October 13/20, 2014; Volume 28/Number 9
By Ken Ryan
Newly appointed Armstrong Flooring CEO Donald Maier said the 154-year-old company needs to remember the principles embraced by founder Thomas Armstrong back in 1860.
“Our founder’s mantra was, ‘Let the buyer have faith,’” Maier said in an interview with FCNews.
Thomas Armstrong was determined for his company to always act with fairness in the “balanced best interests of customers, stockholders, employees, suppliers, community neighbors, government and the general public.” Maier’s goal is to “change the whole trajectory of Armstrong. We need the entire organization driving things back to the customer.”
Maier, who joined Armstrong in 2010 as senior vice president of operations, replaced Tom Mangus on Sept. 25 as the new CEO of Armstrong Flooring.
Maier brings a vast and diversified skill set to the job, encompassing manufacturing, operations, engineering, IT, sales and marketing. In his role as SVP of operations, Maier is credited with leading a lean transformation that improved manufacturing and procurement productivity.
“We rationalized our footprint,” he said, “which involved shutting down 11 out of 42 facilities to get our capacities to match the demand. At the same time, we built five new plants, repositioning our manufacturing footprint to correspond to demand around the world.”
During that time, Armstrong consolidated facilities in the U.S. and built and opened new plants in Millwood, W. Va.; Wujiang, China, and Tatarstan, Russia.
Under Mangas and Maier, the company implemented Armstrong Business Systems (ABS), which is largely modeled after the Toyota Production System (TPS). It is a business model that strives for the absolute elimination of waste, overburden and unevenness in all areas to allow members to work smoothly and efficiently. The principles of TPS are built on standardization to ensure a safe method of operation and a consistent approach to quality.
ABS has been deployed globally to focus on manufacturing, procurement, environment, health and safety, logistics and distribution, new product development, human resources, finance and IT.
When asked what he is most proud of in his four-year tenure at Armstrong, Maier cited the company’s safety record. “Our business is not light manufacturing,” he said. “It is very hazardous, involving industrial situations. We scored a 0.68 on the Recordable Incident Rate (an OSHA standard metric), which is radically lower than the industry averages.”
Maier said he has worked closely with Mangas for the last nine months on rolling out the company’s three-year strategy, and his intent is to build on the business plan. “The twist I am putting on things is to go back to putting the customer at the start of everything we do,” Maier said. “We have been internally focused [in recent years] through bankruptcy, and I intend for us to stay centered on the customer in a big way.”
He expects to spend 50% of his time away from Armstrong’s Lancaster site, visiting with customers—both distributors and retailers—and even consumers to get a better sense of how best to position Armstrong in the market.
One area of concentration will be LVT. Maier is proud of the new LVT facility in Lancaster, which is under construction and will be ready for production in 2015. “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.”
Additionally, Maier said Armstrong’s commitment to the hardwood business “has never been stronger” as it looks to regain profitability in that segment.
Armstrong also recently announced that it was closing an engineered hardwood plant in China and relocating the work to Kentucky, part of the company’s onshoring efforts.
“I would like to say it is a patriotic thing to bring jobs back to the U.S., but it is just really good business,” he said. The move allows Armstrong to be closer—and thus more responsive—to its distributors and their retailers. “It will drive our cost model to where we can be very competitive, and we are layering the innovation on top of that.”
Maier said Armstrong will also continue to be active in business development.
“We want to be opportunistic in the market, not deal-crazy,” he noted.
When asked what the name Armstrong means to customers, Maier answered, “A trusted partner that is continually bringing innovative products that drive their business.”
He added, “Some would say that the shine on the apple has gone away a little bit, but it is still a good apple. As such, it is important to ‘rebuild’ relationships with valued customers.
“We are purposely being a bit critical of ourselves … and humbled,” he concluded. “Our goal is to drive positive change.”