National Floor Trendsasked a panel of top executives to answer several questions about business conditions in the floor covering industry for the coming year:

BUSINESS CLIMATE:What is your forecast for 2008? What initiatives are you taking to help business rebound?

GREEN: Sustainability and environmental responsibility have never been more prominent issues in flooring. What are you doing to distinguish your operation in these areas?

TRAINING:How does your company approach training and installation? What are you doing to address this area?

National Floor Trendsasked a panel of top executives to answer several questions about business conditions in the floor covering industry for the coming year:

BUSINESS CLIMATE:What is your forecast for 2008? What initiatives are you taking to help business rebound?

GREEN: Sustainability and environmental responsibility have never been more prominent issues in flooring. What are you doing to distinguish your operation in these areas?

TRAINING:How does your company approach training and installation? What are you doing to address this area?

Jeremy Whipple

Jeremy Whipple, Marketing Manager, Roppe Holding Co.

Business Climate: We have been lucky to be a predominately commercial focused company. However, we have to continue to be forward thinking with our new product innovations in terms of creating new design and color trends in rubber flooring, producing environmentally safe products, and providing a continued proven flooring experience.

Green: We realize sustainability and environmental impact is integral and we have dedicated efforts to make our environmental statement the most straightforward and easy to understand in the industry. We have a dedicated micro-site on our website and sustainable literature detailing how our products may contribute to LEED certification. We provide information in a concise and easy to understand manner about the recycled content of each of our products, because designers, architects, and facility managers do not want to have to spend significant time looking for these critical details. We also engineer our products specifically with whatever post-consumer and post-industrial or renewable resources (like natural rubber) we can use.

Training:Proper training for the installation and maintenance of our products is one of our main focuses. We host regional training sessions in conjunction with our distribution network. We focus on providing the tools and tips necessary to produce quality installations every time out. We also offer and conduct plant visits to educate installers and specifiers on how to specify, install and maintain our products throughout the year. These visits can handle groups ranging in size from five to 50. Additionally, we also support members of INSTALL, the professional installers’ association that promotes installation training.

Tom Davis

Tom Davis, President and CEO, Mannington Mills

Business Climate: It’s true, as with the rest of the flooring industry, and other home building materials companies, the housing slump has affected our business. We’re holding strong as a company and the commercial side of our business has been very healthy. We’ve seen the forecasts for 2008, and the housing market isn’t predicted to show much improvement until closer to 2009, so we continue to look for ways to help streamline our processes. This will help us and our customers remain profitable in the difficult months ahead. As difficult as it is in tough times, we’ve also intensified our efforts to bring exciting innovative products to our customers.

Green: At Mannington we’ve been actively managing our diverse and important environmental responsibilities, even before it became the ‘in’ thing to do. It’s common for our products and processes to exceed what is required; we went above and beyond regulations simply because we knew it was the right thing to do. To date our efforts to share our impressive environmental improvements have been commercially focused.  Because of the increasing interest from residential customers, we will be making a more formal statement on the environment and our commitment to it at Surfaces and beyond in 2008.

Training:Our commitment to training and installation has always been strong, and we believe that professional sales and installation are crucial to the consumer’s long-term satisfaction with Mannington products. We continue to provide training for professional installers, and encourage consumers to use installers who are trained to work with our products.

Randy Merritt

Randy Merritt, President, Shaw Industries

Business Climate:We must remember that our industry is cyclic, and recent years have been the best in the history of the flooring business. Our approach during the slower retail and builder climate that we’ve seen in ‘07 is to continue what we all do best: keep looking forward while fine-tuning our businesses in the interim. I think 2008 is going to be a continuing challenge. The perfect storm that hit the housing market has not finished. Candidly, I am not sure it has hit bottom just yet. This storm has an impact on the rest of our economy and I suspect it will cause a slowing in all segments in 2008. We want to continue to be there for our customers; the business is out there and we want to do all we can to help our customers find it and service it with the right products. Our team has a positive attitude and we realize that the flooring economy we are in is part of a cycle that will end.

Green:Sustainability and environmental responsibility saturate every decision we make here at Shaw. With the introduction of Shaw Green Edge in 2006, Shaw simply put a name onto a movement that has been ongoing for over a decade within the company. The Shaw Green Edge is an umbrella term that encompasses over 100 of Shaw’s social, economic and environmental initiatives. From the driver to the manufacturing associate to the marketing professional, striving to do the right thing and make responsible environmental choices is an ongoing challenge for all of us. However, we have made great strides. The Evergreen Nylon Recycling Facility in Augusta, Ga. is allowing the company to recycle enough Type 6 nylon to wrap the Earth 2,000 times.

Training:We continue to do research in our Technical Services area - testing everything from cleaning products to vacuum cleaners - and we share this information broadly. We have teams of technical support people who travel the country every week doing installation training for carpet and hard surfaces. We have worked with retailers and contractors to help develop curriculum for technical schools. We also continue to work to develop products and technology that will be easier to install, from underlayment to backings to glueless systems.

Matthew Kahny

Matthew Kahny, Exec. VP, Dal-Tile

Business Climate:The residential market will continue to be an area of concern, as there is uncertainty as to when the market will rebound. New home construction is driving much of the slowdown; however we also see softness in the residential remodeling sector.

The bright spot continues to be in the commercial segment. This growth is being fueled by urban development in many major metropolitan areas, as well as the hospitality and education sectors. Even with commercial remaining strong, the significant downturn in new home construction is likely to more than offset any overall growth we see in the commercial category.

