With supply chain uncertainty slowing global trade, domestic manufacturing has been gaining momentum—not just from among the major U.S.-based flooring manufacturers who continue to ramp up domestic efforts but also overseas suppliers as they build production facilities in the U.S.
Experts say the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the existing tariffs on Chinese imports have magnified the trend and bolstered the case for domestic manufacturing.
Domestic Update: Homegrown firms expand their stateside push
By Ken Ryan
The flooring industry’s major manufacturers continue to invest in domestic production, most notably in the LVT category, a trend that has benefited from a global freight glut that has slowed supply, the impact of COVID-19 and the tariffs on Chinese imports.
The industry’s increased emphasis on domestic production coincides with overall manufacturing activity in the U.S. According to the Kearney Reshoring Index, imports of manufactured goods from low-wage Asian countries fell in 2019 for the first time in five years while U.S. domestic manufacturing output remained strong.
“We see [in the future] most products within the LVT category being produced in the U.S.—flexible dry back, flexible click, SPC and WPC,” said Ben Elliott, director of product management, resilient, Mohawk. “The only LVT product I do not see being produced domestically is loose lay. We certainly see demand for expansion of existing USA-made LVT, mainly in SPC technology.”
Elliott said that while Mohawk has always seen strong demand for U.S.-made products, COVID-19 and the ensuing freight shortage/slowdown has significantly ramped up demand for domestic product. “The freight shortage is causing delays in import product and uncertainty as to when it will arrive,” he explained. “Customers want to know that they will receive their orders when they request it. USA-made can deliver on that.”
Shaw continues to invest in domestic manufacturing across all flooring categories. Specific to resilient, in August of 2020, it invested approximately $20 million to add to its existing SPC manufacturing at Plant RP in Ringgold, Ga. “This latest installment is part two of an anticipated three-phased expansion that will help Shaw balance its portfolio of domestic and contract manufactured goods, enabling us to meet diverse market preferences and conditions,” said Drew Hash, vice president of hard surface category management, Shaw Residential.
Shaw’s various portfolios offer many domestically produced LVT styles, Hash added, including flexible click, direct glue, loose lay and rigid core. “We manufacture nearly all formats under one roof and strive to be our customers’ one-stop shop within the category.”
Hash said preference for Made-in-America products has certainly increased due to the ongoing service challenges in the LVT category today. “Container shortages will continue to impact the market, likely throughout 2021, which will disrupt service timelines and could create increased preference for domestically manufactured goods—if for no other reason than to be able to more quickly meet growing consumer demand for the category.”
Armstrong Flooring’s flex LVT is made domestically at its plant in Lancaster, Pa. Moreover, the company has evaluated the need for SPC and WPC to be made there as well. “We’ve concluded that, given the current technology, making a competitive product in the U.S. is only suitable if tariffs remain in place, which is hard to predict,” said David Thoresen, senior vice president, product and innovation at Armstrong Flooring. “Given the uncertainty surrounding tariffs, sourcing outside of China seems to be the best solution for now.”
Thoresen noted there are many issues impacting the supply chain right now, and COVID-19 is beginning to fall lower on that list. “Dramatic demand increases in raw materials are occurring worldwide, and container shortages are driving up costs,” he said. “COVID-19 is indirectly linked to these issues, but not the primary cause.”
Few have embraced domestic manufacturing as much as Engineered Floors. In 2020 alone, it completed its massive SAM extrusion plant in Dalton, and in October it announced it would initiate domestic LVT production at the Seretean facility in Dalton, leveraging the latest and most innovative manufacturing equipment available.
Mannington’s Made in the USA push now includes manufacturing in five states. Today, it produces 100% of Adura Flex and about 30% of Adura Max (WPC) in the U.S., with the goal of Adura Max being close to 50% by the fall of this year. Additionally, the company said it hopes to begin onshoring Adura Rigid (SPC) during the third quarter of 2021. “With the current logistical challenges that we have been encountering from Asia, having a U.S.-made capability has without question benefited our ability to supply the market,” said David Sheehan, vice president of Mannington Mills’ residential resilient business.
