Novalis, which has seven manufacturing facilities in China, was one of the first to learn how to deal with effects of the pandemic.
“Even before the official lockdown began [in the United States], we were already pivoting and changing our teams to work differently,” said CEO John Wu. “We essentially banned all the travel for business at the end of February, including myself.”
Wu implemented remote working and encouraged his teams to virtually stay in contact with distributors and customers to make certain they were receiving the same level of service they expect from Novalis. A crew deep cleans and sanitizes company facilities each week, and everyone is asked to wear a mask and wash hands frequently. He began bringing in individual boxed lunch for the team each day to reduce their chances of getting infected.
“Our first priority is to keep everyone safe,” Wu said. “At this time, no Novalis employee has been furloughed, and I feel really good about that.”
Novalis has a diversified customer base and some have been able to stay open during the pandemic.
“We have home center business, which continues to stay open, so that helps. We also have a strong commercial business, and there are a lot of inquiries coming from healthcare, daycare and school projects. They are going to be shut down for the next few months and can do renovations through July or August.”
Looking ahead, Wu said he is intrigued by how the crisis will affect flooring long-term. “Now is the chance to slow down and take time to learn, and I am encouraging my team to attend seminars remotely.”
Some of this learning could inspire future projects, including changes in healthcare and education, where there is an increase in interest in antimicrobial flooring.
“LVT will come up stronger than any other product because it’s just so much easier to take care of,” Wu said.
With an eye toward that future demand, Novalis’ $30 million plant in Dalton, Ga., should begin producing its first LVT in the third quarter this year.
“A key focus for me has been how do we keep everybody employed at this time? These are good people who have been with me for many years. As a business owner, it’s my responsibility to keep their best interests in mind. It’s not always about the bottom line. Let’s keep things moving so we can all have a better future.”