European laminate flooring industry remains avant-garde
EPLF: Promoting quality and innovation in partnership
“We are constantly redefining our market. Innovation and quality make European laminate unique throughout the world,” underlined EPLF President Ludger Schindler at the press conference during Domotex 2016 in Hanover. He added: “This trade show and what is now the third Wood Flooring Summit gives us another opportunity to demonstrate this very effectively. Domotex will be the springboard for crucial momentum in the growth of the entire sector.” Even at a time when challenges are increasing, the EPLF expects business in the global flooring markets to continue well for its key players from the European laminate flooring sector. Besides dealing with regional markets, EPLF members are committed to working together to maintain high levels of quality by improving international product and testing standards.
Eberhard Herrmann (Egger Retail Products GmbH) runs the EPLF Technical Working Group as Chairman. The end of 2015 marked the successful conclusion of the Association’s EU-supported pilot project on “Deep Textures” which the EPLF carried out in collaboration with Dr Rico Emmler and his team at the IHD (Wood Technology Institute) in Dresden. “In the course of this three-year project we have, for the first time, succeeded in devising suitable test methods for deeply-structured surfaces and have compiled the corresponding test requirements,” said Mr Herrmann. A system of classification has been drawn up which covers the maximum permissible changes in the degree of gloss, and the formula for calculating this has been modified. Moreover, the existing test method for evaluating abrasion behaviour has been simplified.
All results can be used immediately to close up the existing gaps in standards relating to deeply-structured laminate flooring. This means that the Association has made another valuable contribution towards improving international product standards. Furthermore, the EPLF is actively involved in updating product standards EN 13329 (Laminate floor coverings – elements with a surface layer based on aminoplastic, thermosetting resins), 14978 (Laminate floor coverings – elements with electron beam hardened surface layer based on acrylic) and EN 15468 (Laminate floor coverings – elements with directly applied printing and resin surface layer).
Successful EPLF projects in the area of technology
In autumn of 2015, the new generic EPDs for DPL (direct pressure laminate) flooring were published by the IBU (German Institute for Construction and the Environment). These “Environmental Product Declarations” are based on the international ISO norms and can therefore be used by all EPLF members across borders. The purpose of EPDs is to document the environmental properties of construction products. They certify that European laminate flooring has a very good ecological balance sheet with extremely positive values for both primary energy consumption and global warming potential. It also excels when it comes to indoor air quality assessment. The existing EPDs for PDL (Printed Decor Laminate) and HPL (High Pressure Laminate) are scheduled to be updated in 2016. And it will not be long before the importance of these documents on EU markets rises sharply: one reason is that from 2017 it will become compulsory in France to specify EPDs for all construction products.
Two new language versions of the EPLF’s short flyer “That’s how laminate finds the appropriate underlay” were released during 2015. It is now available for download free of charge on the Association’s website www.eplf.com in nine different languages: German, English, French, Italian, Dutch, Russian, Spanish – plus new additions Polish and Turkish.
Good progress was made last year on further developing the ecolabel nicknamed the “EU Flower”: after the stakeholder meeting held in Brussels at the end of May 2015 concerning the EU Ecolabel for wooden floor coverings, the EPLF invited representatives of the VdP (Association for the German Parquet Industry) and the DKV (German Cork Industry Association) to a working session held in Berlin in the autumn of 2015. Under the leadership of Dr Theo Smet, collaborative work is being carried out on defining the elementary criteria for the revision of the EU Ecolabel. The EPLF supports this initiative by the EU Commission in the hope that this will restrict the uncontrolled national growth that is driving up costs and impeding the free trade of goods.
Russia project progressing well
The EPLF considers itself the project initiator here; the Russia Task Force consists mainly of laminate flooring producers who are members of the EPLF with a manufacturing base in Russia, as well as non-members Kastamonu and Ritter Laminat, together with import companies such as Windmöller Flooring Products and Yildiz Entegre. In 2015, the group held four successful work meetings in Moscow. The schedule was set down at the kick-off meeting in March, with the objective of laying down general rules and quality criteria for high-quality laminate flooring on the Russian market and seeking to bring the existing GOST standard in line with the latest state of technology. The aim is to remove sub-standard quality products from the market – these can cause harm to consumers and ruin the image of the product group. Max von Tippelskirch, Chairman of the EPLF’s Markets and Image Working Group, says: “Regardless of the current difficulties, we are convinced that the flooring market in Russia has great potential and opportunities in the long term for quality European products produced by our members. We consider these current activities to be a worthwhile investment for the future.”
