(EPLF Press Conference, 14 November 2017, Cologne)
“European laminate has been setting benchmarks around the world for 40 years. In the past and to this day, our products have demonstrated the claim of European manufacturers to innovation leadership. Our products represent clear and convincing added value which users around the world can benefit from.” These are the words of Max von Tippelskirch, Chairman of the EPLF – the Association of European Producers of Laminate Flooring. The EPLF Association is leading an initiative in response to trends in the flooring markets. The aim of the Innovation Manifesto is to lay the foundation for long-term market prospects for the European laminate industry and its suppliers.
“The goal of our association is to reinforce the future claim of European laminate. We aim to create momentum for the European laminate of tomorrow. As a new strategy paper, the EPLF Innovation Manifesto formulates how the association views itself and defines the guiding principles for our future work,” continued Mr von Tippelskirch, deputising for EPLF President Ludger Schindler who was absent due to illness.
A worldwide promise
The message from the Association of European Laminate Producers is loud and clear: ‘Quality and Innovation made in Europe’. Due to the commitment of its member companies and the activities of the organisation itself, the EPLF has been able to lay significant milestones in the past for the development of laminate around the world. Everyone in the EPLF undertakes to carry this commitment forward, particularly through the Innovation Manifesto, and all members are firmly focused on this in their work within the association. For the EPLF, ‘Quality and Innovation made in Europe’ is therefore more than just a slogan – it is a worldwide promise to provide flooring with unique properties.
This is where the EPLF as a European network is brought into play. Since 1994, the work of the association has been shaped by continuous effort on standardisation and a quality policy offensive for European products. The common aim is to ensure that sustainable product quality, future-proofed design and innovative technologies win through on all markets in the long term.
Securing the claim to leadership for the future
Laminate is the flooring that has reinvented itself time after time over 40 years. European laminate producers have never sat back and rested on their laurels just because of their leading role: without the commitment of the European laminate industry and its suppliers, there would be no silent laminate flooring, no click systems, no synchronous pore printing and no digital printing. According to Tippelskirch: “Our current products reflect European leadership in innovation. Our constant innovation manifests itself in tangible advantages for our customers. From these we are able to derive development potential for our laminate flooring, which will secure our leadership claim into the future. Our innovative spirit and our consistent focus on benefits to customers have always been the drivers for developing ever more new and improved laminate products which are manufactured in Europe.”
So not only does laminate have a remarkable development history, its future is equally exciting. When choosing a type of flooring, end users now focus less on established product categories and more on simply finding the best flooring for their needs. As a result, categories remain a discussion topic purely among industry specialists; what matters most to end users is quality and performance characteristics – arguments that have always favoured European laminate.
There is more to laminate than meets the eye
Nevertheless, as the pressure of international competition increases, the market position held by European laminate must be constantly reinforced. Not because there are so many products globally with the same quality as in Europe, but because many retailers and end users are not clear about how to reliably gauge the quality of flooring: What are the genuinely recognised quality labels? Where is production carried out under truly sustainable social and ecological conditions? Which flooring offers peace of mind in terms of a healthy living environment? Which flooring will end users be able to enjoy for many years to come? And which flooring is easy to install?
In this digital age, markets are becoming more transparent – but is the flood of information really a reliable guide for the end user? This is where advice must be actively given to help them separate the wheat from the chaff i.e. to make the distinction between cut-price products and sustainably produced quality flooring. This is one of the main challenges facing European manufacturers, not only in Asia and new sales regions, but equally in local markets, too. There is more to laminate than meets the eye – this is the core message for its future success.
How does the EPLF put this into practice?
Innovation doesn’t happen all by itself. Behind it is a clear strategy pursued by each individual EPLF member company and the association as a whole. The EPLF provides a platform for the exchange of views and information on innovation, to embed and safeguard these long term in the form of international quality standards for the industry. The deep commitment of each individual and the strong community support within the group ensures that European laminate continues to develop. This teamwork has resulted in a number of success factors that bolster the huge innovative strength of European laminate and determine the practical work of the EPLF.
The EPLF Innovation Manifesto sets out ten propositions, from which it derives its future strategies:
1. The EPLF guarantees experience
The EPLF engages in continuous research and development work through its Technical Committee and special ad hoc groups. Documentation of the research results serves as a reliable knowledge base and is also the driving force for technical progress and development of the appropriate standards. Because only internationally-binding specifications can safeguard the technical progress achieved so far for everyone.
2. The EPLF promotes courage
Within the confines of competition law, the EPLF operates as an expert network and a platform for information and dialogue. Overarching industry topics are worked on by committees and ad hoc groups and in seminars. The knowledge passed on by extraordinary members allows ordinary members to recognise new trends and technological developments (such as digital printing) at a very early stage, to evaluate them and incorporate them into their own product ranges. This gives members the opportunity to measure themselves against fair competition and increase their leading edge.
