Resilient: Suppliers call a draw on domestic vs. imports

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Nov. 25/Dec. 2, 2019: Volume 35, Issue 11

By Lindsay Gonzalez

 

The benefits and shortcomings of domestically produced resilient flooring vs. imported are often used to determine which flooring is the better product. However, it would be unfair to deem one source of production superior over the other, resilient suppliers say, especially considering the fact that a healthy mix of domestic and imported product is an effective way to keep up with the consumer’s ever-growing demand for resilient products.

FCNews polled a handful of manufacturers to get their take on the advantages and disadvantages of producing resilient flooring domestically and overseas. Following are excerpts of what they had to say.

Domestic

Armstrong Flooring has six U.S. plants, including this one in Lancaster, Pa.
Advantages
Shorter lead times. 
Manufacturing close to the market can provide faster delivery, according to David Morgan, executive vice president of operations, Shaw Floors. But, that’s not all. “Having design, engineering, production and service collaborating in close proximity to one another enhances the opportunity for innovation,” he said. “Furthermore, with our internally produced products, we’re able to completely understand the material chemistry and physical product attributes down to the ingredient level.”

U.S. jobs and quality control. Domestic production opens the doors for more jobs for U.S. citizens, said Chris Dillon, vice president of sales and marketing, SLCC. “There are several advantages from a consumer as well as an economic advantage when it comes to domestic production,” he added. “The quality control can also be localized. When you buy domestic, you know exactly where it is coming from and whom to hold accountable for any issues.”

Faster reaction time. “U.S. production gives Mohawk the advantage of reacting to the customer’s needs efficiently and timely—to deliver the products she wants when she wants them,” said Joey Faircloth, senior vice president of manufacturing, Mohawk Industries. “Add in natural resources, low energy costs, low transportation costs (due to our IVC plant having easy interstate access) and a very capable workforce—manufacturing here oftentimes makes the most sense.”

Patriotism. There’s a certain patriotic advantage to domestic production, according to Doug Ankney, vice president, resilient manufacturing, Armstrong Flooring. “For some consumers and businesses, it’s important to buy products manufactured in the USA because it’s a means of supporting local economies.”

Close to raw materials. For Armstrong Flooring, domestic production puts the company in close proximity to raw materials such as limestone. “Locating production close to both raw materials and end markets has both economic and sustainability benefits because it reduces transportation costs and the related environmental impact,” Ankney added.

Disadvantages
Cost issues. In some instances, domestic resilient products are unable to compete with imports on pricing, manufacturers say. “Some projects are driven almost entirely by initial cost, which impacts price competitiveness, especially for less durable LVT constructions with lighter wear layers,” said Adrienne Roseman, director of LVT, Tarkett North America. “This can hinder the ability to produce these entry-level products domestically.”

Less flexibility. Domestic production often comes with less flexibility as well as higher minimum order quantities, higher labor costs and longer development time, according to Michael Raskin, CEO, Raskin Industries.

 

IMPORTS

Cali Bamboo sources its Moso bamboo from within the Zhejiang Province of China.
Advantages
Consistency, reliability. Manufacturing product globally can help companies provide customers with consistent service. That’s according to Jenne Ross, director of marketing, Karndean Designflooring. “For Karndean Designflooring, because we are a global entity with businesses in the U.S., UK and Australia/New Zealand, having a global supply chain is advantageous for our business and our customers because this allows us to offer products with universal consistency and reliability.”

Significant capacity. With the large growth of LVT, WPC and SPC-type products, capacity is an important factor in production. “WPC and SPC products were originally developed in China creating significant capacity there,” Shaw Floors’ Morgan explained. “While manufacturing in the U.S. is taking place, getting new facilities online simply cannot happen at a pace that comes close to meeting market demand. Thus, imports are particularly important in the LVT flooring sector where U.S. production is significantly below in-country demand.”

Sustainable sourcing. For Cali Brands, sourcing its Moso bamboo from within the Zhejiang Province of Southeast China is a move that is not only sustainable but also reduces environmental impact and transportation costs. “Most of the world’s bamboo is concentrated in this region, making it the most sustainable place to harvest, process and manufacture bamboo products,” said Alex Brodkin, Cali’s senior manager of product management and innovation. “These efficiencies in the supply chain bring customers high-quality products at better prices. Cali relies on a third-party agency to visit manufacturing sites regularly and ensure all quality control processes are being followed properly.”

Flexibility. Overseas production, noted Thomas Baert, president, CFL, provides a certain level of flexibility not found in the U.S. “Contrary to the general perception, the higher end and more innovative products are often made overseas since they require a certain flexibility in manufacturing, which is hard to realize on fully automated machines typically used in U.S. manufacturing.”

Cost savings. Despite the tariffs and duties, importing LVT from China, Korea or Southeast Asia can have significant cost savings for companies. That’s according to Tommy Junker, LVF business unit manager, Swiff-Train. “The LVT market is so saturated that if you aren’t the lowest in price, you must differentiate yourself with custom designs and unique features, which for the most part are only offered outside of the U.S.”

Disadvantages
Longer lead times. Some manufacturers say longer lead times can pose challenges when importing resilient product. “Because of long lead times during transport, imported goods can pose challenges and unpredictability with inventory control and operating expenses,” Tarkett’s Roseman said. “This certainly impacts everyone involved in the project and can add expense and complexity to the business model for manufacturers and sales channels.”

Hard to keep up. With a lower price of entry overseas new resilient factories are frequently created, which can create confusion in the marketplace. “There are so many resilient factories overseas that it is hard to keep up,” SLCC’s Dillon said. “It seems that almost every day a new one is opening. Vetting these companies are not always easy, and I have seen some U.S. companies get burned by importing from factories that have a lower price, but much inferior quality.”

 

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