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Exclusive to FCNews: Mohawk—Domestic manufacturing is good for the flooring industry

By Steven Feldman

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal included vinylflooring as one of the top 20 products imported from China in 2017. According to the article, vinyl flooring, in the 13th spot, accounted for $1.78 billion in import value and the top 20 products collectively listed accounted for $75 billion in import value. This obviously makes flooring a target as President Trump seeks to generate tariff revenue on $505 billion in exports China sends to the U.S.

Some businesses have supported the tariffs, but others have said tariffs would hurt their profits or lead to higher prices for customers. The White House says China represents a fundamental threat to the U.S. that needs to be countered, even at the cost of pain to the U.S. economy.

Within the flooring industry, Mohawk Industries recently came out in support of tariffs, citing its significant investment in domestic manufacturing. “In the past four years Mohawk has invested in eight plants to the tune of at least $650 million,” said Brian Carson, president. “The United States is a very important market, and we invest heavily here in technology and jobs to develop world-class products for our customers and consumers.”

It has been argued that the proposed tariffs will lead to American job losses. “That is nonsensical,” Carson said. “Flooring is not an impulse purchase. Jobs will not be lost as a result of the proposed tariffs. Quite the contrary, when we create demand in the marketplace for new and innovative products and services, jobs are created for consumers, jobs are created for retailers, jobs are created for distributors and jobs are created for manufacturing. The thought that buying offshore somehow creates jobs here just does not pass the logic test.”

Carson said all Mohawk is seeking is a level playing field. “We believe that investing in domestic manufacturing technology creates more enduring value for the consumers and dealers than simply building warehouses. I recognize that there may be some products that don’t make sense to make domestically. LVT is not one of them. I believe there are many companies sourcing products not because it’s necessary, but because it’s easy. Investing in assets andinnovation to make the products where consumers experience real differentiation over the long term is good for our customers, dealers, consumers, employees—everyone in the supply chain.”

This is not to say Mohawk is anti-import. Quite the contrary, Carson said. “Mohawk is the world’s largest flooring company and the most global flooring company. We obviously believe in global trade and international markets. We source products; sourcing is a very important part of what we do to augment our manufacturing capabilities. We partner with incredibly high-quality suppliers. But we also know not all companies and countries provide a level playing field for global trade. And when we see that, we fight for change in all the markets. North America is obviously an important market, and we are going to fight for what’s right here, just as we are going to fight in all markets.”

A level playing field is what drives innovation, Carson said, not just in flooring but all products. “I wish more companies would invest in hard surface technologies in North America. I think it would be great for the industry. It puts manufacturers on their A game. Good and fair competition is fundamentally good for our industry and always good for consumers.”

But does a level playing field necessarily benefit the consumer? After all, there is significant innovation coming from China, as evidenced by recent product introductions from companies such as USFloors, Shaw, Karndean, Raskin, Wellmade, EarthWerks, Metroflor, Novalis and many others. “Broadly speaking, I think a level playing field benefits the flooring industry because it ensures fair competition, and fair competition promotes investment,” Carson said. “When you can compete on your merits, people will invest behind the ideas and innovate products, creating jobs in the communities where we live, work and play.”

Carson cited engineered wood as a category that today is primarily imported from China and has suffered in the innovation department. “It’s hard to believe, but there was a time when engineered wood was new. At some point, all products mature, and this category devolved to largely imported product with little differentiation. Long-term value deteriorated for everyone, including the distributor, the dealer, the manufacturer and ultimately, the consumer. What keeps product vibrant is more constant innovation. Mohawk is always committed to innovating new products, features and benefits. If there is no manufacturer that will do it, how does the product stay unique as it matures?”

It has been argued by many economists thatthe proposed tariffs will increase cost to the consumer. Since the tariffs cannot be fully absorbed by the supply chain, the tariffs will be passed on, in part, to the consumer, who will pay higher prices for flooring products. “I don't subscribe to that,” Carson said. “When the industry thinks about what the American consumer will be paying for flooring, it can’t be isolated to simply product costs. We think about the entire supply chain cost, including transportation, the cost of inventory, warehousing, logistics and freight and when the entire supply chain cost is taken into account, the American consumer actually benefits from domestically manufactured flooring products.”

