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updated: 5/23/2019 11:03 AM

USG grows to global leader in wallboard,gypsum products

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  • Chris Griffin

    Chris Griffin


An interview with Chris Griffin, president and chief executive officer of USG Corporation based in Chicago.

Q: Tell us a little bit about USG.

A: USG is a leading manufacturer of building products and innovative solutions. Having recently joined the Knauf Group, we are now part of the world's largest gypsum company. Our wall, ceiling, flooring, sheathing and roofing products provide solutions that enable customers to build the outstanding spaces where people live, work and play. We employ more than 7,500 employees and operate over 50 manufacturing facilities in North America.

Q: Explain the history of the company.

A: The 'United States Gypsum Company' was created in 1902 by 30 gypsum mining and calcining companies. Fifteen years later, we disrupted the construction world with our invention of Sheetrock wallboard, changing the way interior walls were installed. Wallboard soon replaced lath and plaster as the preferred construction method and paved the way for greater innovation in commercial and residential construction.

We are incredibly proud of reputation for innovation and the industry changing products we've developed. Today, USG remains the market leader in wallboard and gypsum products in North America, but we also invented latex paint, mineral fiber ceiling tile, shaft wall elevator systems and Durock® cement panels along the way. These products speed up the building process and improved the way buildings could be designed and built.

Q: What are some of USG's services?

A: USG manufactures building materials like wallboard and joint compound, ceiling tile and grid, exterior sheathing and roofing products. Our products help alleviate labor challenges, improve safety and efficiency, and address sustainability.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your personal history.

A: Early on in my career, I installed drywall for a family business. So, I grew up in this industry. After working as a customer of CGC (USG's Canadian operations), I knew that I wanted to join this industry-leading company. In my almost 20 years at USG, I have worked across several roles from sales to operations. Working through the economic downturn of 2008-2009 was the most challenging, but also the most rewarding time of my career. I also previously served at chief executive officer of Knauf Insulation North America.

Originally from outside of Toronto, Canada, I met my wife Carmella on a cable car in Zermatt, Switzerland, while backpacking in Europe. We've lived in many places and raised two grown sons. In addition to my role on the board of directors of Chicagoland Habitat for Humanity, I sit on the board for Make-A-Wish Illinois.

Q: How is USG involved with Habitat for Humanity? Why?

A: USG is committed to being a good corporate citizen in the communities in which we operate across North America. For almost 40 years, the USG Foundation has supported organizations that provide basic needs, safe and affordable housing, health services, education and disaster response.

We established a U.S. partnership with Habitat for Humanity in 2018 and completed 15 Habitat for Humanity 'Build Days' with around 300 total volunteer employees. Several of our plants donated drywall, joint compound and other supplies to the projects and each build day was accompanied by a $2,500 donated to the local chapter. Our Canadian teams have supported Habitat for many years, and our joint venture, USG Boral, is also active with Habitat in Asia and Australia.

Q: What are people in your industry talking about? What's trending?

A: Technology will play a vital role in the future of our industry -- Silicon Valley is really reshaping the manufacturing and construction industries. Advanced technologies have the potential to significantly improve safety, efficiency and costs, and mitigate labor challenges.

Digital has already transformed the way our products are made and purchased and the way we operate our organization. Soon, it will change how our products interact and operate in the built environment. And most importantly, it will enable us to be nimble in responding to customer needs and exceed their expectations.

Q: Tell us one interesting fact about USG that most people may not know.

A: Safety is USG's number one priority and our core value. In fact, our first safety rules were documented in 1910 -- well before national standards existed -- and we were a founding member of the National Safety Council in 1914. We are proud of our safety record, where our manufacturing facilities operate 16 times more safely and our lost time incident rate is 97% better than the industry average.

Q: Tell us about a book that everyone should read.

A: I spend a lot of time in the car, so I've learned to love audiobooks. I always try to keep two going at one time -- one for work or business, and one for pleasure. I recommend "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team" by Patrick Lencioni, which I usually ask all my teams to read. It gives really practical ways to build trust and create more effective teams. On the personal side, I enjoy biographies and historical novels.