AHF Products seeks to stay ahead of the curve

Most industry observers argue the same: AHF products with legendary brands such as Bruce, Hartco, Robbins, LM Flooring and many other notable hard surface lines. But at its core, AHF Products embodies the spirit of not only innovative flooring products across a range of categories, but also tailor-made go-to-market strategies for how those products reach key channels and end-use segments.

“We listen to our customers,” said Brian Carson, president and CEO of AHF Products: FCNews† “As a result, we work together on the most cost-effective go-to-market strategy for each channel. With our stable of brands, our product differentiation and merchandising, we are able to keep these channels segmented. This portfolio of top brands enables us to provide our channel partners with the right style, value, innovation and marketing to differentiate themselves and increase market share.”

AHF Products’ distribution partners, such as Scott Rozmus, president and CEO of Romeoville, Illinois-based FlorStar Sales, agreed. “AHF Products does a great job partnering with their distributors to maximize market opportunity and service. They are also actively seeking input on the product, both in terms of styling and performance, to ensure their offerings are nationally and regionally relevant.”

Whether it’s innovations in product design and performance or improvements to channel segmentation strategy, AHF continuously strives to stay ahead of the proverbial curve. Following are some examples of where the company excels.


MANUFACTURING PROWESS

AHF Products is in the enviable position of having seven hardwood floor manufacturing plants here in the US and a state-of-the-art hardwood flooring plant in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. The company has also recently partnered with a domestic laminate flooring manufacturer and parts supplier to expand its range to include this resurgent category, and is working with an SPC/LVP manufacturing partner in Cambodia, not far from its hardwood flooring factory. there.

The idea, according to the company, is to maximize global production efficiencies to serve customers more effectively (and more cost-effectively) wherever they are. “Cambodia is important, of course, but it’s just one leg of a four-legged stool,” Carson explained. “We have new capabilities and additional capacity for all of our solid and technical plants in the US. We are adding new equipment, new technology and personnel.”

Recent examples of AHF Products’ commitment to manufacturing investments include the multi-million dollar upgrades to the factory in Somerset, Ky. look. Previously, Cambodia was the sole source of AHF Products’ sawn lines. The new investment paved the way for many new employees, longer production shifts and the implementation of patented technologies.

One of the innovations that came out of the investment in Somerset is the highly regarded Dogwood line. Using AHF’s patented process, the technology has a “densified” structure that makes wood more resistant to scratches, gouges and dents, such as those caused by pets’ nails. In addition, it is also waterproof. “Dogwood is real wood — no additives, chemicals, fillers, or plastic,” said Wendy Booker, vice president of marketing and product development. “It is real wood that has been treated with a patented process to improve the performance of the wood. In fact, our tests have shown that it is more than 250% harder than standard wood.”

AHF Products’ Somerset facility is currently the only plant in its arsenal of plants in the state capable of producing the Densitek core that forms the heart of the new Dogwood line. The factory has also recently been outfitted to make products with the popular “band saw” texture – a visual AHF originally used on products sourced from the solid floor factory in Beverly, W. Va. Thanks to upgrades to the factory, a technical version will be produced from the Somerset facility.

In the same vein, AHF invested capital and manpower to bolster production in Beverly. AHF Products worked with state government officials on ways to maintain workforces — especially during the pandemic — to keep residents employed while supporting the local economy. The factory is responsible for producing best-selling lines, such as Mark Bowe’s Barnwood Living collection (pictured top left).


OUTDOOR HARDWOOD

Hardwood is certainly AHF Products’ strength, but it is not the only area where the company is making an effort. “We’ve had customers ask to buy SPC, laminate, and even commercial products from us,” explains Booker. “Our ability and experience with those other products, along with our ability to turn them around quickly and still get feedback, really set us apart.”

A prime example of this is the company’s recent entry into the red-hot SPC market with Bruce LifeSeal, a rigid-core floor that mimics natural materials, including hardwood, while providing waterproof performance. While AHF does not currently manufacture rigid core products, the company works closely with its supplier partners on everything from designs and styles to standards and quality controls.

“As one of the largest manufacturers of hardwood products, we have the advantage of knowing very well what consumers, retailers and designers are looking for in hardwoods,” said Sara Babinski, senior design manager at AHF. Many of the wood visuals in LifeSeal, she noted, reflect the best-selling offerings in Bruce, Hartco, etc. “These hardwood trends have a direct correlation to what we’re developing for our rigid core collections.”

The same can be said of AHF Products’ foray into laminate flooring – a product segment that has been making a strong comeback in retail recently. Like LifeSeal, AHF Products’ new laminate offerings – Natural World, Basic Wonders TimberTru – are focused on providing the realism and texture of real wood, combined with the scratch, stain and dent resistance that laminate offers. “We’re not just a hardwood company anymore,” said Brian Parker, vice president of product management. “AHF Products, when cut from Armstrong Flooring, was founded as a hardwood company; that was our early legacy three years ago. However, we have expanded into residential vinyl with a large number of SPC products and also into the commercial arena with our Hartco Contract portfolio.”

AHF Products’ entry into the laminate arena can actually be considered a “re-entry” according to Parker. He alluded to the mid-1990s, when Triangle Pacific—then parent company of the Bruce brand—offered retailers the famed Bruce Traffic Zone laminate line. Given the company’s heritage and experience in developing and marketing laminate flooring, it makes it a little easier to get back into that category. “Laminate may be new to AHF, but it’s not new to us,” Parker said, referring to the experience of those on the product development team. “We have designed, developed and launched laminate products and managed those portfolios, so we have the expertise and the skills to not only bring that into AHF Products, but also bring it to market quickly.”

While AHF will not manufacture laminate floors in-house, Parker said the company will work closely with a third-party supplier on specifications, designs and controls. “We have partnered with this company and made investments to help them start up their factories,” he said. “That helps us to secure capacity in the market.”

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