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Raskin wins 2015 ADEX for design excellence

Screen Shot 2015-06-12 at 10.58.28 AMBoca Raton, Fla.—Several of Raskin Gorilla Floors’ collections have been honored with ADEX (Award for Design Excellence) awards. Most recently, the LVT manufacturer received a 2015 ADEX Platinum Award for its Interwoven collection, a floating resilient that features Gravity Backing and noise reduction attributes.

This award is in addition to a 2014 ADEX Platinum Award for Loft and Transformations, a 2014 ADEX Gold Award for Formations and 2014 ADEX Silver Award for Elevations.

ADEX is one of the largest and most prestigious award competitions for excellence in product and project design in the A&D community.

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Resilient: ‘Something for everyone’ now suppliers’ goal

February 2/9, 2015; Volume 28/Number 16

By Jenna Lippin

(First of two parts)

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 2.49.23 PMExperts project the resilient category will continue to grow 15% every year through at least 2019, which is good reason for manufacturers to continue to invest in new facilities and develop product innovations.

This year is shaping up to be the year of WPC, or wood plastic composite, with more and more companies launching products that follow in the footsteps of USFloors’ widely popular COREtec offering.

In terms of design, the indiscernible wood/stone visual remains hot, with many companies developing looks that can lean in either direction, meaning they can appeal to an even broader customer base.

Wider, longer and generally larger is still hot in both LVT and LVP formats, while embossing has picked up steam to enhance realism. Sheet is growing as well, offering easy, fast installation and durability with visuals just as strong as those available in tiles and planks.

Armstrong

Armstrong at Surfaces fortified its most successful products. For example, LuxePlank with FasTak now has an updated display with changes made to modular units so products can be showcased in a more linear fashion, making samples easily removable.

New Alterna styles were previewed in Armstrong’s showroom off the show floor in advance of their spring launch. The line, which has seen success with authentic stone visuals, has been updated to include more contemporary designs that are a mix of both wood and stone in grays, beiges and creams.

Armstrong’s StrataMax sheet, targeting the property management and multi-family market, features a good/better/best system based on varied finishes and thicknesses. All products include the ToughGuard inner layer that is a limestone/felt blend. StrataMax Value and StrataMax Value Plus received new additions with the latter including a urethane finish. Options within the line range from 55 mil to 65 mil.

Congoleum

After taking a 12-year hiatus from the show floor, Congoleum exhibited its recent “transformation” via revamped products, displays and a butterfly theme.

First on the list was the Timeless collection, which has been revamped with the creation of a cohesive good/better/best line: Endurance, Impact and Structure at 8mm, 12mm and 20mm, respectively, offered in a dry back tape system and click.

Timeless is the “big one” for Congoleum this year, followed by Armorcore, a new sheet line. ArmorCore’s options are easy to navigate: ArmorCore is a PVC felt-backed base product offered in perimeter glue down; ArmorCore Pro includes Ultratech with loose lay and perimeter glue down installation options; ArmorCore UR with urethane is available in perimeter glue down and ArmorCore Pro UR comes with both urethane and Ultratech, offered in loose lay and perimeter glue down installation options. The line includes 24 designs, all available in each construction.

DuraCeramic gets a new display system as well as new SKUs. Along with updated branding, including a new logo, the DuraCeramic display is now more user friendly. The updated products include 10 new SKUs in 12 x 24 and 10 in 16 x 16.

Airstep also has a new display, helping create a better shopping experience for the target female consumer in terms of size and navigability. The display is clearly color-coded so products can be easily found and samples easily removed from racks to lay on the floor. There is room for both best-selling staple products and the 15 new SKUs, which feature an emphasis on wood and few repeats.

Earthwerks

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 2.48.46 PMEarthWerks’ primary message this year is emphasizing its three-decade history as a trusted LVT supplier.

New products include Trenton, offered in 18 x 18 and 18 x 36 formats with designs that address gray color trends through a blended wood and stone visual, and Park Hill, a wood polymer composite offered in 7 x 48 planks that range from gray tones to traditional browns.

Also new is Cocktail, a 7 x 48 plank in bold colors—such as blues and greens—and Regalia, offered in 12 colors and two plank sizes, 9 x 60 and 7 x 48, with Välinge’s 5G locking system. What differentiates Regalia is its deep registered embossing, making the product realistic looking in both trendy and traditional colors.

The company updated its original Choice display with additional towers. Avante, Aurora and Regalia are standout products in the display, but offerings can be mixed and matched as each individual retailer prefers.

IVC US

Despite being off the main floor, IVC’s Surfaces space was bustling. While the company decided to be a bit more understated at the show, both because its new LVT factory isn’t quite ready yet and it had a major sheet vinyl launch last year, it did unveil its new Embellish collection, its first complete embossed-in-register LVT within the Moduleo line.

