Georgia Mill Tour
A few weeks ago, I was fortunate to receive an invitation to a short, but very worthwhile trip to the Interface Flor official mill tour in La Grange, Georgia. My time there only felt short because of the extremely warm welcome I received from the folks at Interface who made the trip very enjoyable. It was very worthwhile, though, because I gained invaluable knowledge into the carpet industry, the carpet manufacturing process, the marketing of a successful commercial flooring company, as well as the courageous founding of Interface.
First, the process of manufacturing carpet was mesmerizing to observe, especially since I had never visited a carpet mill before. I expected it to look hard and fast – machines churning and smoking and employees scurrying to keep up with the orders – remember, this is one of the top commercial carpet manufacturers in the US with a large International division as well… What I found was a very organized and detailed process, with many, very skilled employees all ensuring that the process goes smoothly. My group was able to witness the elements of this process that make Interface manufacturing unique from other mills, and watch as their innovative specialty equipment supplemented this process.
The company purposely does not work hard & fast, but remains efficient and sustainable. For instance, the physical stress is taken off of the nylon, as the carpet is being woven, by the use of the innovative Interface creel. (The use of this tool also helps to create a move customizable product for the client.) The photo below shows the small rolls of nylon on the creel during the tufting process.
There was a very strong sense of sustainability in the manufacturing process. There was not an inch of nylon in the mill that would be discarded; the cycle of yarn was pointed out to us as we walked through. The original plan of the founder, Ray Anderson, was to create this type of sustainable environment. This very clearly evident in the mill as we stood in front of rows and rows of boxes and boxes of nylon that had just left the tufting area and had been repackaged to return to the beginning. Seeing such a large quantity of yarn that could have been discarded, to be salvaged and utilized, was a very inspirational moment. The Interface Company knows that the money, time, & effort to recycle product is worth the perseverance required; and I highly admire that effort.
I was also very impressed when I met some of the customer experience & marketing personnel. They were all very courageous and goal-oriented people who love being a part of Interface. One of my favorite take-aways from our conversations were the stories on their Strength Tests; everyone in the company takes a test to find their own personality strengths so they are constantly aware of what positive energy they can give to their individual jobs, but also what they can work on to become better. They thrive on each other’s strengths & maintain humility when they know they are lacking. It made me feel that I wasn’t there so they could prove that they were the best carpet in the industry; I was there so they could explain the reasons why Interface cares about the product and the customer, and show me how they produce good product.
The group also spoke often about Ray Anderson, the founder of Interface. He has been called a visionary & a pioneer in the carpet manufacturing industry. He began the company with the concept that modular (or tile square) carpet will eventually outsell broadloom because of the many benefits it provides versus broadloom carpet. When the company was founded in 1973, this was a radical notion. He purposely built the mill at a significant distance south of Dalton, Georgia, where the broadloom mills were focused. Ray is also well known for setting sustainability goals for the company, including Mission Zero, which aims to eliminate any negative impact the company has on the environment by year 2020. Learn more about Ray & Mission Zero here.
Learning how to design with Interface tile was another lesson that I brought back to Pennsylvania. I’ve had some difficulty specifying the product in the past, and I believe that this is simply because the small samples in the books do not do the product justice. After visiting the mills & showrooms, I can understand why: The product gives the designer the control. Interface does not want the designer to take the small 3” x 3” square and multiply that across a 300 sqft room, and then throughout the floor, and then the building. Just as the building was designed as a balanced mix of spaces, the carpet design can reflect the purpose of each space. This is why the colors can be bright, and some of the patterns extend beyond the boundaries of the tile. It is the whole space that Interface aims to design, not just one tile at a time. Images from the showroom tour below help to explain this concept.
Colors are very customizable, allowing flexibility for designers.
This is a carpet that wears well & contains an antimicrobial, so it will always be beautiful.