Promoting quality and innovation in partnership

by Darren
EPLF Report

The EPLF released a report highlighting business in global flooring markets for key players in the European laminate sector.

During a press conference at Domotex Hannover in 2016, EPLF President Ludger Schindler stated that they are constantly redefining their market which is why innovation and quality make European laminate so unique throughout the world. Even at a time when challenges are increasing, the EPLF expects business in the global flooring markets to grow, especially for its key players from the European laminate flooring sector.

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 we 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 floorcoverings – elements with a surface layer based on aminoplastic, thermosetting resins), 14978 (Laminate floorcoverings – elements with electron beam hardened surface layer based on acrylic) and EN 15468 (Laminate floorcoverings – elements with directly applied printing and resin surface layer).

Successful EPLF projects in the area of technology
In autumn 2015, the new generic EPDs for DPL (direct pressure laminate) flooring standards 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. It certifies 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 Décor 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 in 2015. It is now available for download free of charge on the Association’s website www.eplf.com in nine different languages: German, English, 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 floorcoverings, 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 in this regard; with the Russia Task Force consisting 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 damage the reputation 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 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, namely upgrading 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 Member’s 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 décor 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 diversity of the sector for all EPLF participants. There will be themed talks, one-on-one consultations as well as 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.”

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