Monday, January 26, 2015

Annual Surfaces Trade Show Sees Optimism in the Flooring Industry

In order to understand the consumer carpet marketplace and to stay on top of trends there, it’s an annual tradition for our Carpet & Turf commercial team to visit the Surfaces tradeshow, held in Las Vegas, to gain insight into how our products are promoted throughout the supply chain. This year, we walked the aisles and greeted many customers, industry insiders and experts in our pursuit of the deepest insight into consumer carpet market.

Invista has gained market momentum with their Stainmaster Pet Protect® brand carpet fiber, constructed of nylon 6,6. Americhem colorant is used in 100% of these yarns, which tout stain resistance for acid based stains -- in particular pet urine, feces and vomit (also known in the industry as the three P’s – you get extra credit if you can figure that one out!).  The brand was evident throughout the show, with clever paw print-branded Pet Protect logos at various carpet manufacturers displays.

We met with Industry analysts to give us a sense for the residential and commercial carpet market in 2015. They believe that flooring will grow in the range of four to five percent in 2015 and carpeting will show slight growth of around 1.5% over 2014.

EngineeredFloors had one of the show’s larger booths and used it to promote their Dream Weaver brand. Dream Weaver’s “soft nylon” technology was evident throughout the booth, and the product’s ultra-soft feel is achieved using very fine denier nylon fibers usually reserved for apparel.  Engineered Floors used the familiar analogy of the carrot (for solution dyed fiber) and the radish (for post dyed fiber) to illustrate why the solution dye advantage is so important.

Foss introduced their commercial line of nonwoven carpet tiles, called SmartTransformations. The tile is made up of solution dyed, recycled PET containing an antimicrobial additive. Phenix Carpet, introduced many novel products including a carpet line using a barber pole twist of varying colors of yarn, interspersed with solution dye and post dyed fiber. Phenix’ vice president of product & marketing development Susan Curtis spoke with us and shared the most recent trends, including multiple colors being used in the carpet design.

There were a lot of hard surface floor producers making a strong showing, and luxury vinyl tile is definitely gaining market share. We’re fortunate to have so many carpet manufacturers that are also advocates of solution dye technology  in the industry. Final attendance numbers aren’t in, but we noticed an increase in the number of attendees as compared to 2013 and 2014. Ironically, one of Americhem’s other business teams, our architecture group, was in town for the InternationalBuilders Show, North America’s largest tradeshow for the building and construction industries. We’re grateful for all of our customers, and it was nice to have so many gathered in one city at one time.

John Deignan, President, Americhem Inc.
Matthew Miklos, Vice President & General Manager, Commercial – Americas, Americhem Inc.
Mark Downey, Sales Director, Carpet & Turf, Americhem Inc.
Dr. Vaman G. Kulkarni, Global Business Development Director, Americhem Inc.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

IBS 2015 Exceeds Expectations

Each year, Americhem’s Architecture business team visits the International Builder’s Show (IBS), held annually at the alternating venues of the Las Vegas Convention Center and the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando.

This year’s show in Las Vegas has been encouraging to everyone in our delegation. Traffic and exhibitors are both on the rise and the halls are as busy as we’ve seen them for the past several years. The building and construction market is improving, and even though it was one of the last industries to come back to its pre-recession levels, all of the exhibitors here seem bullish on the future.

We’ve visited each of our customer’s displays and many more. Each and every customer we've talked to said that business at this show has been great. The show also takes up much more real estate this year. There are three full exhibition halls and some outside exhibits. Shows in the recent past struggled to fill one and a half halls. The booths of many of the major suppliers are also bigger this year. Another factor in the show’s growth is the addition of the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show which is co-located with IBS.

We didn’t notice a lot of new products amongst the exhibits, although one of our customers was launching a new PVC deck board which looks to our team like the best impression of natural wood to date in a PVC board. During day one of the show on Tuesday, one of our customers said that there were so many people in their booth that you couldn’t move and today was just as packed. Even the monorail on the Las Vegas strip was so full that we had to take a cab to the show this morning.

We had several people making their first visit to the show and they’re first impressions were interesting. Account manager Stefanie Holtham said, “Of all the trade shows I’ve ever been to, this was the most informative. It’s a great place to learn about the building and construction industry.” Account manager Mark Juve liked the professionalism of the booth displays, many of them containing interactive elements. Companies like Ply Gem invested heavily in their displays and Ply Gem’s booth appeared to be the largest booth in the IBS portion of the exhibition.

