Posted on

I4F names Kees Verhaaren as CFO

Willemstad, Curaçao—I4F has appointed Kees Verhaaren as chief financial officer, with immediate effect.

As I4F’s CFO, Verhaaren will oversee the financial management of I4F’s licensing business, companies and partnerships. He also will become a primary member of the company’s Operational Excellence team, assuring the continuous quality of I4F’s processes and procedures.

Verhaaren joins I4F from Unilin, where he spent a total of 11 years. For the last eight years, Verhaaren held the role of finance director for Flooring Industries Limited, Unilin’s IP company located in Luxembourg. In this position, he managed all administrative and finance related matters for Unilin’s IP business. He was also responsible for finance and a board member for Mohawk Group’s entities in Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Verhaaren played a key role in supporting Mohawk’s expansion and M&A activities.

“Kees is another extremely valuable addition to our fast-expanding team,” said John Rietveldt, CEO, I4F. “His extensive financial and international knowledge of the global flooring IP industry brings immediate depth and experience to our licensing operations. He will support us with I4F’s administrative and financial infrastructure to organize our rapidly growing portfolio in licenses and volumes.”

Posted on

My take: The ins and outs of innovation

March 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 20

By Steven Feldman

 

Innovation. It’s more than a buzzword; it’s basically a blueprint for survival in the face of competition. Talk to any manufacturer, and most will tell you their ability to innovate is what sets it apart from the pack. Whether it’s a product like Air.o from Mohawk; a new locking system from Unilin, Välinge or Innovations 4 Flooring; a novel dyeing process; or some new wrinkle in the waterproof flooring category, innovation is truly the name of the game.

It’s a phenomenon not unique to flooring. Every company in virtually every industry must innovate, the success of which is predicated on a company’s ability to convey the benefits to end users and why this innovation truly matters.

I was reminded of this the other day as I was reading an article on innovation in the adult beverage industry. Back in 2013, the vodka category was beginning to go through a real identity crisis. For a while, the major innovation was flavored vodkas. Believe it or not, the first flavored vodka to hit the market was Absolut Peppar in 1986, seven years after the birth of the Absolut brand. But nearly 30 years later, the flavored vodka boom was ending, and vodka companies were scrambling to figure out ways to hold on to their growth and still remain relevant in a marketplace that was increasingly shifting toward whiskey. This sort of parallels carpet’s position as the marketplace had been shifting in the direction of hard surface since the turn of the 21st century.

Grey Goose was one of those brands that was really trying to navigate these changing vodka waters. In 2013, Bacardi, which owns the Grey Goose brand, saw a 5% decline in sales. Part of this falloff was attributed to Grey Goose’s decision to not chase the flavor trend too hard, but a more significant factor was unexpected competition from non-premium brands like Tito’s Vodka, which took significant share away from premium players like Grey Goose. For our industry, the parallel could be Royalty Carpet Mills, which saw its market share erode in the face of competition from new mills like Engineered Floors, Phenix and Lexmark Residential, to name a few. Royalty did not chase the hard surface business, either.

The problem with the vodka category, and its players, was it had enjoyed such effortless success for decades with very little need for innovation. Sort of like carpet not facing any appreciable hard surface competition until the mid-1990s, when laminate hit the scene and hardwood and ceramic became more readily available to the masses. While carpet was not going to lose its dominance to any one hard surface category, the landscape was clearly changing, and mills really had no maps to navigate the road ahead.

What Grey Goose did with VX was akin to what Mohawk has successfully done with Air.o, which looks and smells like carpet but is billed as Unified Soft Flooring. Grey Goose VX isn’t technically a vodka: the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau slapped a “spirit drink” classification on the brand and bottle. Grey Goose VX is essentially Grey Goose vodka finished with a hint of cognac. The bottle does disclose that it’s a blend of 95% vodka and 5% cognac, the same ratio that’s common with spirit whiskey.

Grey Goose VX infuses some of the flavors that cognac offers without fundamentally disrupting the vodka experience. Sort of like Mohawk improving some of the attributes of carpet (health, installation, etc.) without disrupting the carpet experience.

The important thing to keep in mind with any innovation is pricing. The end user must see the value. The big problem with Grey Goose VX when it launched was the price. Given that Grey Goose vodka typically sells for around $30, the leap to $75 a bottle for Grey Goose VX was pretty dramatic. It begged the question, “Why not spend the money on a good cognac instead?” Once ultra-premium vodka leaves the $40-$50 price point, there’s a real question over what you’re really paying for. We saw that with laminate not too long ago. As manufacturers innovated to improve style and performance, the price could reach a point where the consumer could purchase real hardwood.