Carson also addressed the notion that the proposed tariffs will lead to fewer and less innovative choices for the American consumer. Mohawk takes a different view, believing it would help some manufacturers compete in other areas of the world. “We know that when we own our assets and we can apply our new ideas, technology and our experience-based know-how, we are able to differentiate and innovate for our local consumers in a way that is unmatched,” Carson said.  “Moreover, our stewardship and control of our domestically produced product sustainability and our corporate responsibility to the communities we serve is second to none and world-class by any standard.”

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Mannington Mills completes sale of VCT business to Armstrong Flooring

logo_manningtonSalem, N.J.—Mannington Mills has closed on the sale of its vinyl composition tile (VCT) business to Armstrong Flooring. The transaction was announced on May 8.

“Our long-term growth strategy is focused on investment in high-growth, high-profit markets and categories,” said Russell Grizzle, president and CEO, Mannington Mills. “The sale of the VCT business allows us to aggressively pursue those opportunities.”

Mannington Mills is a fourth generation, family-owned company with a strong U.S. manufacturing base. “Our successful history is based on growth through innovation and investment with a commitment to our valued distributor partners and customers,” Grizzle noted. “We plan to continue that into the future.”

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Gerflor USA supports market growth with promotions

GerflorChicago—Gerflor USA is widening its reach in the U.S. market and advancing its team to support—and help drive—its growth. The manufacturer of homogeneous sheet flooring and resilient sports flooring recently named vital members of its sales and marketing force to new positions, including Gerflor national sales director, senior director of marketing and marketing communications director.

Jim Bistolas, who joined the company in 2015 as national healthcare segment director, has accepted a new role as national sales director. With more than 20 years of experience in commercial interiors, Bistolas has developed and managed national sales teams, budgets and forecasts. In his new position, he will lead the national sales force for Gerflor’s multi-segment commercial strategy and will also continue to lead the company’s healthcare market strategy.

For more than seven years, Catherine Del Vecchio has led Gerflor’s U.S. marketing efforts. Now as the USA senior director of marketing for the Gerflor, Connor Sports and Connor Sport Court brands, she will be identifying opportunities and implementing strategies to elevate the brands’ unique market differentiators. She is currently recruiting new staff to support the growth of the department who, under her leadership, will work collaboratively to grow market share for all three Gerflor brands within the US market.

Also integral to the marketing team, Stephanie Corrigan has been promoted to USA marketing communications director for Gerflor, Connor Sports and Connor Sport Court. She will manage the brands’ marketing communications programs and identities. In just two years with the company, Corrigan has helped energize its sales team and generate brand awareness with customers through creative, strategic campaigns successfully adapted to both the commercial and sport divisions.

Del Vecchio’s and Corrigan’s new positions reflect Gerflor’s strategic move to build on and strengthen the synergies among its three brands: Gerflor, Connor Sports and Connor Sport Court. In doing so, Gerflor is streamlining processes across the brands in multiple areas, including finance, operations, human resources, information technology and marketing—all with the goal of better serving its customers.

Gerflor USA is in the process of identifying career opportunities to further support its market growth.

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Mohawk seeks to raise the bar on sustainability

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

By Reginald Tucker

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 10.08.24 AMCalhoun, Ga.—Mohawk Industries recently released its 2016 Sustainability Report, a 36-page document that paints a comprehensive picture of the company’s innovation, passion and commitment to a better tomorrow while illustrating its role as a leader in sustainable technology.

In 2016 alone, process improvements, product re-engineering and equipment upgrades positively impacted Mohawk’s productivity by $140 million. The depth of these savings reflects hundreds of unique projects across the enterprise, most of which deliver environmental benefits. These range from state-of-the-art equipment that’s less energy intensive to improved freight logistics that reduce carbon emissions to paperless sales and administrative processes that save time and eliminate waste.

