Ceramic Industry

PROFILES OF LEADERSHIP: Svend Hovmand

October 1, 2004
President, Crossville Inc., Crossville, Tenn.



Background

Svend Hovmand received his master's degree in chemical engineering from the Technical University of Denmark (Copenhagen) in 1961, and his doctorate in chemical engineering from the University of Cambridge (England) in 1968. He served as R&D manager of NIRO Atomizer in Copenhagen, vice president of NIRO Atomizer in Maryland, and then president of NIRO Ceramic Inc. before joining the board of directors for Crossville Ceramics at the company's inception in 1985. (NIRO Ceramic built Crossville's first manufacturing facility.) Hovmand was named president of Crossville Ceramics in 1989.

Notable Achievements

Under Hovmand's leadership, Crossville's sales have increased an average of 8-15% per year. Its production capacity has increased sixfold, from 10 million square feet in 1987 to more than 60 million square feet in 2004. The original plant has been expanded twice, and two new plants have also come online. The newest plant, a 300,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility capable of producing up to 20 million square feet of tile per year, opened in March 2001. The number of employees working for the company has nearly tripled, from over 100 when the company was founded to more than 400 today. The company's product line has also grown significantly. Founded as a producer of porcelain tile-and still laying claim to the title "largest domestic manufacturer" of that product-Crossville now also sells glass and metal accent tile and coordinated wall and floor tile ensembles, as well as cast glass for floors, walls and countertops. In 2004, the company changed its name from Crossville Ceramics Co. to Crossville, Inc., to reflect its broader scale.

"Many of today's popular looks could not have been produced a few years ago. However, rapid advances in tile technology have made it possible to manufacture an unprecedented range of styles, and Crossville has taken advantage of these technological breakthroughs," Hovmand says.

Keys to Success

Located within 700 miles of 70% of the U.S. construction industry, Crossville has been in a good position to capitalize on the increasing domestic demand for ceramic tile. But according to Hovmand, the biggest factor in the company's success is that it was fortunate enough to find a market niche early on.

"When the company was first established, we were the only domestic porcelain tile manufacturer, and we have been able to maintain that niche almost without competition until just within the last few years. Having a customer-focused approach has also been very important, along with having excellent relationships with our independent distributors. I credit our distributors for much of our success," Hovmand says.

Future Goals for Crossville

U.S. ceramic tile consumption has increased considerably over the past several years, but significant room for additional growth remains. Although imports will undoubtedly continue to capture a large share of the market, Hovmand believes that Crossville will remain successful.

"We will continue to focus on the high-end tile market, with products geared toward designers and applications requiring specific technical and aesthetic characteristics. I believe there is a lot of growth potential here," he says.

Crossville, Inc. can be reached at P.O. Box 1168, Crossville, TN 38557; (931) 484-2110; or http://www.crossvilleinc.com .

Perspectives

On Leadership: "A good leader must be customer-focused and must treat employees with respect and integrity. But perhaps most importantly, a good leader must be an agent of change. A leader has to be able to recognize when change is necessary, communicate the need for change to his or her company, and effectively implement those changes."

On Industry Trends: "The trend toward more unique, specialized tile will continue. Additionally, I think we'll see more large companies buying tile manufacturers and becoming 'flooring suppliers.' Since the carpet companies have long-standing relationships with flooring distributors, this could help drive the demand for ceramic tile. However, the carpet companies have historically imported most of their ceramic tile, so it's possible that this could put even more pricing pressures on the domestic tile industry."

On Operating in a Global Economy: "Establishing partnerships in other countries is extremely important. We must continue to stay abreast of the technology developments that are occurring in other regions of the world. Additionally, being customer-focused is crucial. This is where domestic suppliers have an advantage-we are close enough to respond to special U.S. customer demands. Quality is also important-not just product quality, but also quality in manufacturing operations through Total Quality Management and similar programs. Adhering to a quality system can help plants streamline their operations and minimize waste, which in turn makes them better able to compete in the global marketplace."