Posted on

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.”

Posted on

Raskin Industries expands via To Market acquisition

Objective is to bring proprietary products to array of channels

July 3/10: Volume 32, Issue 2

By Steven Feldman

 

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 2.51.08 PMNew York—Raskin Industries earlier this year acquired the assets of To Market, a direct-to-design chain supplier, and will work in concert with company founder and industry icon Phil Wexler to continue developing unique, proprietary products that offer more profitability.

The acquisition of To Market, which specializes in LVT but also sells recycled rubber and cork, opens up a new channel for Raskin. “I’m all about design, color and innovative products,” said Michael Raskin, president. “That is also the hallmark of To Market. So the acquisition is synergistic in that it affords me the ability to build the Raskin brand as a leader in color and design through multiple markets and channels. This gives me another outlet for my creativity.”

Raskin will design products exclusively for To Market with Wexler, who in 1979 founded Bentley Mills, quickly becoming a style leader on the West Coast.

Raskin felt he needed to have a stronger presence in the A&D community. “I saw where the market was going; it was going to become much more competitive. The majors would only continue to get better at it because they have the resources to put more feet on the street. I felt I needed to have a hands-on approach to have the ability to compete.”

Raskin Industries already sells product into the commercial market through its distribution network, but he plans on differentiating To Market through branding. “Raskin is more like the hip brand you would see in Brooklyn, and To Market is the refined brand you might see on Madison Avenue.”

To Market will likely evolve into Raskin’s premium brand with higher price points. But make no mistake: Unique design will be at the cornerstone of both brands. “I want to bring excitement to this industry,” Raskin explained. “Think John Varvatos. I want to bring that to the flooring industry.”

Despite the two brands, Raskin sees minimal overlap in product, and only in areas where there is no distribution for the Raskin brand. “My job is to provide the ammunition and profitability—the proper marketing tools and designs—to my customers, whether they are distributors, distributor reps, commercial sales force or our exclusive sales agents on the To Market side to be successful.”

To Market will now be based at Raskin’s Deerfield Beach, Fla., headquarters but its Oklahoma City warehouse and offices will remain open. In addition, key personnel— including Wexler, who remains president, and Alex Lapree, vice president of sales—is staying on.

Posted on

Ten people making a difference

May 8/15, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 24

Some adjectives used to describe the leaders who made the cut in this year’s list include “visionary, bold, enthusiastic and innovative.” Then there are those who just seem to have a natural proclivity for developing creative ideas that generate results. In another camp you have those talented leaders who inspire others day in and day out, challenging them to continue raising their game to a higher level.

FCNews’ 10 people making a difference features puts the spotlight on those individuals who consistently bring out the best in others.

Screen Shot 2017-05-15 at 1.43.52 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-15 at 1.46.43 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-15 at 1.44.14 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-15 at 1.44.21 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-15 at 1.45.09 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-15 at 1.44.36 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-15 at 1.43.59 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-15 at 1.44.30 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-15 at 1.44.08 PMScreen Shot 2017-05-15 at 1.45.03 PM

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted on

Distribution: FloorNation’s Made in USA story embraced by top distributors

October 24/31, 2016: Volume 31, Number 10
By Ken Ryan

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-3-52-11-pmWhen Michael Raskin introduced his company’s first domestic-LVT brand—FloorNation—at the International Surface Event (Surfaces) in 2016, he was hopeful distributors would see what he envisioned: a truly distinct product that would resonate with their customers. Six months after the official launch, it appears Raskin’s greatest hope is being realized as three of the industry’s top 20 distributors have taken on FloorNation.

“Our strategy is to introduce good quality products to our customers from Lake Erie, Ohio, to Key West,” said Scott Roy, CEO of Gilford-Johnson Flooring. “FloorNation does just that.”

FloorNation is a phthalate-free virgin vinyl flooring offered in three collections: Freedom, Pride and Glory, all featuring the company’s G88 Advanced Coating System.