“In 2016, our company enjoyed a record year, but our financial results are only one measure of our success,” said Jeff Lorberbaum, Mohawk’s chairman and CEO. “Today, as the world’s largest flooring company, we also assess our performance by the significant and positive impact we make through all aspects of our business. Our sustainability practices reflect the commitment of our company and the passion of our people. We continue to push the boundaries of sustainability with innovative new products and processes because we believe in—and are willing to invest in—a better tomorrow.”

The report notes Mohawk’s progress in corporate responsibility and sustainability. In summary, the company:

  • Recycles 7.1 billion pounds of waste a year.
  • Has reduced its use of water by 277 million gallons since 2015.
  • Since 2010, has reduced its greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity by 12.8%, its energy intensity by 1.9% and its water intensity by 35%.
  • Recycles 5.4 billion plastic bottles annually.
  • Recycles 25 million pounds of tires into doormats.

Many of Mohawk’s achievements in sustainability come from the company’s continuous journey to decrease the environmental footprint of its products and operations. For example, the report details an environmentally friendly approach to cooling water at Mohawk’s vinyl flooring plant in Belgium; how the Glasgow, Va., carpet tile plant is tackling the global pollinator crisis; and a mobile material recycler that can process up to 30 tons of scrap material per hour for ceramic tile plants in Tennessee, Alabama and Texas.

Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 10.08.29 AMThe report also highlights Mohawk’s sizeable product portfolio that leads the industry in sustainable technology. Mohawk is the world’s largest ceramic tile producer, and more than 450 of the company’s tile products contain pre- and post-consumer recycled content. Similarly, as the largest laminate flooring manufacturer in the U.S. and Europe, Mohawk’s products are made with predominantly recycled wood fiber and chips from sustainable sources. In commercial flooring, Mohawk Group has the industry’s largest portfolio of Red List-free products.

Some notable, innovative sustainable solutions in Mohawk’s portfolio include:

  • Airo: Mohawk’s exclusive new soft floor covering category with unified backing is manufactured almost entirely from recycled polyester and is already winning awards and kudos.
  • SmartStrand: Because soft, stain-resistant SmartStrand carpets are made with renewably sourced polymers, they require less energy to manufacture than other fibers.
  • EverStrand: Mohawk is one of the largest recyclers of PET soda and water bottles in the country, and billions of those bottles end up in Mohawk’s EverStrand carpets. (EverStrand carpets minimize the need for fossil fuels and help reduce plastic in landfills.)
  • Moduleo: Every year, Mohawk’s IVC vinyl manufacturing group reclaims up to 20,000 tons of PVC materials destined for landfills and transforms the material into the backing for Moduleo luxury vinyl tile flooring.

George Bandy, Mohawk’s vice president of sustainability, explains the thought process that drives the company’s sustainable efforts. “People spend about 90% of their time inside, so we as a company have a responsibility to ensure our products are contributing to healthy, productive, inspirational spaces.”

According to Bandy, this idea fuels the company’s breakthroughs across five pillars: design, innovation, sustainability, project solutions and operational excellence. “From our new Light Lab Design Center in Northwest Georgia to our manufacturing plants around the world, we understand and embrace that better is always possible.”

Retailers play a key role as well, Bandy noted. “They can make a difference from a design and sustainability standpoint by engaging in this process with us. Retailers can work with us to help make sustainable business more the norm than the exception by carrying this message.”

 

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Mullican Flooring to expand U.S. hardwood production

Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 9.05.48 AMJohnson City, Tenn.—As part of its effort to broaden its domestic manufacturing footprint, Mullican Flooring, a leading manufacturer of quality hardwood floors, plans to bring full production of all sawn engineered products to the U.S. beginning early summer 2017.

