On 21 May, over 50 stakeholders in the EPLF Association gathered for the Annual General Meeting in the Wart district of Altensteig in the Black Forest, at the invitation of extraordinary member Homag Holzverarbeitungssysteme AG. The EPLF Technical and Markets and Image expert groups had already met the previous day to carry out intensive project work. This was followed by a joint tour of the Homag head office.
After two days of intense discussion within the working groups, some interesting specialist presentations and extensive networking at the meeting, the Association was able to make a positive summary of this year’s Members’ Meeting. EPLF President Ludger Schindler re-emphasised to members the Association’s claim to high quality: “European laminate is – and will remain – the superior laminate. And we wish to continue defending our leading role on the world markets.”
Laminate: a green, high-tech product
At the meeting, Eberhard Herrmann, Chairman of the Technical Working Group, reported on the projects his group is currently handling: The official handover of the new generic EPD (Environmental Product Declaration) on 11 June at the Members’ Meeting of the Institut Bauen und Umwelt (Institute for Construction and the Environment) in Berlin, marks the completion of a tough piece of work and sets a clear new standard for the ecological quality of laminate flooring. In connection with the new EPDs for laminate flooring, he indicated that, from 2017, these declarations will become mandatory in France for all construction products.
EPLF as a European pioneer working towards improved standards
Further progress has been made on international standardisation. In this context, Mr Herrmann sincerely thanked Dr Theo Smet for his exemplary work in running the ISO/TC219 WG3 meeting and the WG9 and WG 10 meetings at CEN level. As part of the work of the CEN/TC 134/WG09, EPLF member company Selit Dämmtechnik GmbH successfully carried out a collaborative trial to examine and confirm the test methods of CEN/TS 16354 (“Laminate floor covering. Underlays. Specifications, requirements and test methods”). The aim now is to bring this Technical Specification into an EN standard, after some minor alterations. EN 14041 is being revised by CEN/TC 134/WG 10 and according to a request from the EU Commission, a classification system for volatile organic compounds (VOC) and formaldehyde, taking account of national limit values, is to be integrated in the process. This classification system is being worked on by the expert committees.
Top marks for deeply textured laminate
At the meeting in Wart, Mr Herrmann praised the IHD Wood Technology Institute in Dresden – in particular Dr Rico Emmler – for the advances made by the EPLF in its “Deeply structured Surfaces” project. Dr Emmler presented to EPLF members the new test procedures for displaying measurements of deeply structured surfaces. The first series of tests, which examined deeply structured laminate floors in highly-trafficked areas such as discotheques or canteens, gave a surprising result: deep structures do not wear faster than shallow ones. The internationally recognised “Taber Abrader” test method for measuring abrasion resistance will therefore be modified accordingly.
Suitable methods for measuring and evaluating the “shine effect”, e.g. in busy walkway areas, are also to be established in a collaborative trial. During the working meeting, Dr Emmler proposed a three-tier classification system for this. The results will be incorporated into EN 16094 at a later date and will also form the basis for a further revision of EN 13329. Another area being critically assessed is “chair castor testing”; the existing procedure returns inconsistent results e.g. delamination, so the EPLF is aiming to find a new test method.
More EPLF involvement in the regional markets
Members unanimously approved Max von Tippelskirch, Deputy Chairman of the EPLF Executive Committee, as Chairman of the Markets and Image Working Group. One of the key issues at the Members’ Meeting was to look at the economic situation of the laminate flooring sector in Europe. The market for laminate flooring produced by European member companies showed a slight decline in the first quarter of 2015 compared with the same period the previous year. The individual markets developed quite differently, however: Eastern Europe and Asia showed an increase, whereas in Western Europe and North and South America, sales were slightly down. Mr von Tippelskirch announced that the EPLF will play a more active role in international communication: “In the face of the increasing competitive pressure from emerging product brands like modular multi-layer flooring, the EPLF itself must provide fresh impetus in the regional markets and promote the advantages of laminate more actively.
Russia Group starts work
Against a backdrop of problems caused by fake, non-European goods entering Russia (which is a key market), the EPLF has launched a Task Force Russia. The first meeting for this working group, which also includes producers from outside the EPLF, was held in March in Moscow. A technical working group of companies who produce in Russia will set about developing a new “GOST” standard (Gosudarstwenny Standart, which means Russian state standard), along the lines of European standards. At a later date, a second working group will carry out active promotional work for quality laminate in Russia. In future, the Task Force will also be open to companies importing into Russia.
With regard to the anti-dumping proceedings brought by the Turkish Ministry of Economics against German manufacturers, a public hearing has taken place in Ankara with the participation of the EPLF. The outcome of the proceedings for the companies involved is still uncertain but, in accordance with WTO regulations, a conclusion is anticipated mid-June within the 18-month time limit. In relation to this, EPLF President Ludger Schindler emphasised the neutral role held by the Association which is committed to the interests of all its members, also those in Turkey: “Within the meaning of fair competition, all market participants must abide by the rules. Should there really be justified grounds for complaints, these must be resolved in the interest of everyone.”
3rd Wood Flooring Summit at Domotex 2016
Max von Tippelskirch will represent the EPLF as part of the planning group of trade show organisers Deutsche Messe AG, in preparation for Domotex 2016 and the 3rd Wood Flooring Summit. At the meeting in Altensteig-Wart, Susanne Klaproth (Deutsche Messe) took the opportunity to introduce and describe the concept to members in detail. The programme for this year’s EPLF meeting was rounded off by specialist presentations on the following topics: “Russia” (Sergej Sumlenny, Russia Consult, Moscow); “Smart Home” (Klaus Scherer, InHaus-Consult, Düsseldorf), and “Corporate Social Responsibility” (Prof. Nick Lin-Hi, University of Mannheim).
By the time the next Members’ Meeting comes round at the end of April 2016, the EPLF will have worked out a new format for this annual event – the intention is to use the expertise of the Association’s extraordinary members more extensively in future for the purpose of continuing to develop laminate flooring. The members’ meetings were conceived as a “Laminate Innovation Forum” to bring to life the diversity of this sector and the aim is to establish closer contact between the EPLF players and to build new networks.
To find information on laminate flooring and an overview of Association members who are European brand manufacturers, go to www.eplf.com
elnd1505_b1: Group photo in front of the Homag head office in Schopfloch. On 20 and 21 May, members of the EPLF met for the Annual General Meeting 2015 at the invitation of member company Homag AG. Photo: Homag AG
elnd1505_b2: EPLF President Ludger Schindler (Meisterwerke) in Altensteig-Wart: “European laminate is – and will remain – the superior laminate. And we wish to continue defending our leading role on the world markets.” – Photo: EPLF
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