T&L Distributing of Houston was the first distributor on board. It has been carrying Pride and Freedom for two to three months and just got the Glory line. “My reps love it, they love the idea of getting it quick, and there is a story to tell with Pride, Freedom and Glory,” said Scott Carson, director of products and marketing for T&L. “The visuals are incredible. Michael Raskin has done it once again with designing that collection. What helps the distributor the most is that it is made in the U.S. The product is being built in Ohio, they are carrying product in Ohio. I can have the product in one to two weeks as opposed to eight to 10 weeks [if imported]. That is huge for my business.”

Joining T&L as top 20 distributors carrying the FloorNation line are Gilford-Johnson and All Tile, a top five wholesaler that covers a large swath of the Midwest.

To help drive sales of the Raskin family of brands, including FloorNation through distribution, the company named industry veteran Ted Rocha director of sales. He is currently meeting with prospective distribution partners in the West as Raskin continues to expand its national network. “I have never seen such a complete program, a selling system, marketing and display system, like FloorNation,” Rocha said. “We are locked and loaded and ready to roll. I don’t want to sound cocky but our line is so strong with the Made in USA angle, and with the Raskin name attached to it we should be doing the choosing here [of distributors].”

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-3-52-21-pmOne of the chosen was Gilford-Johnson. “We were flattered that Michael considered Gilford-Johnson to handle the line, and we’re really excited to be launching the product in our entire footprint,” said Jodie Doyle, vice president of product management. “The thing we like about this new line is we are getting Michael’s high design looks in affordable price points with a product made right here at home. We believe the Made in the USA story with FloorNation is a game changer and we are ready to take that to the masses.”

Doyle said the line has broad appeal in both the residential replacement community and more significantly commercial A&D. “Our commercial group is really excited about the initial response they are getting and we’re already landing some significant projects.”

She said Gilford-Johnson first previewed the line at Surfaces 2016 and knew immediately it had winner written all over it. “Michael’s fashion-forward approach and insistence on high quality made this a no brainer for our company.”

Raskin said he plans to keep FloorNation separate from his other brands (Elevations Loose Lay and Loft) and emphasize FloorNation’s Made in USA story. Nox U.S., a South Korean OEM manufacturer, is making the FloorNation line in Fostoria, Ohio. Raskin is adding the design elements that differentiate the line.

In other news, the company is moving its headquarters to Deerfield Beach, Fla., and will soon open what Raskin is calling a state-of-the-art showroom and warehouse space. The company is currently in Boca Raton, which is just north of the new location.

 

 

Posted on

Luxury vinyl tile takes charge

by Louis Iannoco

As technology has allowed manufacturers to become more innovative than ever, one flooring segment that has benefited arguably as much as any is luxury vinyl tile (LVT). Its state-of-the-art designs allow suppliers to make the surface of the finished product consistently mimic the real thing. But, according to executives, this is just one of the many reasons why this segment is enjoying growth in both sales and popularity. Continue reading Luxury vinyl tile takes charge

Posted on

Raskin Industries' Elevations achieves FloorScore certification

New York—Raskin Industries, the supplier of the first truly adhesive-free, loose lay luxury vinyl tiles and planks, is pleased to announce its Elevations brand collections have been FloorScore certified for low VOCs. Now retailers, specifiers and end users alike have the assurance that working and living with Raskin Industries’ Elevations helps promote indoor air quality and preserves a healthy, responsible lifestyle.  Continue reading Raskin Industries' Elevations achieves FloorScore certification

Posted on

Surfaces shows it’s not your grandmother’s flooring

by Celia Payne

Call it retro, call it a throwback, but resilient continues to gain market share. What once may have been considered an outdated, cheaper alternative to the “real deal,” consumers are seeking ways to integrate the versatile faux looks into every part of their home. Continue reading Surfaces shows it’s not your grandmother’s flooring

Posted on

Raskin Global: Fashion focus

Marketing approach to be driven by style vs. lifestyle

New York—In an industry often characterized by a “sea of sameness” label, Raskin Global is daring to be different. And that difference extends from product to styling to marketing to the company itself. Like it or not, this is not your typical flooring supplier. Continue reading Raskin Global: Fashion focus