Innovation is a requisite for success. But it must be well thought out and provide a solution—at the right price.

Posted on

Laminate: The latest innovations in ‘click’ technologies

September 11/18, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 7

By Reginald Tucker

 

Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 4.03.25 PMWith all the attention being paid to WPC-type floors—and rightfully so—one might think there’s not much happening in the way of innovations with other competing hard surface categories.

That notion could not be further from the truth as evidenced by what’s taking place in the mature-but-still-evolving laminate flooring sector. As several manufacturers continue to fortify their coreboards with materials and proprietary processes designed to better resist water or repel moisture altogether, several companies responsible for developing glueless locking systems are ramping up their own innovations.

Following is an overview of the latest glueless locking system developments along with a summary of how several click system licencees are incorporating those technologies in their respective products.

Innovations4Flooring (I4F)
One company at the forefront of glueless locking systems is Innovations4Flooring (I4F). Its latest innovation—3L TripleLock—provides a unique one-piece, drop-lock installation system for flooring panels that eliminates the need for an additional insert on the short side. The system works with all types of flooring materials, including laminate coreboard panels. According to I4F, the elimination of the additional insert on the short side provides manufacturers with the possibility to improve productivity levels while at the same time reduce their costs and carbon footprint. Furthermore, the 3L TripleLock click system (see illustration) is suitable for existing high-speed production. The good news for installers is shorter laying time. According to I4F, boards featuring 3L TripleLock technology can be installed up to 30% faster than basic click systems. Plus, there are no special tools required for installation.

While the 3L TripleLock system addresses installation issues on the short side of the plank, I4F’s Click4U technology, an angle-system, takes care of the long side. Combined with the drop-lock on the short side, the locking strength is very high. And just like 3L TripleLock, Click4U is suitable for existing high-speed production machinery.

I4F’s technology is already being used on millions of square feet of flooring around the world. “We believe the global flooring market is ready for change, and our innovations will play a significant role in this huge industry transformation,” said John Rietveldt, CEO, I4F.

Unilin Division Technologies
Unilin Division Technologies is the intellectual property unit within the Unilin Group that grants licenses with regard to Unilin’s patent rights.

Unilin provides several different glueless locking system platforms, including Uniclic, UnitFit (Plus and X) and Unipush. Uniclic is the industry’s traditional glueless locking technology for installation of flooring and wall panels, while Unifit Plus and Unifit X are designed for fold-down installation of flooring panels, which includes laminates.

Lastly, Unipush aims to make push-down installations even more intuitive and simple. How it works: By angling the long side of the panel in, the panel can be connected on the short side simply by pushing the panel down on the short side. No additional materials, i.e., inserts, or equipment, are necessary using this system.

To date, Unilin Division Technologies manages more than 2,000 patents in over 300 patent families. Several licensee partners include: Alsapan, AGT, Berry, BHK, Classen, Clarion Industries, Egger Group, Faus, Kronotex, Mannington, Pergo, Shaw, Tarkett, Uniboard and Witex, among others.

Classen, a Unilin licensee, utilizes state-of-the-art locking technology in its Megaloc system. Manufactured in Germany, the Megaloc locking system Screen Shot 2017-09-15 at 4.03.48 PMis DIY friendly and makes installation simple and seamless. In illustration: A laminate floor with a Megaloc system has a locking mechanism on the short side. The panels are simply dropped down into the joint of the previously laid row. As planks are lowered, a special patented insert/lock, located on the short end of the laminate, will lock the plank in place. (A locking-clip in the short grooves allows the next plank to be locked directly from above.) Once the panel is installed into place, the locking element also locks and a stable connection is created. All the installer has to do is press along the short side when he hears the click.

Other well-known lines featuring Unilin click technology is the Majestic collection from Quick-Step and Mohawk-branded laminates. Equipped with the patented Uniclic system, the products allow a quick and easy installation for floor layers. The products also score points in the aesthetics department. Majestic, for example, comes in a variety of decors from vintage/reclaimed to rustic and smooth and features surface texturing designed to mimic real wood floors. The line also touts resistance to water and scratching.

“Based on original wooden planks, the R&D team uses innovative techniques to develop a product that combines natural beauty with the practicality of high-end laminate,” said Ruben Desmet, general manager laminate, Unilin.