With its population of nearly 80 million, the EPLF also views Iran as a market with good prospects; laminate flooring has always had enjoyed a good reputation there. The political and economic situation in the region is set to improve in 2016 when sanctions are lifted and when this happens, European manufacturers want to be ready to enter the market promptly with their quality products.
In 2016, the EPLF will finalise its internal marketing project which is to upgrade the Association’s website. Greater decentralisation of the major EPLF markets demands a wider range of languages and the new site will be suitable for mobile devices and include a broader range of services in the internal Members’ Area.
Innovations: opening up new opportunities
Technological developments in flooring production are forging ahead, opening up considerable innovation potential for laminate. Manufacturers have more scope and this is primarily due to industrial digital printing techniques which make it possible to meet customer-specific requests promptly, even on a small scale and quicker than was previously possible when using the gravure technique with its time-consuming processes. Digital printing now provides the opportunity to satisfy smaller-scale trends with a shorter life or very specific designs. This kind of technology also allows for a greater variation in the appearance of a particular laminate decor or design.
The EPLF acts as a central hub where flooring manufacturers and their suppliers can share knowledge on the important topic of technological advancement, so from 2016 onwards it is planning to turn its annual Members’ Meeting into a small-scale “Laminate Innovation Forum”. The reason for this format is to bring to life the entire diversity of the sector for all EPLF participants. There will be themed talks, one-to-one consultations and product and concept presentations, where extraordinary members and supporting members will be able to showcase their skills and enter into closer discussions with the ordinary members, i.e. the producers. Together, the members want to create a basis for new approaches and ideas, to ensure that advancement doesn’t grind to a halt. The EPLF as an association supports this with its motto “Quality and Innovation made in Europe”. EPLF Chairman Paul de Cock, says: “European laminate manufacturers will continue to take the lead amid tough competition on the global flooring markets, because they offer superior products.” With pioneering product developments incorporated in their new collections, EPLF members are fully prepared for Domotex 2016, the international trade fair in Hanover. www.eplf.com
elnd1601_b1: EPLF President Ludger Schindler: “We are constantly redefining our market. Innovation and quality make European laminate unique throughout the world.” – Photo: EPLF
elnd1601_b2: Eberhard Herrmann, Chairman of the EPLF Technical Working Group: “Through our range of projects covering technical issues, our Association makes a significant contribution towards improving international product standards.” – Photo: Egger
elnd1601_b3: EPLF Marketing Chairman Max von Tippelskirch: “Even at a time when challenges are increasing, we anticipate that business for the European laminate flooring sector will continue to flourish in global flooring markets.” – Photo: EPLF / Swiss Krono Group
elnd1601_b4: EPLF Chairman Paul De Cock: “European laminate manufacturers will continue to take the lead amid tough international competition, because they offer superior products.” – Photo: Unilin
elnd1601_b5: At Domotex 2016, European manufacturers will be presenting a new look in laminate flooring – with a host of innovative decor developments and special technical features. – Photo: Kronotex
- EPLF Press Conference, 17th January 2016, Domotex Hanover: -
elnd1601_b6: EPLF board and management on 17th January 2016, Domotex in Hanover (from left): Eberhard Herrmann, Max von Tippelskirch, Paul de Cock, Ludger Schindler, Peter H. Meyer. - Photo: EPLF
elnd1601_b7: EPLF president Ludger Schindler on 17th January 2016, Domotex in Hanover. - Photo: EPLF
elnd1601_b8: Board member Eberhard Herrmann on 17th January 2016, Domotex in Hanover. - Photo: EPLF
elnd1601_b9: Board member Max von Tippelskirch on 17th January 2016, Domotex in Hanover. - Photo: EPLF
elnd1601_b10: EPLF board on 17th January 2016, Domotex in Hanover (from left): Eberhard Herrmann, Ludger Schindler, Paul de Cock, Max von Tippelskirch. - Photo: EPLF
elnd1601_b10: EPLF General Manager Peter H. Meyer on 17th January 2016, Domotex in Hanover. - Photo: EPLF
elnd1601_b12: Board member Paul De Cock on 17th January 2016, Domotex in Hanover. - Photo: EPLF