The International Standards & Training Alliance (INSTALL) announced its triennial conference that it is pushing its members to recognize the value of a strong brand and to take efforts to put that messaging front and center in all outreach.

The two-day conference created a platform to share industry updates, identify problems, discuss areas of success and examine current and upcoming trends.

According to an INSTALL representative, the conference drew more than 360 members representing North American flooring mills, manufacturers, consultants, contractors and installers. Presentations by industry professionals and business leaders included Lewis Migliore, LGM and Associates; Michel Vermette, president, Mohawk Group; Mark Breslin, Breslin Strategies and John McGrath, INSTALL's executive director.

Presenters and attendees reviewed the state of the industry. Although 2014 was a bit lackluster, according to McGrath, the flooring industry saw bright spots in hospitality and commercial spaces. Vacancy rates are coming down and new construction is growing but still at very reasonable levels. Remodeling is expected to be more moderate but is demonstrating similar positive trends. "Given that continued growth, 2015 looks promising from an industry stand point," he said.

McGrath added, improper installation continues to be a top problem in the floor covering industry and a major complaint particularly in the commercial market. Carpet in particular is getting more complicated and challenging to install due to patterning. Tile also serves as a category that offers challenges in installation.

INSTALL continues to stress the importance of using a superior contractor to reduce the issue of improper installation. INSTALL is working to improve this ongoing problem through its resources, commitment and collaboration amongst mills and manufacturers, installers and flooring contractors. This partnership allows access to unparalleled distribution of industry-directed training and certifications to incoming and existing installers that can be delivered to floorcovering customers through superior and dependable contractors.

“The most effective way to ensure a successful installation is to only work with superior contractors,“ said McGrath. “It is essential that effective superior contractor standards be specified."

The INSTALL curriculum is an extension of floor covering manufacturers' training that is revised routinely with the manufacturers' direction. INSTALL apprenticeship, journeymen upgrading courses and certifications are recognized as the best in the industry. Incoming and existing installers are trained throughout their career.

Vermette added, “Manufacturers are moving from a product centric business model to a full service solution model tailored to the specific needs of each end user. Customers like the idea of a one-stop-shop for products and services. This provides them one go-to person and minimizes the distraction on their business. Today, business is all about the end user and the project requirements. They want a team of partners working together across A&D, contractor and manufacturer that understands their business and can create value for them.“

Vermette stated that manufacturers are seeing increased demand for integrated product solutions. As such, customers are seeking more partner-based relationships and examining areas such as supply chain optimization, purchasing consolidation and corporate standards. Expansion on both national and global levels is driving this mindset. In response, major manufacturers are more fully leveraging consolidation, which strategically positions them as complete flooring providers.
Migliore affirmed the INSTALL program as an active tool in combatting the shortage stating that “INSTALL has no equal in the flooring industry."
As a result, INSTALL is experiencing record breaking enrollment into its apprenticeship program, according to McGarth. An INSTALL certification demonstration was held at the conference, staffed by six apprentices showcasing the standards learned through INSTALL curriculum and certification.
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