Uniboard is another Unilin licensee. The company’s lamiante flooring product range includes both 12mm and 14mm offerings, each featuring the “Bestlock” glueless locking technology. The end result, according to the company, is a streamlined installation anchored by strong locking joints.

Välinge
Välinge continues to demonstrate its knack for innovation with the latest iteration of its signature 5G locking system. Known as 5G-i, the new system is designed, in part, to expand the installation options for a variety of new floating plank flooring products hitting the market.

How it works: Slits underneath the groove side of the panel provide flexibility so the tongue side—when pressed downward in a single-action motion—clicks into place.

While the system is new, it doesn’t represent a difficult learning curve for installers. In fact, floor layers don’t have to learn a whole new procedure when installing the panels at all. Installers can take it apart the same way they would with the traditional 5G, the company said. Another advantage of the system is it reduces costs (no need for plastic tongues or insertion machines).

Välinge Innovation’s patent portfolio comprises more than 1,600 granted patents and a global license base of over 200 licensees. The company’s range of locking systems provides an industry standard for installing floating floors. Valinge licensee holders include: Armstrong, Abel Laminati, Alloc, Berry Floor, BHK, CFL, Classen, Faus, Mannington, Pergo, Shaw Floors, Swiss Krono and Tarkett, Uniboard and Witex, among others. For instance, all of Mannington’s current laminate collections (Restoration, Revolutions, Coordinations and Value Lock) can be laid down via a click-lock mechanism for fast, secure installations. While the company strongly recommends using trained, professional installers to achieve the best long-term performance of its various flooring products, it advises DIYers to follow all directions contained in the Installation Guidelines brochure.

Shaw’s VersaLock and LocNPlace patented locking technology securely installs laminate flooring panels on all four sides. This single-action locking system enables installation in a snap, literally, without messy, slow-to-dry glue.

Swiss Krono, which markets the American Concepts brand, is a licensee of locking systems developed by both Unilin and Valinge. The vast majority of these systems are designed for private-label applications.

Posted on

U.S. Customs ruling clears the way for import of I4F-licensed products

Innovations4-680x320Willemstad, Curaçao—Innovations4Flooring (I4F), a technology company providing flooring installation solutions, announced that the U.S. Customs & Border Protection Agency has ruled that products manufactured under I4F’s licenses, including the 3L Triplelock and Click4U locking mechanisms, may be imported into the U.S. The ruling stipulates that I4F’s 3L TripleLock and Click4U technologies are not subject to any of Unilin’s current International Trade Commission (ITC) General Exclusion Orders (GEO).

With immediate effect, this ruling frees I4F producers and importers from all obligations linked to Unilin’s 2006 GEO for certain laminate flooring (Investigation No. 337-TA-545) requiring all goods to feature a holographic label from Unilin or Välinge in order to enter the U.S. market.

I4F licensees will receive details on the process and tools required to enable them to align with this U.S. Customs ruling and to import their goods using I4F technologies into the U.S.

“This is excellent news for our customers and the industry as it means that approved I4F licensees are now permitted to import products using our Click4U and 3L TripleLock locking technologies into the USA,” said John Rietveldt, CEO.

Posted on

Unilin prevails in laminate patent case

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 4.26.05 PMUnilin was recently awarded a $1.17 million judgment in compensation for the patent infringement of Granada Kitchen & Floor, LLC, Granada Wood & Cabinets, Inc. and NSL Trading Corporation’s past imports and sales of approximately 600,000 m2 of glueless laminate flooring products that infringed on Unilin patents.

This final judgment brings to a close the patent infringement action that Unilin launched in March 2014 against several California-based companies involved in the import of patent-infringing flooring products and the individuals behind the companies.

“The protection of our intellectual property rights in North America is one of our priorities,” said Bart Van der Stockt, managing director of Flooring Industries, a Unilin/Mohawk division specializing in intellectual property. “We remain vigilant and are already undertaking several new actions against other infringers in the U.S. and Canada in order to ensure a fair marketplace.”

According to Van der Stockt, these court actions complement Unilin’s ongoing, active cooperation with the United States Customs border protection offices, where containers with infringing flooring products are regularly being examined and denied entry into the United States pursuant to the General Exclusion Order issued by the U.S. International Trade Commission in 2006 to prevent products infringing Unilin’s clic patents from entering the United States.

In 2012, Unilin introduced the holographic L2C Label Program requiring licensees from certain countries to attach a unique holographic label to each box of licensed product, which makes it easy to identify licensed products. Unilin’s Intellectual Property Unit also recorded its L2C trademark with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Service, which is actively monitoring and seizing infringing products.

