Filip Geeraert has no doubt 2012 will be a good year for Deceuninck North America LLC.
“We have forecasted flat. We have budgeted flat. But if I'm not 10 percent ahead of 2011, I will be disappointed,” said the president and CEO of the Monroe, Ohio-based firm in an interview at the recent International Builders Show. “That is the minimum growth I expect. We expect to grow a serious amount in 2012.”
That type of growth would get the large extrusion company, which makes PVC profiles for windows and doors — as well as for decking and rails — nearly back to its 2010 U.S. sales levels. Sales for Deceuninck North America, at constant exchange rates, fell about 12 percent in 2011. In euros, full-year sales fell by 19 percent to 56.6 million euros ($75 million).
However, both that slight downturn last year and the growth the firm expects to achieve this year are noteworthy, given the industry's sluggishness and the probability that the overall window and door market won't grow in 2012, according to Geeraert.
“We were down 10 percent in 2011, but when you take into consideration we were down 15 percent in the first half of the year and that the overall market for windows and doors [in North America] was down 35 percent in 2011, we had a good year,” Geeraert said at IBS, held Feb. 8-11 in Orlando. “And the first month of 2012 has been very good. Our customers are very optimistic.”
In addition, he said Deceuninck is benefiting because it had zero back orders at the end of 2011. Additionally, some of its existing customers switched from dual-sourcing to sourcing 100 percent from Deceuninckin in the second half of last year. The company added several new customers that also chose to source 100 percent through Deceuninck.
Geeraert said the company's new products introduced last fall — the Innergy-brand rigid thermal reinforcement window and door profiles and the Revolution Tilt & Turn windows — are having a positive effect.
“We have never had as many startups of new customers,” Geeraert added. “That should have an impact on sales in April and May.”
The CEO is even more optimistic about the company's deck and railing products. At IBS, both its (Solstice) decking and (Kodiak) railing were rebranded Clubhouse and will be part of its newly formed Outdoor Living division.
“We did not change the product. We didn't own the product. Those were just names we used. The new names and brand strategy gives us a lot of opportunity to build on that from a marketing standpoint,” Geeraert said.
“I expect to triple the sales of our decking in 2012,” he said.
The company will continue to introduce products based on building a sustainable home and on the three pillars of design, innovation and sustainability — which Geeraert set in place after he moved into Deceuninck North America's top spot last April.
“We have the same approach planned for 2013 and beyond,” he said. “We want to move from being reactive to proactive, and be viewed as an innovator.”
In that vein, Deceuninck earlier this year introduced Impact-brand windows, designed to withstand hurricane winds. Tested in Florida, the windows have an American Architectural Manufacturers Association design pressure rating of 80. Also this year the firm plans to obtain third-party certification of its environmental and sustainability claims from GreenCircle Certified LLC of Royersford, Pa.
But Geeraert is most excited about an innovative new product Deceuninck will introduce at the American Institute of Architects show, set for May 17-19 in Washington, D.C.
“We have a new window product that will blow away the industry in thermal performance and structural performance,” he said. “We will exceed the best of the existing products today.”
He stressed that one key to its success in the U.S. is the backing of its corporate group; the company is owned by Deceuninck NV of Hooglede-Gits, Belgium.
“They are very committed to pultrusion,” Geeraert said, which is the process of manufacturing composite materials with a constant cross-sectional shape.
He pointed particularly to investments made in the U.S. last year — despite a lethargic housing market — in an additional pultrusion line, a lamination line and a cellular PVC foam extrusion line.
“It demonstrates to our customers that we are committed to the market,” Geeraert said.
Those investments were part of an increased capital spending budget for the entire company as Deceuninck NV increased capital spending globally by 40 percent to 21.9 million euros ($29 million) in 2011.
Those continued investments, along with innovations Deceuninck is bringing to the North American market, will pay dividends in increased sales, Geeraert said.
Just one example: The firm is already getting requests from other fabricators and distributors as to whether they can distribute Innergy windows, which are made with 20 percent bioresins from Bayer MaterialScience LLC, said Geeraert.
“No one else can use those resins,” he said, noting that Deceuninck has an exclusive contract with Bayer for their use.
Likewise, the firm is receiving orders from fabricators for Revolution Tilt & Turn windows, he said.
“We expect them to be in the market in the next two months,” Geeraert said. “It is a huge opportunity for the light commercial market” — because the windows can have a DP rating up to 100.
He cited hospitals as a potential end market: “Because they only tilt, patients can't open them. You can ventilate the room, but not fully open them.”
As for its sustainability efforts, Deceuninck partnered last fall with JP Industrial Products Inc. of Lisbon, Ohio, a large PVC recycler to recycle end cuts and scraps from its fabricators.
“That will help Deceuninck meet its goal of attaining a sustainable cradle-to-cradle approach,” he said. The recycled material currently is being used in amounts of less than 5 percent in some vinyl window and door products, he added.
“In a lot of cases, the regrind extrudes better than virgin resin and there is no difference in performance,” Geeraert said. “You just have to make sure that it is 100 percent clean, so you have to rely on partners who can guarantee purity.”
Deceuninck operates almost 1.3 million square feet of manufacturing space and a 500,000-square-foot warehouse at its Monroe production facilities. Roughly 98 percent of its manufactured products are for private-label products.
Deceuninck NV operates in 75 countries worldwide with a global workforce of more than 2,800.
In 2011, Deceuninck NV sales declined 3.9 percent to 536.1 million euros ($708 million). The company turned a net profit for the second straight year following its 2009 restructuring, but 2011 profit was 6.3 million euros ($8.3 million), down from 8.5 million euros ($11 million) the previous year.
An estimated 70 percent of Deceuninck's global business is driven by residential renovations.