Global supply chain issues have made every manufacturer rethink their sources of supply. For LM Flooring—and AHF Products— this meant a strategic shift out of Shanghai, China, and into nearby Cambodia.
“We built our Cambodia facility at the end of 2016,” said Kevin Whaley, vice president of sales and product, LM Flooring. “The original reason for building that was there were some challenges in China at the time on the business side with tariffs and duties. The labor costs in China had had significantly skyrocketed. We saw a lot of diversification starting to happen in manufacturing into Southeast Asia.”
LM Flooring was producing more than 30 million square feet in Shanghai and began sending one product at a time to the Cambodian facility to get it up to speed. “As we started seeing more significant increases in tariffs with the trade war that was happening with China, it made it very easy to go ahead and complete the transition of equipment and products over to Cambodia,” Whaley said. “The linchpin that made that possible was the acquisition of our company by AHF products. They were able to inject the capital that was necessary to quadruple the size of the Cambodia factory in about a 12- to 18-month time period.”
Currently, the Cambodian factory is producing about 37 million square feet annually and has the ability to make up to 55 million square feet—which it will reach by 2022. The company added four stain lines as well as 30% more pressing and profiling capacity. In addition, the company’s labor force has been increased 28%, to 900 people. The Cambodia facility not only services LM Flooring, but also supplies AHF Products’ other leading hardwood brands, including Bruce, Hartco and Robbins.
“We see opportunities to differentiate our visuals through some chemistry of the products— we're looking to be the leader in those types of products going forward,” Whaley added.
The new technology is being used for the company’s new flagship collections launching this fall, The Reserve and The Glenn, which feature 1/2 -inch planks with lengths up to 75 inches. The Reserve offers a 7.5” fixed width and The Glenn a multi-width 4”, 5”, 6.5” option in the same box. LM Flooring makes its own reactive stains for these collections in-house, giving the wood an aged patina, allowing natural color variation and character to come through each plank.
“We have developed a very structured process to ensure consistent color standards in this highly variegated visual," Whaley said. “Instead of a stain that covers or masks the grain and inherent beauty of the white oak species, our process reacts with the natural tannins in the wood to enhance the grain and to bring the true color capability of the species right to the surface. The best way to describe the difference between a traditionally-stained product and our proprietary process is like the difference between watching a tube television from the early 90s and a high-definition LED flatscreen available today.”
In terms of finishes, Whaley said gloss levels continue to come down for wood floors and oil finishes continue to be popular, albeit tougher to maintain.
“The beauty of oil is unmistakable, although the maintenance of that product is really a challenge for homeowners,” he said. “Our finish line could provide us matte finishes that emulate oil but have the same maintenance as a urethane aluminum oxide that people are used to taking care of.”
The result are matte finishes that retain depth and beauty. “This is a trend you’re seeing in furniture and in car interiors—and now we are seeing it on wood floors,” he said.