Posted on

Columbia launches three engineered wood collections

columbia hardwood, ashby collection, ivory lace maple, hi-resDallas—The Columbia brand has recently launched three engineered hardwood collections: Wimberly, Ashby and Vale. These offerings are the right products for today’s market, according to Harry Bogner, senior vice president of hardwood for Unilin, Columbia’s parent company, noting the rise of the engineered hardwood market. “This trend started a few years ago and is projected to continue increasing,” Bogner said. “At Columbia, we are continually positioning our retailers for success in this growing engineered market by regularly launching new products such as the Wimberly, Ashby, and Vale collections.”

Columbia’s new Wimberly is a rustic antiqued flooring collection with a beautifully weathered appearance that resembles the uniqueness of reclaimed wood. Striking knots and dramatic character marks further emphasize the depth and texture of this antiqued flooring.

Columbia’s new Ashby collection features longer/wider planks, including softly wire-brushed oaks and smooth maple in fashion-forward matte tones in 7-inch wide planks and random lengths up to 72 inches long; the products showcase the natural beauty of hardwood with ample amounts of rustic character including cracks, knots and splits.

Columbia’s new Vale collection is a blend of smooth maple and walnut floors, along with softly wire-brushed oak and hickory — in longer/wider planks. Rich browns, warm grays, and unique natural tones create high-end visuals. Ample amounts of rustic character, including cracks, knots, and splits are featured in this new collection.

Posted on

Pergo drives brand awareness with new TV spot

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 10.30.54 AM

Dallas—Pergo partnered with Fitzgerald & Co. to develop a television spot featuring Pergo the dog who makes a mess in a residential home and quickly cleans it up while his owners are out. The commercial currently appears on a number of national cable networks including HGTV, DIY Network, TLC, National Geographic and The Travel Channel.

“Our strategy is to use paid media to help ramp up traffic and build awareness during the pre-holiday season,” said Paij Thorn-Brooks, vice president of brand marketing for Unilin North America, parent company of the Pergo brand. “This particular spot was selected because it grabs viewers and draws them in while demonstrating the durability of the product.”

 

Posted on

U.S. Customs seizes patent-infringing laminate flooring products

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 11.45.22 AMDallas—U.S. Customs officials have seized and destroyed containers of laminate flooring that are using Unilin’s patented click technology without authorization. Recently, multiple containers of laminate flooring manufactured by Changzhou Century Wind were seized and destroyed.

In 2007, Unilin obtained a General Exclusion Order from the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) stating that products utilizing Unilin’s click patent portfolio without authorization would be blocked from entry into the U.S., and in certain circumstances seized and destroyed.

Posted on

Unilin’s IP business enters agreement with Eucalyptus Timber

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 3.25.17 PMDallas—Flooring Industries, Unilin’s IP business unit, has entered into a cooperation agreement with Guangzhou Australian Eucalyptus Timber Flooring (hereinafter Eucalyptus Timber), regarding the compressed wood technologies that Eucalyptus Timber developed and patented in 2014. Under this cooperation agreement, Flooring Industries will be the exclusive licensing agent of Eucalyptus Timber’s patented compressed wood technology and is looking forward to offering this new technology to interested parties.

“I am convinced that this compressed wood technology has the potential to become a game changer in the engineered wood business, so I am happy to partner up with Unilin’s patent and licensing team since they have shown to be very successful in protecting, enforcing and licensing out other important technologies in our industry,” said Peter Chan, owner of Eucalyptus Timber.

Unilin’s IP business team will present the compressed wood technology at its Domotex asia/ChinaFloor 2015 booth (Hall E5 Stand C20), being held March 24-26 in Shanghai.

Posted on

Mohawk, Quick-Step, Pergo, Columbia to be featured in NALFA booth at TISE 2015

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 3.07.48 PMDallas—Mohawk, Quick-Step, Pergo and Columbia will be featured prominently in the North American Laminate Flooring Association (NALFA) booth #S7371 during the upcoming International Surface Event (TISE) 2015 tradeshow at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas Jan. 20-23.

The NALFA booth is designed to serve as a showcase for NALFA certified products. Only laminate flooring that meets the strictest criteria regarding quality can achieve NALFA certification. All Mohawk, Quick-Step, Pergo and Columbia floors are NALFA certified.

“When purchasing our brands, consumers can have full confidence they are bringing flooring of the highest quality into their home,” said Paij Thorn-Brooks, vice president of brand marketing for Unilin.