Since 2012 Mullican Flooring has converted much of its engineered hardwood production from imported to domestic manufactured product, explained Neil Poland, president. “The transition of our sawn lines to the U.S. is a natural extension of that movement. Further, we are looking at this change as part of our effort to improve efficiencies and long-term value within the company. The move will allow us to tighten quality control as well as to stay true to a long-standing corporate commitment to support domestic production. As a 32-year old U.S. based company, we truly recognize that manufacturing is the foundation of the U.S. economy so transitioning the few remaining components of our production that remains overseas has been part of our long-term strategy all along. The start-up of our sawn production line is the first phase of a five-year expansion plan that will create 200 new jobs at our Johnson City production plant.”

The first product that will transition to the U.S. production facility is EuroSawn White Oak in a 7-inch width. The collection will be immediately available in six colors. Plans to transition additional overseas production to the U.S. will be announced in Q3.

In addition to its Tennessee-based facility, Mullican also has manufacturing operations in Norton, Va.; Holland, N.Y.; and Ronceverte, W.Va.

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Shaw LVT plant ramps up

March 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 20

By Steven Feldman

 

Screen Shot 2017-03-17 at 11.50.16 AMRinggold, Ga.—Three months after its first planks rolled off the line, Shaw Floors is already strategizing to manufacture more of the LVT and WPC products in its portfolio out of its brand spanking new facility here. After a substantial investment to convert the former Shaw Rugs facility to domestic LVT production, the game plan all along was to start with one collection and grow quickly from there.

The first Shaw domestically made product is All-American, a 2.5mm thick, 6 x 48 plank with a 12 mil wear layer. All-American is a glue-down product, but a click version is in the cards for later this year. Eventually COREtec from USFloors will be manufactured here as well as other lines. There’s certainly enough room: The facility—acquired by Shaw in 1992 with the purchase of Salem Carpet Mills—comprises 13.5 acres under one roof.

The facility was built with the future in mind, launching an initial product in January with additional offerings coming online in the second quarter. “We put in infrastructure for expansion, said Stephen Morton, plant manager at Plant RP, Shaw’s new resilient facility. “Everything is open. Why? The floors will be modular. As we determine that next generation of equipment, we can put the floors and walls exactly where they need to be rather than trying to fit a piece of machinery inside a constraint. That gives us a lot of flexibility in what that next generation of machinery for that product will look like. In addition, all systems like heating equipment, cooling equipment, compressed air are in a position to be installed very quickly when we expand.”

The project was among the largest expansions in northwest Georgia in quite some time, Morton said. Among the facility’s highlights is a state-of-the-art R&D lab that allows Shaw to test its formulations. “We are able to quantify or qualify materials here,” Morton said. “It is very sophisticated. We have the ability to press layers here and do mock-ups of what we will be doing on the production line. We also have the advantage of having our innovation technical group here so we can develop next-generation designs and patterns inside our complex. That helps us control some of our IP.”

And with that comes what Morton called a pilot line, which gives Shaw the ability to run some of those layers in a smaller format before it goes into production. Thus, testing does not have to interrupt main-line production. For the record, Shaw only manufactures the bottom three layers of its LVT; the visual and protective layers are sourced.

Aesthetics also play an important role in the uniqueness of the facility. Cylinders are 2 meters wide instead of the more common 1 meter. “This allows us to use a much bigger print film,” said Clark Hodgkins, resilient category manager. “So there is a much bigger repeat. Normally you get a six- or seven-plank repeat with LVT. We will often get a 13-plank repeat based on the size of the cylinder.”

Performance of Shaw LVT is enhanced by virtue of a two-coating process. While LVT is known to be much less scratch resistant than laminate, Shaw’s proprietary ScufResist Platinum coating goes a long way toward closing that gap, Morton said.

The facility also exemplifies Shaw’s culture of environmental stewardship. In illustration, a regrind room takes the trimmings from its calendaring process and prepares for reuse. “Any manufacturing process is going to have waste or byproducts,” Morton explained. “You can either send them to the landfill, sell them or reuse them. We are opting to reuse the material. Anything left over from this process will be re-extruded. It doesn’t degrade the product in any way; it’s just a way to displace virgin material with re-ground material.”