Despite the significant slowdown in the residential segment, we are continuing to invest in technologies that allow us to create even more exciting products. 

Green:As part of the Mohawk family, Dal-Tile is committed to engaging in environmentally friendly initiatives that reduce our impact on the environment, are good for business, and are good for our customers. Through the daltileGreenworks program, our processes utilize the five R’s - REDUCE, RECYCLE, RECOVER, REUSE and RENEW. In support of this initiative, more than 97% of Dal-Tile’s manufactured products contain pre-consumer recycled material.

Major recycling efforts leveraged throughout our operations have resulted in improved sustainability. Dal-Tile recovers and reuses more than 60 million gallons of processed wastewater every year. Additionally, the use of virgin raw materials is minimized to the greatest extent possible. Dal-Tile uses waste from other manufacturing processes that were previously sent to landfills. Process changes have also been made to recover and reuse fired tile wastes in new tile production. In total, more than 290 million pounds of solid wastes are being diverted from landfills each year. 

Training:We recently developed a Behavior Based Safety program that we rolled out in a number of our plants and distribution centers. The program involves employee groups who identify and develop checklists of at risk behaviors within their facilities’ operations. The end result is that we’ve developed – and continue to develop – training processes that are specific to the work that we do and mitigate safety concerns around specific behaviors. We have also used the program to identify where we’re investing in appropriate protective equipment to minimize accidents and injuries.

George Kelley

George Kelley, CEO, Pergo

Business Climate: Pergo is anticipating growth in 2008, which will be led by innovative, industry-leading product and design introductions. These new products will be supported by our new “There’s Only One Pergo” ad campaign.

Green: Pergo feels strongly that we have a responsibility to the environment. We were one of the first manufacturers to meet environmental requirements and become ISO 14001 certified. In addition, more than 80 percent of our materials are made from wood excess created by lumber companies, and we only use renewable wood types like spruce or pine. We are committed to being environmentally friendly/compliant in our manufacturing processes and creating a high-quality product with the lowest possible impact on the environment. Pergo is constantly evaluating new and innovative ways to increase our sustainability.

Training:Pergo was the first flooring company to introduce a laminate endorsed installer program and we continue to lead the education effort with our Pergo Endorsed Installer schools and classes. These rigorous classes produce skilled installers whose work meets our high standards of service and quality. In addition to ensuring highly educated installers are working within the industry, Pergo also offers benefits and resources to Pergo Endorsed Installers that help maintain and support their skills.

David Caples

David Caples, President, Milliken Floor Covering Div.

Business Climate:Because our largest markets are in the contract and hospitality area, the downturn in the housing market has not affected us as much as it has other carpet manufacturers. However, we are introducing new products such as Milliken Place and other Convergence products that will allow us to participate in new residential market segments that we have not initially been a part of.

Green:Milliken has always taken a holistic approach, believing that stewardship means more than chasing recycled content statistics. Our commitment to ecountability supports sustainable policies that Milliken initiated more than a century ago. We champion sustainability internally and in partnership with others around the world.

With over a century of sustainable practices, we are certified for Cleaner and Greener/Health & Climate Care and as carbon negative by the Leonardo Academy.  We harvest 80% of the methane gas generated from our local landfill and use it as an alternative energy source in our carpet manufacturing facility. All Milliken carpet tile products are NSF 140 certified.

Training:The safety and health of all our associates is of primary importance to Milliken. All of our carpet manufacturing locations are certified as OSHA VPP STAR sites. Our annual injury rate is more than 92% below the industry average. We serve as a benchmark and advisor on safety to organizations around the world and offer training to associates and to our partners including our dealer and installation network through Milliken University. We now have a program that we offer other companies to improve their safety process called Milliken Performance Solution.

Jack Raidy, Jr.

Jack Raidy, Jr., President and CEO, W.F. Taylor Inc.

Business Climate:Our forecast for 2008 is growth oriented. New product introductions and new alliances with national programs are set to grow our business in the 10-12% range in 2008.

The introduction of our Meta-Tec iscocyanate free, solvent free MS-Plus wood flooring adhesive is expanding rapidly with installers interested in their health and ease of use in comparison to urethane wood adhesives. Other Meta-Tec offerings for resilient and advanced carpet adhesives continue to be specified on large commercial projects. We expect commercial flooring to remain strong well into and beyond 2008.

Green:W. F. Taylor has been the undisputed leader in the development of “green” (environmentally responsible) flooring adhesives for almost two decades. Taylor introduced the first solvent free line of flooring adhesives in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s with our Envirotech-HealthGuard adhesives. Taylor was pursuing environmentally friendly products long before it became fashionable to do so.

Taylor continued its commitment to the environment in 2000 with the development of our Meta-Tec chemistry. Sustainability was an achieved goal as this unique patented technology features not only solvent free higher performance adhesives, but also incorporates renewable resource raw materials to reduce the dependence upon petrochemicals.

In addition to our environmentally safe products, Taylor places a high priority upon waste reduction and efficiency in our manufacturing operations. Reduction of waste streams and judicious use of resources, both materials and energy, further lowers the impact upon the environment.

Training:W. F. Taylor offers continuous technical training for distributors sales personnel and management. Territory technical managers are available for on-site training of contractors and installers also available for jobsite-assistance anywhere in the United States. Telephone and technical support if available by calling our technical hotline.