We were pleased to see our customers’ products that displayed Americhem technology – even the deck on one of the model homes outside featured color and additive solutions from Americhem. If this week’s show is any indication, the building and construction industry appears poised for a great comeback in 2015.

Mike Fair
Market Segment Manager, Architecture, Americhem Inc.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Americhem (Suzhou) Company Ltd. Grows Into the Future

2014 was a great year for Americhem in China, and 2015 is poised to be even better. Last year, we added 40,000 square feet of manufacturing space to our Suzhou, China plant, doubling its size. We’re continuing our expansion here in 2015 as our laboratories are being completely remodeled and stocked with upgraded equipment. We’ve also added new lab capabilities in physical and mechanical testing including flame retardancy, izod impact and tensile strength, among others. We expect the lab renovations will be completed by March.

New dryers have  been installed in Americhem's
 newly expanded Suzhou, China plant.
In the manufacturing arena, we’re making similar strides. We’ve added three new state-of-the-art high output extrusion lines. With these additions, our Suzhou plant’s capacity is roughly four times what it was last year. In addition, we’ve expanded our capacity to make specialty black products, including products based on carbon blacks and nigrosine blacks. We’ve also added a new manufacturing platform that will allow us to make products for our new sister company, Infinity LTL Engineered Compounds. We will make Infinity LTL compounds that go into medical applications, electrical and electronics, aerospace and many other industries.

Our raw materials warehouse is fully stocked
 and ready to meet our expanded capacity.
Bringing specialty compounds into our product mix will give the plant an additional distinction – ISO 13485 certification. This is a special medical certification for color and property modification and pelletizing of engineering thermoplastics for medical equipment. We are working to achieve this by the end of the first quarter of 2015. This will put us in the exclusive company of a very few businesses that are certified to both the ISO 9001 and the ISO 13485 standards.

With all the activity and expansion, Americhem is building a world-class organization to bolster our operations in Asia. With local technical support and assistance from our corporate R&D staff, Americhem is a technology leader in the region and a leader in the production of color and additive masterbatches for plastics and synthetic fibers, as well as specialty engineered compounds. What started as a new plant in China in 2006 has grown into a formidable technology leader in support of our customers in these industries.

Stanley Teoh
Vice President and Managing Director – Asia Pacific
Americhem (Suzhou) Company Ltd.

Friday, January 9, 2015

ISO 14001 Teaches Americhem Employees Environmental Awareness

Our company’s plant in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, recently became certified to ISO 14001, which is a family of standards related to environmental management. It helps companies minimize any negative impact on the environment, comply with laws, regulations and other environmental requirements and continually improve in these areas.

As part of the team that worked on achieving this accreditation, I was amazed at the amount of awareness that this process promoted throughout our plant and our employees. By becoming aware of ways to reduce waste in one area, our people were motivated to look for opportunities to conserve in other departments, plant processes and even at home.

It’s amazing how working toward this certification empowered our employees to become conservationists. Once plant personnel were aware that I was part of the team working toward ISO 14001, they brought a wealth of ideas to my attention. I was asked if we recycled cans, ink cartridges and lots of other items that were beyond our initial thinking.

I think that speaks volumes about the certification’s relevance to everyone. Conserving what we have is not only good for the environment, it’s good for business. We learned that there are many waste streams that we can be paid for instead of paying someone else to dispose of them. Cardboard and polymer waste are two great examples. Through our initial “dumpster dive”, where we literally looked at all the things we throw away in a week’s time, we uncovered many waste streams that we were able to reduce, conserve or sell.

Now, I notice people conserving not because it’s a requirement, but because they care about it and it’s the right thing to do. During the process, our registrar interviewed more than 30 employees, and they discovered a lot of engagement and pride that the process helped promote. They were amazed by all the different ways that employees answered a question like, “How does your job impact the environment?”

The team that helped work our way through the requirements did an excellent job. It was a lot of hard work over months and months. But a lot of credit also goes to our employees who helped make the project their own. Many of them will carry this newfound awareness home and expand on our sacred company principle, “Be a proactive steward of the environment.” The impact is clear to our people, our community and the world at large.

You can view our certification and get more details  on all of our ISO accreditations on our website.

Darwin Brown
Quality Manager, Americhem Inc.