Volume 26/number 28 June 10/17, 2013
by Rebecca Carson
Strand bamboo flooring became an instant hit in the U.S. more than a decade ago, but the product has not been without its issues, among them cracking and cupping, particularly in dry climates. Few suppliers have survived the gambit of scrutiny, “knock-offs” and product defects, but Anji Hefeng Bamboo and Wood Industries is one of the survivors.
The 18-year-old company has been marketing ECOfusion Flooring since January 2012. Many dealers became familiar with the product when it was sold through EcoTimber from 2006 through 2011. The company not only gained a loyal following during these years, but also earned the Best Prefinished Solid Flooring ranking three years in a row in a nationally recognized consumer rating guide.
A few subtle differences in ECOfusion’s manufacturing process allow its product to perform in a range of environments. Hu Bo, owner of the ECOfusion Flooring brand and CEO of Anji Hefeng Bamboo and Wood Industries, prides himself on leading a company that excels in quality and innovation. Bo is also a chemical engineer and founding chairman of the Anji Hefeng New Products Research & Development Lab Center, located at the mill in Anji, China, whose goal is to improve the technology and business of bamboo flooring in collaboration with Zhejiang Forestry Academy.
According to Bo, ECOfusion differentiates itself through manufacturing and design. The company currently has two factories in China that are ISO 9000 and ISO 14000 certified and use the Six Sigma management process to ensure the highest quality. A Forest Stewardship Council Chain-of-Custody certification is also maintained; this provides validation that ECOfusion’s products contribute to global conservation, community well being and economic stability.
The factories utilize a proprietary process to kiln-dry the strands of bamboo before pressing. Through research and development, it has been determined that each individual strand must be dried to a consistent level before it is pressed. ECOfusion uses a mix of resins to press the strands, and a German adhesive is added to the phenyl resin. Furthermore, each plank must pass quality control before packaging.
ECOfusion’s design elements rank high on the list of the company’s product benefits. “Color is really boring for natural bamboo,” Bo said, so the manufacturer decided to solution-dye strands of bamboo with a plant-based pigment. Bamboo fibers are very dense, making it difficult for liquid to thoroughly dye the fibers. However, company representatives discovered heated bamboo fibers are more absorbent; this patented heating process helped create ColorFusion flooring.
The company owns a patent for all product lines, including ColorFusion and traditional tongue and groove strand bamboo, and a solid drop n’ lock and HDF drop n’ lock series. ECOfusion’s latest introduction features a line of strand eucalyptus flooring. All products are CARB II compliant and contribute points toward LEED certification.
Manufacturing, design and environmental benefits have earned ECOfusion exclusivity as a strand bamboo supplier for many dealers, including the multi-state RC Willey with headquarters in Salt Lake City. “Instead of offering our customers a fair product at a great price to compete with the big boxes,” said Eric Mondragon, hard surface buyer, “we decided to offer a great product at a fair price and show our customers the difference between price and value.”
ECOfusion sells direct to a network of dealers, and works with dealers to ensure they each have a knowledgeable sales staff and qualified installers, focusing on developing strong partnerships. “The service from my sales rep is impeccable,” said Karen Kalmek of Green Home Chicago. “She understands our business model and accommodates all of our clients.”
Internationally, ECOfusion operates a sales division in Australia and sells product throughout Europe and Asia. At home, the manufacturer owns a warehouse in City of Industry, Calif., and stocks material in a third-party warehouse in Virginia to service the East Coast.
ECOfusion plans to establish two additional facilities in 2013 to provide service and shorter lead times to dealers in the mid-U.S. As per Bo, the company aims to place 500 more displays throughout the U.S. and add East Coast coverage.