March 13/20, 2017: Volume 31, Issue 20
By Steven Feldman
Ringgold, Ga.—Three months after its first planks rolled off the line, Shaw Floors is already strategizing to manufacture more of the LVT and WPC products in its portfolio out of its brand spanking new facility here. After a substantial investment to convert the former Shaw Rugs facility to domestic LVT production, the game plan all along was to start with one collection and grow quickly from there.
The first Shaw domestically made product is All-American, a 2.5mm thick, 6 x 48 plank with a 12 mil wear layer. All-American is a glue-down product, but a click version is in the cards for later this year. Eventually COREtec from USFloors will be manufactured here as well as other lines. There’s certainly enough room: The facility—acquired by Shaw in 1992 with the purchase of Salem Carpet Mills—comprises 13.5 acres under one roof.
The facility was built with the future in mind, launching an initial product in January with additional offerings coming online in the second quarter. “We put in infrastructure for expansion, said Stephen Morton, plant manager at Plant RP, Shaw’s new resilient facility. “Everything is open. Why? The floors will be modular. As we determine that next generation of equipment, we can put the floors and walls exactly where they need to be rather than trying to fit a piece of machinery inside a constraint. That gives us a lot of flexibility in what that next generation of machinery for that product will look like. In addition, all systems like heating equipment, cooling equipment, compressed air are in a position to be installed very quickly when we expand.”
The project was among the largest expansions in northwest Georgia in quite some time, Morton said. Among the facility’s highlights is a state-of-the-art R&D lab that allows Shaw to test its formulations. “We are able to quantify or qualify materials here,” Morton said. “It is very sophisticated. We have the ability to press layers here and do mock-ups of what we will be doing on the production line. We also have the advantage of having our innovation technical group here so we can develop next-generation designs and patterns inside our complex. That helps us control some of our IP.”
And with that comes what Morton called a pilot line, which gives Shaw the ability to run some of those layers in a smaller format before it goes into production. Thus, testing does not have to interrupt main-line production. For the record, Shaw only manufactures the bottom three layers of its LVT; the visual and protective layers are sourced.
Aesthetics also play an important role in the uniqueness of the facility. Cylinders are 2 meters wide instead of the more common 1 meter. “This allows us to use a much bigger print film,” said Clark Hodgkins, resilient category manager. “So there is a much bigger repeat. Normally you get a six- or seven-plank repeat with LVT. We will often get a 13-plank repeat based on the size of the cylinder.”
Performance of Shaw LVT is enhanced by virtue of a two-coating process. While LVT is known to be much less scratch resistant than laminate, Shaw’s proprietary ScufResist Platinum coating goes a long way toward closing that gap, Morton said.
The facility also exemplifies Shaw’s culture of environmental stewardship. In illustration, a regrind room takes the trimmings from its calendaring process and prepares for reuse. “Any manufacturing process is going to have waste or byproducts,” Morton explained. “You can either send them to the landfill, sell them or reuse them. We are opting to reuse the material. Anything left over from this process will be re-extruded. It doesn’t degrade the product in any way; it’s just a way to displace virgin material with re-ground material.”
There are currently more than 160 Shaw employees who call this facility home. That includes line associates, the technical group, and management leadership and hard surface quality sourcing teams. “What makes this plant unique is the fact it is shared by all the channels,” Morton said. “For the first time ever, we have both our contract teams (Shaw Contract and Patcraft), our Main Street team (Philadelphia Commercial) as well as our retail, builder and home centers teams under one roof. Specialty markets will also eventually be here.”