AkzoNobel opens $60M R&D, customer support center in High Point

Facility represents single largest investment the company has made in its wood coatings business in the past decade

HIGH POINT — On June 22, AkzoNobel celebrated the opening of a new $60 million, 30,000-square-foot research and development facility and customer support center here that officials say represents the largest single capital expenditure project the company has made in its $2.2 billion wood coatings business in the past decade.

From left to right are Mitchell Bruce, High Point site manager; Jim Kavanaugh (speaking) managing director of industrial coatings; Chris Bradford, industrial coatings marketing director; and Ted Rhee, regional commercial director, wood finishes and adhesives.

Officials from the executive team attended the event which included a ribbon cutting and tour for the media and local officials along with company employees and customers in the cabinet and wood furniture business.

The facility has a team of technicians and coatings development specialists that are working on the latest innovations in coatings for the wood furniture and cabinet industries. Its main products include UV, solvent and water-based finishes, including stains, pigmented and clear coatings.

Jim Kavanaugh, AkzoNobel managing director of industrial coatings, said the company will use the new laboratory to leverage the latest best practices in finish development. In addition, he noted, it will contain the latest application and testing equipment that will allow the company to “mimic our customers’ lines and environments.”

“We will be able to accelerate the time that it takes to scale up products for launches without wasting our customer’s valuable line time as we can efficiently and predictably develop, test and industrialize our technologies to meet customer requirements,” Kavanagh said.

The company’s history in High Point dates back to 1955 when it began production of wood coatings in two buildings. Over the years, it has added or acquired eight other facilities in High Point, including the new R&D facility.

“You look back on the heritage and you think, this is marvelous — if you come to North America and you say, ‘where do I go to find wood coatings?’ you think High Point, North Carolina,” Kavanaugh said. “But as I look around, I don’t see heritage — I see the future. What we want you to go away today feeling is our commitment to the future of the wood coatings business, but also our commitment to the future of the wood coatings business in North Carolina, in High Point. I think it is really important for the community to feel we are part of you and that you are part of us.”

Trevor Denning, center in black shirt, shows visitors one of the new pieces of finishing equipment at the new R&D facility in High Point.

Officials noted that the High Point expansion also joins its other facilities around the U.S. and the world that are on a mission to achieve key sustainability targets by 2030 that include:

+ Reducing its carbon emissions by 50%. According to Chris Bradford, industrial coatings marketing director, the company is making strides to achieve this major benchmark. “If you look at the end of last year, we already made up 28% of that, so we are well on our way by 2030 to reduce our emissions by 50%.”

+ Achieving a 100% circular use of materials in its operations. This would be driven by the reuse, reduction and recycling of various materials. “We are already 50% along the way to that 100% reduction,” Bradford said. “We are making some great progress, but a lot of that progress comes from the types of capabilities of this building.”

+ Achieving 50% of its revenue from sustainable solutions.

“So our products and our brands and the things we expect to come out of here will help move our agenda forward around sustainability and make sure that it remains part of our DNA,” Bradford added, of initiatives ranging from the development of water-based finishes that help reduce emissions to the use of LED technologies that help reduce energy usage.

But the goal also is to create the latest and most innovative finishing capabilities and applications for the industries it serves. During the tour, company employees demonstrated the new equipment for AkzoNobel customers attending the event. Visitors also got to see lab technicians at work developing the latest innovations in wood finishing.

Added Ted Rhee, regional commercial director of wood finishes and adhesives, “As you can see, our aim here is to add value for our customers. … It is also to recognize High Point as a place where we operate to support our global business in design and manufacturing for furniture as well as our cabinet business. We are committed in continuing to support our customers around the world by continuing to provide excellence in our wood coatings business.”

Thomas Russell

Home News Now Editor-in-Chief Thomas Russell has covered the furniture industry for 25 years at various daily and weekly consumer and trade publications. He can be reached at tom@homenewsnow.com and at 336-508-4616.

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