There are currently more than 160 Shaw employees who call this facility home. That includes line associates, the technical group, and management leadership and hard surface quality sourcing teams. “What makes this plant unique is the fact it is shared by all the channels,” Morton said. “For the first time ever, we have both our contract teams (Shaw Contract and Patcraft), our Main Street team (Philadelphia Commercial) as well as our retail, builder and home centers teams under one roof. Specialty markets will also eventually be here.”

 

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Galleher acquires additional manufacturing capacity

Screen Shot 2017-02-22 at 10.38.24 AMSanta Fe Springs, Calif.—Galleher has acquired the production assets of the Copper Plank Mill in Phoenix. The acquisition will immediately accelerate Galleher’s growth plans and entry into new markets with its expanded custom manufacturing capacity.

Galleher has invested heavily in recent years in product development, design and custom manufacturing, and now offers a comprehensive suite of wood flooring products for commercial & residential applications. With this acquisition, Galleher will have five fully operational prefinish lines, an integrated custom engineered flooring plant and the ability to produce custom solid flooring, reclaimed flooring, moldings and stair parts. Galleher now operates from 23 facilities in the western U.S.

“We believe the addition of this significant manufacturing operation will allow Galleher to greatly expand our sales efforts around the country and better serve our customers by allowing us to improve the lead times and quality of what our custom hardwood flooring program is doing today,” said Jeff Hamar, president of Galleher.

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Metroflor hosts distributor trip to China

PastedGraphic-4Norwalk, Conn.—Metroflor recently hosted a historic trip to China, called the Factory Mill Tour, for all of its distributor partners April 17-23. The goal was to showcase the relationships, equity and quality control capabilities the company has established over its 40 years of manufacturing in Asia to reinforce a high confidence level of doing business with Metroflor, “The LVT Specialists.”

The weeklong trip, which began and ended in Shanghai, toured three Metroflor manufacturing facilities as well as a decorative print film facility. Distributors were able to witness start-to-finish production of all Metroflor products, including the new Engage Genesis and Aspecta Ten products that feature Isocore Technology. There was also time for sightseeing, shopping, gourmet dining, a river cruise and soaking up the local culture—including a visit to a youth Ping Pong school.

“The trip was a successful one that highlighted the degree of sophistication built into the manufacturing of our products, provided for enjoyable entertainment and sightseeing and further strengthened the bonds that help make Metroflor Corporation and its distributors the most formidable force in North America’s resilient flooring market,” said Russ Rogg, CEO.

Gary Keeble, director of marketing, added, “The Factory Mill Tour reinforced our ‘specialist’ credibility, showcased our commitment to innovation and demonstrated our thoroughness relative to quality and safety. Our distributors were able to see with their own eyes how Metroflor is exceeding their expectations.”

Distributors who participated in the Factory Mill Tour had positive reports. “The trip was an excellent learning experience,” said Jennette David, product manager, The Cronin Company. “It has given me a greater understanding of the long history, strong relationships, capabilities, technology, investments and forward-thinking vision that has made Metroflor so successful. I was also impressed by the facilities and their employees, manufacturing processes, and quality checks and standards put in place. For me, the trip further solidified Metroflor as the leader in LVT.”

Chris Courtenay of Apollo Distributors said, “The plants are as professional as possible—we were so impressed with how big and immaculate they are. I’ve been to others in the U.S., and they have nothing over Metroflor’s LVT facilities in China; they are spectacular. We all walked away very impressed with Metroflor.”

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Beaulieu announces closure of Riverbend facility

DALTON—Continued reduced sales brought on by a struggling economy has led Beaulieu to cease production by year’s end at its Riverbend facility here. The Riverbend plant has been in operation by Beaulieu since 1988, employs 170 associates, and produces tufted and finished carpet for the industry’s top carpet-only manufacturer. Continue reading Beaulieu announces closure of Riverbend facility