After an 18-month "rebranding and reinvention process," Advanta Cabinets and Echelon Cabinetry have been born from the legacy Armstrong Cabinets brand. In 2012, Armstrong World Industries, which also manufactures flooring and ceiling products, sold its Armstrong Cabinets division to American Industrial Partners (now ACPI), which took the brand private and overhauled the product line to create the Advanta brand for multifamily projects, and Echelon Cabinetry for homebuilders and remodelers.
"This was more than a brand launch for us internally," says Steve Stephens, vice president of marketing and business development for ACPI. "The business was in a state that needed to be re-evaluated because the marketplace was changing. Knowing that, we engaged in a massive undertaking of reconnecting with what's important to customers, and which customers we should focus on." The organization brought in a new executive team with experience from both inside and outside the building products industry. After conducting qualitative and quantitative end-user research, the new team set about refining the product line. "The first thing we did was remove non-productive SKUs, which reduced the overall Armstrong product line by 30%, "Stephens says. "That gave us a more effective platform to build from. From there, we started to break the products apart into the two brands we new we were building: one multifamily commercial brand, Advanta, and then the Echelon brand for single-family builders and remodelers."
Removing unused SKUs helped improve production efficiencies. Other changes, such as moving to all-wood drawers from particleboard also had a positive impact on through-put. The availability of paints, stains, and glazes was also tweaked. "We wanted to have effective, optimized product lines for everyone."
New Brands, New Promises
ACPI is focused on brand awareness as they bring Echelon and Advanta to market. Backing the introduction of Advanta is a "delivered on-time, 100% complete" promise. "No construction or multifamily owner can afford a project delay because of missing kitchen cabinets," Billig says. "Yet, for some reason, shipping on-time and delivering defect-free multifamily product is a continuing challenge for kitchen cabinet makers." ACPI CEO Nick Billig says the brand has invested heavily in capital equipment to "bring certainty to kitchen cabinet ordering." The Advanta brand will feature what the company calls "real-time metrics" that will allow the manufacturer to know where each component is in the assembly process. "We know right down to the final cabinet door where we stand on any order," he says. Advanta ships nationally via truckload quantities to maximize efficiency.
Echelon has also taken steps to ensure consistent lead times and 100% complete deliveries. Its product line-up features tiered good-better-best categories to simplify decision-making.
New Design Tools
On the design side, ACPI's market research found that, of recent homebuyers and those in the market for a new home, 61% felt they would have made a different cabinetry decision if they could have better visualized their options. As such, part of the new launch includes the Echelon Cabinetry Visualizer, a web-based tool that will allow homeowners the opportunity to experiment with their kitchen design and make more informed choice. Stephens also says he looks forward to seeing how the multifamily Advanta brand will impact Echelon down the line. "On the multifamily side, we work with a variety of architects, and we come across early detectors of what could become more mainstream," he says. For example, a multifamily customer in the Chicago area requested a lower-sheen version of an ACPI product as a complement to other non-cabinetry elements. Stephens says in-factory line deviations are more feasible on large-scale orders like those for multifamily, as compared with custom orders one kitchen at a time. "We get to see how people like it, and if it's a hit, the dealers are the next logical place to go," he says.
CEO Nick Billig agrees says "ACPI is proud to launch this new phase of our business, capitalizing on six decades of experience and a lot of work to re-energize the mission to deliver a superior kitchen cabinet experience for our customers and their customers."