By Steven Feldman
Calhoun, Ga.—Mohawk has created a process it claims will yield the best-performing polyester carpets on the market today. The result of a $180 million investment, the process, called Continuum, creates PET carpets that not only start clean and stay clean, but offer outstanding performance as well, according to Tom Lape, president of Mohawk Residential and Commercial.
Lape told FCNews in an exclusive interview the Continuum process represents Mohawk’s largest financial commitment since the launch of SmartStrand in 2006 as it seeks to take the PET filament category into another stratosphere. The process by which products such as Aladdin Everstrand and Horizon Wear-Dated will now be manufactured involves a combination of superior raw material sourcing and a proprietary cleaning procedure, completed with Scotchgard Protector Advanced Repel Technology. The end result is a stronger, cleaner, more sustainable fiber.
It was only a matter of time until Mohawk turned its attention to improving the PET landscape. Over the last decade, the company targeted its innovation initiatives at the high end as it sought to change the game with its revolutionary triexta fiber and Embrace nylon.
Against this backdrop of innovation, Mohawk had been working on Continuum for the past three years for two reasons: market size and opportunity.
“Polyester is a big segment of the market, now amounting to as much as $1.5 billion and growing,” Lape said. “But the only innovation has been on conversion cost. In other words, ‘How can we make it cheaper?’ So we looked at how we could turn this segment on its head and create a broader platform around something other than cost. Continuum is about building a product that will better perform, better satisfy the consumer and is built on a more sustainable platform. We are innovating the process and creating value-added benefits for consumers and retailers.”
The challenge for all manufacturers, Lape said, is to accept the fact that polyester is neither nylon nor triexta. “It can be oversold in many cases. So the question is how can we innovate in the category and make sure that polyester is still properly positioned in that marketplace? It’s not a solution for every consumer and every situation. In fact, even though it has been growing, our research shows 70% of retail sales associates would not put polyester in their own homes. That demonstrates while polyester is suitable in some cases, it is not the end all, be all.”
Therefore, Mohawk sought to build the best polyester carpet, but did not expect it to be the best carpet overall. “Polyester does not have the performance attributes of nylon or triexta,” Lape said. “So if you have false expectations, the consumer will not be satisfied. And consumer satisfaction is the long-term industry goal.”
Another way in which the customer will be satisfied is the value the Continuum process will provide in what is a price-sensitive category. “We will be competitive in the space, but deliver superior product with superior performance attributes that connect with consumers,” Lape said. “The goal is to give the retail sales associate a story to connect with consumers and create value. All retailers want factual stories that connect with consumers.”
Continuum provides a cleaner process, cleaner product and, ultimately, contributes to a cleaner planet. Mohawk’s multi-step purification process reduces 95% of lubricants on the fiber, resulting in better resistance to dirt, grime and contaminants that cause other PET carpets to become dingy and wear prematurely. Other PET carpets have up to 10 times the amount of dirt-attracting oily residue.
Aptly, the Continuum process starts with high-grade raw materials. Because Mohawk uses only superior FDA-approved PET bottle resin, the resulting PET filament carpet provides improved impact resistance and strength. The carpet stands up to traffic and wears better than competitive PET due to the deterred dirt and soil buildup, which is prevented from the oil and lubricant removal during the multi-step purification process. In addition, Mohawk’s newest PET offerings feature Scotchgard Protector Advance Repel Technology, which locks in exceptional stain and soil resistance.
“There is a spin finish on the product used in extruding,” Lape said. “Any competitive finish done through solution dying that is not scoured is susceptible to oil-based stains over time because polyester is a hydrophilic fiber. After we dye the product, up to 95% of the spin finish is removed through a proprietary scouring process. That, coupled with Scotchgard, is how we build a better performing product over time. It creates a product that will be more durable and easier to maintain than any other polyester carpet, particularly solution dyed.”
Finally, the Continuum process reflects Mohawk’s commitment to sustainability as it provides the most eco-friendly PET filament fiber yet. Boasting up to 50% recycled content, the production of Mohawk’s PET filament offerings divert over 3 billion bottles from the landfill each year. Utilizing less production energy than nylon, the Continuum process is playing its part in reducing the world’s dependence on oil.
“Putting recycled content in staple is one thing,” Lape noted. “Putting it in filament is difficult. But we think we have cracked the code in building a high quality filament product. Other carpet manufacturers get their raw material from the ground. Mohawk prevents our raw material from going back into the ground. We think this will be much more important to consumers over time.”
At the end of the day, Continuum gives retailers and their sales associates a story to tell consumers. “They can say, ‘We have more confidence in this product because Mohawk builds it using a higher quality resin. These products are scoured, and Mohawk is the only one in the industry that invests in putting Scotchgard on their products, plus they are built on a sustainable base from recycled content,’” Lape explained.
Customers will start seeing products utilizing this new technology within the next 30 days. As well, the Continuum process will be available on all 2014 polyester launches under the Aladdin Everstrand and Horizon WearDated brands with some existing products being converted to this platform throughout 2014. As a result, the company’s Summerville, Ga., plant has been expanded.