Embellish features 11 wood SKUs in an XL plank format of 9.5 x 59 with either click or glue down application for either residential or commercial use. Embellish rounds out Moduleo’s good/better/best/premium collection, joining the new Caliber (a slightly thinner option available in click) at good, Vision at better, Horizon at best and Embellish at premium.

Mannington

Building upon the successful unveiling of its Luxury Vinyl Sheet line and Color Select selling system at Surfaces 2014, Mannington has decided to convert the program to the felt side of its business. With traditional felt-backed vinyl the company will now offer 40 patterns in three performance levels designed around lifestyle. Some new patterns have been added in conjunction with the new selling system, including Stone Harbor, which features what seems to be the hot visual for 2015: a blend of wood and stone.

In Adura, the theme for Mannington this year is getting back to basics. Arriving this spring are five new designs that range from trending visuals to classics. Some new patterns were reintroduced, such as Vibe, which was a top seller for Mannington but now includes more muted color tones.

Raskin Gorilla Floors

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 2.48.11 PMWith the LVT business in constant growth mode, Michael Raskin, president and CEO, decided to round out the entire portfolio with the company’s biggest launch ever.

Interwoven was the hit of the show. A woven vinyl product that is laminated on an LVT backing, Interwoven has the same backing as the company’s successful Elevations line, allowing end users to mix and match products, creating seamless transitions and custom designs.

R9 LVT was the big introduction from Raskin Gorilla Floors, featuring unique patterns created by Raskin himself. The line is geared toward the A&D community, mainly in fashion-forward, urban areas like Miami, Chicago and Manhattan. All offerings are offered in 18 x 36 with some in 36 x 36 and one in an extra large 59-inch plank.

USFloors

New from the hot COREtec line is COREtec One, which is set to come out this month. With a 3 mil construction, One is lined up to go “head-to-head with IP pirates.” It doesn’t have cork on the back like COREtec Plus, but it has all of the other features including water resistance, easy installation and dimensional stability.

COREtec Plus HD is USFloors’ first embossed-in-register offering. The line includes eight SKUs and wider, longer planks with some of the same features as COREtec Plus XL but with graining and embossing that will create a more realistic appearance. It is set for release later this year.

Some visuals will carry over across the COREtec line, allowing for consistent options in different constructions.

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Resilient: Domestic vs. imports – Manufacturers weigh in on best methods

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

By Ken Ryan

A number of major flooring companies have recently invested millions of dollars to onshore their LVT production to the U.S. as a way to control costs and accelerate speed to market. However, other large suppliers continue to import products, trusting in that business model because of long-standing factory alignments, manufacturing capacity and experience.

FCNews spoke to suppliers on both sides to get their perspectives.

Domestic advantages: Shorter lead times, reduced working capital

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 3.54.36 PMSeveral of the industry’s leading flooring manufacturers—including IVC, Mannington, Armstrong and Shaw—are building LVT plants in the U.S. to try and satisfy the insatiable demand for luxury vinyl tile, a red-hot market that is expected to continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next few years.

But why are they doing this? To create jobs? To burnish their Made in the USA stories? Yes and yes. But beyond that, it’s also about business. Significant benefits such as shorter lead times and reduced working capital allow these manufacturers to realize a more competitive cost structure. At the same time, onshoring does not tie up money for inventory and warehousing.

“The main advantages of producing LVT domestically are that we will be able to provide faster turnaround time, better quality and better service to our customers— both current and future,” said Ed Duncan, president of Mannington Residential.

When it purchased Amtico, Mannington sourced 100% of its LVT from China. The company found the supply chain difficult to manage. By onshoring, Mannington said it is able to significantly reduce the long lead times of sourcing from China to relatively minuscule lead times domestically. Another advantage: Mannington uses a continuous rotocure process that feeds up to six layers into a roller press, resulting in faster, less labor-intensive production. Therefore, Mannington’s LVT is available to ship faster, becoming more cost effective.

In early 2014, Shaw announced it was exiting the area rugs business and repurposing the Ringgold, Ga., plant for LVT manufacturing, a $100 million investment. Carr Newton, the company’s vice president of resilient, said investing in domestic manufacturing allows it to further enhance product development, service and overall customer satisfaction.

“We are fine tuning the details of the production rates and capacity,” he noted. “The new facility will augment our supply with domestic product while we continue sourcing LVT from key supply partners.”

Donald Maier, Armstrong CEO, said the company’s under-construction LVT plant in Lancaster, Pa., will improve its competitive edge on quality and service by taking out freight and duty costs while increasing speed in delivering innovation and leading designs to customers. “We were a little late to the LVT game, but this state-of-the-art plant in Lancaster will give us a cost position second to none and will allow us to bring innovative products of the highest order to the market.”

Armstrong’s new LVT plant will allow it to be more cost competitive and responsive to the needs of the marketplace, Maier noted. “Our new line will use a proprietary technology developed by Armstrong. Ours is a completely different process; there will not be a line like this anywhere in the world. This will allow the luxury vinyl tile to be made with less labor than other manufacturers’ methods require.”

