two years to absorb the impact, executives noted. “We are really just completing the cycle of converting their floors,” Lesslie said. “All our PET PureColor and PureColor Cashmere fibers are solution-dyed. We get excellent quality/field performance with our products, and our customer claims ratio continues to be very low. From our viewpoint, polyesters offer the consumer excellent value and performance.”

The economy also continues to play a role in the value attributes end users shop for when they make their purchases. Recent economic conditions created a shift in consumer buying trends towards value-oriented products, which has driven the increase in polyester’s market share, Duncan noted.

He specifically cited that the trend toward soft continues to maintain its relevance. Over the past year, Mohawk expanded soft into polyester with its newest collections: EverStrand Soft Appeal and Wear Dated Allure. “We took our proprietary knowledge we acquired through the development of our SmartStrand Silk and Wear Dated Embrace soft collections and used it in PET to make EverStrand Soft Appeal and Wear Dated Allure.”

Mohawk’s Continuum technology, a proprietary, intensive purification process designed to remove industrial lubricants and oily residue, “ensures Mohawk’s soft polyester carpets—including EverStrand Soft Appeal and Wear Dated Allure—resist dirt, grime and contaminants that cause other PET carpets to become dingy over time,” Duncan explained.

“Mohawk is dedicated to consumers’ needs and we’ve made significant investments in manufacturing to improve our polyester product offerings,” he continued. “Mohawk knows that consumers do not want to forego style for value and this improved technology has significantly expanded our line of PET products. Now, we offer a variety of fashionable PET styles and textures.”

Polyester has seen tremendous growth over the past five years, Thames noted, “evolving from a ‘nice value alternative to nylon’ to a strategic component of every carpet manufacturer’s overall product offering.”

Improvements in heatset and twisting technology have helped improve PET’s overall performance and the economic downturn made the value proposition that polyester has always provided even more attractive, he explained. “Our strategy is based on providing the best polyester product lineup for value, performance and color/style versatility. This is no different than what we do in nylon. As the world’s largest producer in both fiber types, Shaw responds to changing trends by providing our customers with products that meet their needs.”

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Made in the USA: Expansions, onshoring boom to the economy

Volume 27/Number 26; April 28/May 5, 2014

By Ken Ryan

Climbing out of a deep recession, the U.S. has seen its manufacturing growth outpace that of other advanced nations, with some 500,000 jobs created in the past three years. It marks the first time in more than a decade that the number of factory jobs has gone up instead of down.

Job creation in America is a byproduct of a new economic reality: China is losing its cost advantage. The Boston Consulting Group wrote in a research paper that in 2001 the average hourly wage in China was $0.58; by 2015, it will be $6. Combine that with the high productivity of American manufacturers and low energy costs, and the cost gap will close for most categories of goods to just 7% by 2015, the firm said.

The flooring industry is contributing mightily to this manufacturing growth. Engineered Floors, for example, is in the process of investing nearly $500 million on new facilities over the next five years that, when completed, will make it one of the largest job creators in the Southeast.

“It certainly is a good thing to create jobs, and we are pleased to do that, but the most important thing to remember is our company successfully built a business model and executed it,” said James Lesslie, assistant to the chairman of Engineered Floors. “If you execute, you create profits, which in turn can create jobs, and that is what we are doing.”

By the end of 2014, Engineered Floors will have created 2,000 jobs in less than four years. “That is quite an accomplishment,” Lesslie noted.

Engineered Floors is not the only one. Since it began onshore production of Mannington and Amtico LVT products in 2013, Mannington has seen a 30% increase in jobs at its plants in Madison and Conyers, Ga., with more than 200 additional jobs to be added by the end of 2014.

Mannington is creating new jobs through both capacity building and innovation, building infrastructure for the industry’s first LVT reclamation and recycling program.

The industry’s largest players, Mohawk and Shaw, are also creating jobs by the day. Mohawk continues to expand its 20,000-employee U.S. workforce. For instance, the company’s recent $180 million investment into its Summerville PET facility created 500 new jobs in northwest Georgia. “This is just one example of how Mohawk continues to invest in the American economy,” said David Duncan, senior vice president of marketing and sales operations. “Through Mohawk’s commitment to the safety, well-being and professional development of its employees, the company is working toward the creation of a thriving economy and a skilled workforce.”

Shaw Industries continues to invest, spending more than $300 million in plant operations that generated approximately 600 new U.S. jobs in the past year. Those job gains cut across a variety of product types, including carpet, carpet tile, hardwood and LVT.

It’s not just northwest Georgia where jobs are being created. It’s happening in Lancaster, Pa., too, as Armstrong’s $41 million LVT production line will create more than 60 new positions.

Dal-Tile recently announced plans to build a glazed porcelain and ColorBody tile manufacturing plant and distribution center in Dickson, Tenn. The 1.4-million-square-foot plant is scheduled to open in late 2015 and will be the company’s 11th manufacturing facility in North America. The Dickson plant will add approximately 150 million square feet to its annual capacity and bring hundreds of U.S.–based jobs.

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Made in the USA: The advantages of domestic manufacturing

Volume 27/Number 26; April 28/May 5, 2014

By Ken Ryan

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 3.18.57 PMWhen Mannington holds its next shareholders meeting—a gathering of 25 key executives—it will not be held in its hometown of Salem, N.J., or New York or Las Vegas, or some swanky venue. Rather, it will be held in Madison, Ga., home to the company’s new commercial LVT facility.

The choice is synonymous with the company’s Made in the USA message: Madison was built from the ground up, and the click installation system that will be made there represents a first for a U.S. flooring company. Continue reading Made in the USA: The advantages of domestic manufacturing