EGGER, a Leading Wood-Manufacturing Company, Brings Its Business to the U.S.
Austrian-based EGGER, a global leader in wood manufacturing, opened its first U.S. facility in 2020. The company makes wood panels for a variety of products, including laminate flooring, cabinetry, casework, and residential and commercial furniture.
- LocationLexington, NC
- Square Footage859,000 s.f.
- Operational25 months
When EGGER decided to expand its operations to the U.S., it partnered with Gray to build its 815,000 s.f. facility in Lexington, North Carolina—“the most modern plant in the world for this type of product,” states Carsten Ritterbach, plant manager, commercial services for EGGER.
EGGER’s goal in coming to the U.S. was to be closer to its North American customers and provide them with an American-made product, as well as faster services through more local supply chains with shorter lead times.
Although a number of sites were in contention, Lexington, North Carolina, quickly became the EGGER location team’s top choice. North Carolina’s historic furniture-making industry, abundant wood supply, and skilled workers made it an easy decision. “Combined with a strong transportation infrastructure, proximity to suppliers and customers, and a business-friendly tax environment, Lexington is the perfect place for EGGER to do business,” says Ritterbach.
The project was completed within its 18-month construction schedule.
“We had challenges of course, but we were able to work through them, thanks to a very motivated project team and incredibly supportive vendors and contractors,” says Bernhard Vorreiter, project manager, technical and production. “Even with travel restrictions and complications due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to stay on our development timeline and begin production on schedule.”
The new plant allows EGGER to quickly become a significant player in the U.S. wood-based manufacturing industry. It currently employs about 350 people, with the goal of hiring a total of 770 employees by the time the three-phase, 15-year development process is complete.
EGGER’s ultimate goal is to duplicate its leading market position in Europe and become the leading brand for wood-based solutions in North America. “We are just now in the first stages of introducing EGGER’s international point of view by delivering new ideas, products, and services to this market,” says Ritterbach.
The Most Modern Plant in the World
EGGER’s plan was to build the most modern manufacturing facility possible, with an emphasis on designing flexibility into the plant’s operation to accommodate future market demands for new products. This resulted in an innovative plant design, with considerable production automation, facilitated by the latest Industry 4.0 technologies and state-of-the-art production equipment and technology.
“As automated and efficient as the production processes are,” says Bernhard Ebner, plant manager, technical and production, “highly-skilled workers are still needed to run them.” In traditional manufacturing, he notes, people run the machines. With this level of automation, the people operate the systems, and the systems operate the machines. While this removes workers from many of the hazards of traditional manufacturing, it requires a greater level of training. “We’re proud to offer paid educational training programs with advanced technologies, allowing our team members to develop the skills they need to thrive in the manufacturing industry,” says Ebner.
In addition, EGGER takes a very sustainable approach to construction and manufacturing, conserving operational and material resources as much as possible and recycling waste. The company also prefers to use its own products, especially natural wood, as building materials wherever possible. With its first U.S. plant, for example, EGGER incorporated wood construction components called glulams, stress-rated engineered wood beams, which are common in Europe but rarely used in the U.S.
A Dedicated Community Partner
Positive impacts to the local and regional economies from EGGER’s investment will include 770 good-paying jobs, corporate taxes, property taxes, the purchase of local resources and supplies, and contracted services. Economic development officials calculate that every job at the Lexington facility will create three indirect jobs in the region.
EGGER uses a mix of wood-based manufacturing by-products and pre-consumer recycled materials sourced from forests throughout North Carolina and the surrounding states. Even through the pandemic, the company has been able to connect with sawmills, large and small, to buy the wood residues needed for its manufacturing process.
The plant was designed with resource stewardship in mind. Up to 30% of the wood used in its particleboard is recycled material. “Our standard is for 90% of our wood to be purchased within 100 miles from the facility, from sustainable forestry sources,” says Ebner. “Pre-consumer recycled material comes from waste wood from furniture, pallets, wooden packaging materials, construction, and demolition.”
A Prosperous Future
EGGER is committed to being a one-stop solution for decorative surface needs, where designers can create harmonious designs from surface to edge using EGGER’s décor match system. The company plans to become the U.S. leader in manufacturing thermally fused laminate (TFL), a popular type of surfacing in Europe that is less known in the North American market. Due to the competitive advantages of this product, “we expect that approximately 30% of our particleboard production will be laminated and sold as TFL in our first year of production, growing to an estimated 60% in coming years,” says Ritterbach.
With its development of advanced cutting, bonding, and processing technologies, EGGER also creates amazingly natural-looking wood reproductions, thanks to deep, embossed-in-register textures that align the texture of the woodgrain with the decor print. Combined with end grain edge banding, the resulting products have the realistic, solid-wood look of sawn timber cut across its length.
EGGER has been impressed by the business-friendly environment for FDI and the very warm welcome it has received. “We are quite pleased to have found a highly motivated workforce for all our essential departments, and to establish successful relationships with our most important business partners,” says Vorreiter. “Additionally, the support from the state of North Carolina and Davidson County was exceptional, and we do not take that for granted. This environment provides ideal conditions for future success with our business model and we look forward to a long and prosperous future in North Carolina.”
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a contributing author and not necessarily Gray.
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