At Trueloc International in Kuala Lumpur, an employee prepares raw material for processing at the firm’s flooring plant. American White Oak, which is increasingly popular in Australia, is a highly practical choice for this diversified company.
American Oak Adds To “True Australian Hardwood Floor” Made In Malaysia
By Michael Buckley
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia–Recently American Oak has been added to the preferred species of Trueloc International Sdn Bhd, located here near the international airport. Today Oak represents up to 20 percent of this firm’s flooring sales, up from only 5 -10 percent just two years ago. That may stand Trueloc in good stead as it promotes its products elsewhere in Asian markets where real wood is used and are now dominated by Oak and Teak for flooring.
Trueloc, an engineered flooring manufacturer, is wholly and privately owned by Australian Max Twigg. It is a classic example of international investment in Malaysia industry, making product intended for export but now looking at Southeast Asia for its market diversification. Brendan Smythe, General Manager, and Don De Luca, Operations Manager, are part of the Australian team responsible for a project for which their manufacturing reportedly was not previously successful in China; but works in Malaysia today.
The whole production is currently sold in Australia and New Zealand as “The True Australian Floor” largely because that is where it all started. Trueloc floors, based on Swedish ‘2G’ and ‘5G’ (2nd and 5th generation) locking technology, are mainly faced in Australian hardwood species to satisfy a customer base and distribution network that has been established since 1994. Blackbutt, Spotted Gum and Jarrah are the three most popular of a range of species that are much appreciated in Australia but relatively little known elsewhere.
Nagaraja Jeganthan, director at Trueloc, oversees many aspects of the product’s manufacturing process. American Oak now has a full range of stained colors offered by this firm, including Oak Blizzard, Outback, Desert, Thunderstorm, Dusk, Uluru, Midnight and Mist.
American White Oak which is increasingly popular in Australia and across Asia is a highly practical choice for a company looking to diversify its markets, although Don De Luca is very confident that Trueloc’s supply of native Australian hardwoods is also good for the future. In the meantime the company is looking at new markets such as India. Naga, just back from the Delhiwood show, is excited about India’s potential among others, so the promotion currently being undertaken in India by AHEC may well help with Oak recognition for Trueloc as it is doing in Australia.
The company is buying all 6” to 8” widths of American White Oak, FAS only, in random lengths KD to less than 10%MC.
Current capacity is 10-12,000 M2 per month, which equates to 10-12 containers of product a month, but that could easily be doubled with the current production facilities. 90 percent of sales are for residential installations, for which the company offers “25-year Lacquer Warranty” and “Lifetime Structural” warranties for several of its ranges against any manufacturing defects. Such is Trueloc’s confidence in its quality. Currently the coating of all of its prefinished flooring is acrylic urethane, which is acceptable in Australian and Asian markets and there is no intention yet to go “water based.”
Quality control is essential to Trueloc’s success. 90 percent of the company’s flooring sales are for residential installations.
In terms of trends in Trueloc’s main market, boards are getting wider – up to 250mm - and stains are getting darker. This entails offering a surprisingly large range of Oak types. Currently Trueloc offers handscraped, wire brushed, waxed, oiled, white oiled, whitewashed, limed, stained oiled, and a full range of stained colours of Oak. And the names of finished product are getting ever more obscure: “Oak Blizzard, Outback, Desert, Thunderstorm, Dusk, Uluru, Midnight and Mist”.
Central to the Malaysian operation is local Director Nagaraja Jeganathan, or “Naga” as he likes to be called, with 12 years experience in Malaysian production of hardwood flooring. He puts much of the company’s technical success in the vacuum drying and acclimatising process that works for Australian species in tropical climatic conditions. Whereas flooring producers in tropical countries using Australian species normally import kiln dried lumber, Trueloc is importing wet lumber at 30% to 40%MC, cutting into 5.5mm lamellas and then drying to 6 to 7%MC in 5 days. The vacuum dryer is fully operated through internet connection from Australia by Trueloc’s KD specialist, Keith Reeves. Naga believes that by this method there is more consistent drying, less downgrade and thus higher yield of a more accurate material for laying up on substrate. By this method of drying he feels that Trueloc has overcome the problems of surface checking that can be associated with native Australian Eucalyptus.
Trueloc is buying all 6-inch to 8-inch widths of American White Oak in FAS for use in its Swedish-style ‘5G’ floor locking technology.
This is not a problem with the kiln dried American Oak lumber that the company now also uses. The company contracts out the manufacturing of core material supplies for its 3-ply engineered product utilising low grade rubberwood off-cuts recovered by local furniture producers. Total product thickness is 13mm (9/16”) with final surface layer of 3.2mm (1/8”) clearly intended for markets where people do not remove shoes!
The Swedish ‘2G’ and ‘5G’ glue-less locking system, invented and patented by Välinge, is spectacularly successful in achieving quality installation of engineered floors, but the quality of the hardwood species for the surfaces is equally important. The system uses a pre-tensioned bio-degradable polypropylene fillet at the end of each board facilitating an end click connection as well as the side click connection, resulting in very rapid and highly reliable installation to a consistent standard of strong, tight, seamless, jointed flooring.
In conclusion, Trueloc is an all-Australian company in terms of ownership, plant, marketing and part of its management, but its branding as “The True Australian Floor” may no longer be a true reflection. Made in Malaysia with Malaysia cores, to a Swedish system, using hardwoods from Australia, Malaysia and USA and now perhaps to be sold more internationally it is looking more global by the day.
Trueloc purchases 10 to 12 containers monthly of American Oak, which winds up being prepared by in-house staff, such as in the firm’s sanding department.