3. The EPLF supports market proximity
The EPLF supports its members through the work of its Markets and Image Committee, by holding talks and specialist seminars and via consumer market research in core markets. Our members can benefit from this information to help increase their market penetration in existing markets and break into new markets both in terms of territory and subject areas. By holding advanced training on strong future regional markets, the EPLF aims to highlight and enhance future prospects for quality European products in different regions of the world. In addition, EPLF sales statistics serve to increase market transparency across the entire sector. And finally, the friendly interaction with other laminate associations promotes a better mutual understanding of the market.
4. The EPLF encourages competition
The rules for collaboration within the EPLF are laid down in competition law. The foundation work carried out by its Technical Committee and Markets & Image Committee serves as a basis for fair competition between members. At association level, they can take a common approach against distortion of competition in the regional markets, both within and outside Europe. This promotes fair competition for all market participants and that means better product solutions for the benefit of the consumer. The association is introducing a new Innovation Award to promote competition between EPLF players. Prizes will be awarded for innovative ideas from association members, which will give extra momentum to the development of European laminate.
5. The EPLF facilitates qualification
The EPLF offers members a marketplace for exchanging state-of-the-art knowledge. Technical information aimed at specialists and consumers is published in the main market languages, providing a practical foundation for companies to train their staff at the earliest opportunity. Potential future projects for the EPLF include:
increasing e-communication via www.eplf.com, holding expert seminars and, in certain circumstances, awarding grants through the association.
6. The EPLF creates dialogue
Professional communications between EPLF members centre around quality and innovation. The EPLF General Assembly is held at the premises of an ordinary or extraordinary member and acts as a point of contact for detailed discussions on innovations and trends within the European laminate industry. And now, after the group meeting format “LAMINATE 2020 - Forum of Innovations” was set up in 2016, this dialogue has been given a fixed framework. This is where suppliers in the EPLF give their major customers insight into their own thinking and design & development processes, giving European laminate producers first-hand creative impetus for implementation in their own product ranges.
7. The EPLF sets standards
The development of standards and norms was a major motivation for the founding of the EPLF. The association initiates its own research projects of a pilot nature and works continuously on aligning EN and ISO standards to the state of the art as it moves forward. The EPLF is committed to product reliability and product transparency for the consumer and all market participants. The EPLF supports harmonised standards and is explicitly opposed to individual states within the EU going it alone, as well as non-harmonised regulations which hamper the free movement of goods and services. Its support of the EU Ecolabel demonstrates commitment to its environmental responsibility at EU level.
8. The EPLF creates market presence
‘Quality and Innovation made in Europe’ – the EPLF logo is a label representing competence in quality and innovative spirit. It is communicated by members on packaging, product leaflets, advertising material, and at trade fairs on logo boards and roll-up banners. The market offensive led by the EPLF and its members is communicated in several languages via the www.eplf.com website and disseminated internationally by means of in-depth PR work in specialist media.
9. The EPLF promotes team spirit
Within the boundaries of competition law, the EPLF promotes topics for projects and communications with other partners. These include communication of the enforced standards. The EPLF is a meeting place for industry players to meet together on an equal footing. The structured work of the Association, which includes conventions, meetings, seminars and developing new meeting formats, reinforces the collaboration internally. The EPLF is available as a partner for discussion and cooperation relating to international industry trade fairs.
10. The EPLF is committed to sustainability
The EPLF has an educational function, particularly in the European home markets. One of its goals is to promote environmental, economic and social sustainability equally. Examples of the EPLF’s continuous commitment to environmental sustainability are environmental assessments, life cycle analyses, Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and the EU Ecolabel. The EPLF is currently involved in the debate on CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). All members are committed to Europe and to high production standards.
Tippelskirch: “The high standards we set for ourselves and our products are a determining factor in the significant lead we have acquired over our non-European competitors. If we take these ten points seriously and work hard every day to put them into practice, European laminate will remain what it rightly is today: international flooring that is fit for the future – and the best laminate in the world.”
Illustrations - Image captions
elnd1708_b1: The EPLF Innovation Manifesto forms the cornerstone of a long-term quality campaign led by the European laminate industry and its suppliers. – Photo: EPLF
elnd1708_b2: EPLF President Ludger Schindler: “The EPLF Innovation Manifesto is a new strategy paper that formulates how the association perceives itself and defines the guiding principles for our future work.” – Photo: EPLF/MeisterWerke
elnd1708_b3: EPLF Vice President Max von Tippelskirch: “The high standards we set for ourselves and our products are a determining factor in the significant lead we have acquired over our non-European competitors.“ – Photo: EPLF/Swiss Krono
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