On the commercial side, Mannington now claims one of the largest domestic commercial LVT offerings. “With more than 90% of our commercial LVT line produced in Madison, Ga., we continue to invest and launch product made in the U.S.,” said Whitney LeGate, vice president, commercial LVT. “We are continuing to explore domestic capabilities, including digital print, with some exciting launches scheduled for this year.”
LeGate added the point that as Mannington Commercial continues to manage supply chain issues, having strong relationships with vendor partners in the U.S.—coupled with an increased focus on domestic production—has minimized the impact on supply chain slowdowns.
Overseas suppliers invest in U.S. production
By Ken Ryan
Whether it’s the uncertainty over tariffs, supply chain issues or a desire to target the American consumer, several flooring manufacturers with ties to Asia—including Wellmade, Novalis, Huali Floors, CFL and Concord Flooring—have been putting down roots in the U.S. by starting or expanding domestic LVT production and, in some cases, hardwood flooring. For most, Northwest Georgia is the landing spot.
As part of its “Made in the USA” initiative, Wellmade is expanding its manufacturing operations in Bartow County, Ga., with its first domestic production facility to manufacture rigid core vinyl and other products. The company said it is investing $35 million in capital improvements at the new 328,000-square-foot facility, which will open in three phases. Currently under construction, the new Carterville, Ga., plant will come online in June 2021. Initially, the new facility will focus on rigid core HDPC vinyl plank and tile milled for both click and dryback installations. Wellmade’s full range of widths/lengths, painted bevel edge treatments and EIR textures will be available.
Meanwhile, the Novalis Innovative Flooring domestic manufacturing facility in Dalton focuses on producing rigid core products using the most advanced manufacturing technologies and automation. “Our mission is always to be the first to bring to market the newest, most innovative and trend-forward products,” said John Wu, president and CEO. “The new factory will focus on new innovation in rigid core, shifting current production from China to the U.S.”
Huali Floors, a China-based manufacturer of resilient flooring, will establish its first U.S. headquarters and manufacturing facility in Murray County, Ga. “Our USA headquarters and manufacturing facility will further support our commitment in bringing world-class service and quality to our customers,” explained Philip Yuan, president of Huali Group.
Established in 2002, Huali Floors manufactures a variety of high-quality flooring products, including LVT, stone plastic composite and wood plastic composite flooring. (See related story on page 20.) The new headquarters is set to create at least 315 new jobs—including administration, manufacturing and research and development positions—and the company said it will invest more than $27 million in an existing facility.
CFL Flooring said it will invest more than $70 million in a new manufacturing facility in Calhoun, Ga. “This marks a next step in our plan to become a global company, producing closer to where our goods are being sold,” said Thomas Baert, the company’s owner and president. CFL will locate to a newly constructed, 252,000-square-foot facility in Calhoun with plans to build another 250,000 square feet in the near future.
Back in 2019, Concord Flooring (formerly Arte Mundi), one of the largest manufacturers of engineered hardwood flooring in China, announced plans to build a hardwood flooring finishing plant in Chino, Calif. The 54,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility will handle both finishing and automated packaging of products manufactured and shipped from the company’s manufacturing sites in Asia and via its manufacturer partner on the East Coast U.S.
Anti-dumping duties and the 25% tariff prompted Concord Flooring to build a state-of-the-art engineered hardwood flooring factory from the ground up in California. John Lee, company president, said he has been working with design engineers to create what he called “the most efficient, automated and progressive equipment made.” The facility will be vertically integrated, beginning with sawing and sanding of the veneer to laminating to a quality plywood base. From there, it will go onto the automated, in-line process of distressing, wire brushing, sanding and finishing.
Lee said Concord Flooring will be capable of producing 80,000 square feet of engineered hardwood a day, and be able to ship within weeks of order directly to distribution centers in the U.S.