As an illustration, Maier said it takes 10 weeks for LVT to be shipped from China to an Armstrong distribution center in the U.S.; with the new line it will take about five minutes. “Not only will that be an exponentially faster trip, that means it will be a far cheaper trip. This strategy of putting production in the same place as customers is an approach Armstrong is using worldwide.”

Flooring executives said there is no doubt that price will be under pressure as supply is added in North America. As such, being a low-cost producer is going to be critical. However, as more supply comes on stream, product features and benefits, in addition to styling and quality, will be more important differentiators over and above speed to market and reduced capital advantages.

Companies like Mannington believe their heralded innovation and styling will help separate it from the pack. According to Duncan, Mannington has been successful because “we’ve been able to stay ahead of the competition in both of those areas. It’s a core competency that we stay true to. Our investment in domestic LVT manufacturing is evidence of our belief in the strength of the category’s future.”

More big news in domestic production came in 2014 when IVC US broke ground on a luxury vinyl tile and plank plant in Dalton. The 300,000-square-foot site will enable the company to keep all of its domestic manufacturing activities on the same grounds. It is anticipated to be completed and fully operational in the first quarter of 2015. An IVC spokesperson told FCNews at press time that the company was not yet ready to provide updates on its domestic LVT plant or its plans for domestic production.

And with good reason, as Mohawk announced on Jan. 14 that it was acquiring the IVC Group.

Import advantages: Manufacturing capacity, long-standing alignments

Screen Shot 2015-01-19 at 3.54.45 PMThe majority of LVT sold in the U.S. today is sourced out of Asia, despite the inroads made by domestic manufacturers building plants stateside. And, according to experts, the import market figures are to remain vibrant for years to come.

A large established infrastructure in Asia and long-standing factory relationships and partnerships dating 40-plus years give companies like Metroflor an advantage in importing, according to Russ Rogg, CEO.

“From our very first joint venture with a Taiwanese factory in the late ’70s to subsequent joint ventures with two additional Chinese factories that materialized in the ’80s, the company has built significant manufacturing capacity and technological capabilities that would be difficult to replicate in the U.S.,” he said.

Technological capabilities include hot press, a method that allows a company to react to customer needs with smaller minimum order quantities, numerous format sizes, varying gauges and wear layers, and a number of embossing textures.

Today, Metroflor uses as many as eight manufacturing facilities across Taiwan, South Korea and China, each specializing in particular product types and possessing unique technologies that Rogg said Metroflor can leverage in product development. From these sites the company can coordinate design development with its print suppliers, perform regular quality control inspections at its factories, handle all logistical arrangements for the containers it ships across the world, and conduct product testing at its lab in China. “This diverse capability is a definite competitive advantage and one that could not be achieved through a single factory, regardless of location.”

Raskin Gorilla Floors is another LVT importer that relies on a long-term relationship with its Chinese factory. “Our factory’s 40 years of experience is a key strength, where newer domestic factories will be starting on day one when they actually produce their first pieces of LVT,” said Michael Raskin, president.

Raskin said the company’s loose lay/perimeter glue products like Elevations, Loft and Concrete Alternatives require a much more sophisticated manufacturing process. “We have spent years engineering the machinery to perfect this process. We believe this will continue to give us a competitive advantage to deliver our unique multi-layer construction.”

Referring to possible issues with domestic production, Raskin said, “With any factory there are issues that arise with operating and maintaining equipment. People take for granted how long it takes new factories to get production lines up and running efficiently.”

Raskin stocks product in a Georgia warehouse, which allows the company to maintain the proper depth of domestic inventory support. “The philosophy is depth in the right products instead of supporting SKUs with less turns domestically, in combination with shortened lead times from our factory. Our efficiency improvements are key to competing with domestic suppliers.”

EarthWerks also continues to see the benefits in importing product over domestic production. Jonathan Train, president and CEO, said that since the overwhelming majority of design layers in LVT comes from overseas, most U.S. factories will have to source from out of the country as printing capabilities here have not yet been developed. “Printing capacity still exists overseas, which, in our opinion, is the most critical part of the process because style and design are the most important pieces to differentiate designs. Until all pieces of the puzzle are made in the U.S. there will be some difficulties in ensuring timely production.”

One area in which domestic production would appear to provide an advantage is lead-time/turnaround time from order to receipt of goods. However, Rogg maintains this “disadvantage” for importers can be overcome through supply chain investments. Metroflor established a distribution center in Shanghai two years ago in which it inventories finished goods on its entire Engage (Clic) portfolio. The company’s distributors can build containers from this inventory and receive goods in as little as two weeks (West Coast), he said, but in most cases, four weeks from the PO date. “This is a significant advantage versus a typical 12-week lead time.”

Executives who rely on imports said there remains an undeniable cost advantage to producing LVT in Asia vs. other parts of the world. Yes, there are shipping costs associated with this model that must be taken into consideration, but many believe the combination of Asian production expenses and the associated shipping expenditures still provides a better value model than the cost of domestic production.