Challenges in the global floor covering markets are on the rise and regional turnover is showing more inconsistency. This is why finding common strategies for dealing with individual regional markets is becoming more and more important for the members of the EPLF e.V. (Bielefeld/Germany). The association and its participating companies from the European laminate flooring sector are committed to working together to provide more transparency and harmonised markets with standardised regulations. The EPLF therefore takes on an active role in continually updating international product and test standards. Its objective is to protect the consumer by achieving appropriate and optimum quality standards for laminate products.
At the end of 2014, Max von Tippelskirch (Swiss Krono Group) took over the ongoing tasks as Chairman of the EPLF Markets and Image Working Group, after Volkmar Halbe (Parador) stepped down following seven successful years to pursue a change of career. Representing the EPLF, Mr von Tippelskirch will be joining planning discussions with the Deutsche Messe AG concerning the 2016 Wood Flooring Summit. The EPLF considers itself to be one of the pioneers who are paving the way for this successful concept which held its premiere at Domotex 2012 and which has since then been held alongside the trade fair at two-year intervals. EPLF members now want to help towards making the third round of this international parquet and laminate flooring industry summit another top highlight for trade visitors.
Also pending for 2015 is the association’s internal project to upgrade the EPLF website. Increasing decentralization of the major EPLF markets demands a wider range of languages and the new site should be suitable for mobile devices and include a broader range of services in the internal Members’ Area.
Russia and Turkey: New Developments
Despite the difficult political situation, the Russian laminate flooring market is growing steadily and offers significant future prospects for European suppliers. At the end of 2013, the EPLF formed its own Working Group for Russia, to work on specific measures for a consistent quality campaign in this market. However, the political developments of the following year initially brought about a degree of uncertainty. The EPLF has now picked up the “Russia Project” again and is using its existing contacts in the region to sound out potential for a consistent quality policy and a framework for collaboration.
There has also been some progress in the anti-dumping proceedings brought by the Turkish Ministry of Economics against German laminate flooring manufacturers, which made headline news shortly before Christmas 2013. Initial verification investigations at the plants of EPLF members in Germany were carried out by the Turkish Ministry of Economics in the late summer of 2014, and others were given notice of similar visits. In view of the WTO regulations, the EPLF anticipates that the proceedings will still take quite some time.
Three large EPLF projects in the area of technology
Since the summer of 2014, Eberhard Herrmann (Egger Retail Products GmbH) has been leading the Technology Working Group as Chairman. Amongst a wealth of ongoing projects, three major ones in particular are worth mentioning: update of the generic EPDs for laminate flooring, the revision of product standards at CEN level, and the research project on deeply textured surfaces.
The steady technological progress in laminate products means that the associated Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) must be regularly updated. In the early part of 2015, the EPLF plans to publish new, generic EPDs for laminate flooring (with specific reference to the category flooring). The new version will provide architects and planners with vital basic documents for sustainable construction ‒ European laminate flooring is known for showing an excellent ecological balance sheet.
One of the long-term functions of the EPLF is its active role in international standardisation. At European level, the CEN Working Group CEN/TC134/WG09 is currently heavily involved in updating the three product standards for laminate flooring, namely European standards 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). According to Eberhard Herrmann, the revision work is progressing well.
The EPLF also has initiated a publicly supported research project on the subject of “Deeply Textured Surfaces”, which is being carried out by the IHD (Institut für Holztechnologie gGmbH Dresden – Wood Technology Institute Dresden) and is set to continue for 2 1/2 years. During the first phase, which is currently under way, field trials are being carried out through EPLF members and also the IHD. The results of these will then be compared using methodical IHD test methods for deeply textured laminate surfaces. The aim of the project is to develop differentiating, realistic and reproducible test methods and subsequently establish the corresponding requirements catalogue. Ms Wiebke Knerich, technical expert at the EPLF, comments: “This is where the EPLF, together with the IHD, is doing truly pioneering work, because up to now there have been no test methods in existence for deeply textured surfaces.”
Other news from the association concerns laminate underlays. Since the autumn of 2014, the practical overview leaflet from the EPLF “That’s how laminate finds the appropriate underlay” has been downloadable free of charge in seven languages on the association’s website www.eplf.de. It has also been made available to the trade and craftsmen in hard copy for specialist training purposes. The documents are currently available in German, English, French, Italian, Dutch, Russian and Spanish, with additional versions in Turkish and Polish currently being prepared.
Good prospects for quality laminate
At Domotex 2015, European laminate flooring producers and their suppliers will once again be demonstrating that they rank amongst the world leaders in the international floor covering markets when it comes to innovation and quality. The creative potential presented by laminate is endless; with every collection, the products are refined not only in visual terms, but also in their technical specification. Looking forward to 2015, EPLF President Ludger Schindler confidently predicts: “Even though a slowdown of the global economy is anticipated, we want to balance out potential reductions in sales volumes in weaker markets through growth in the stronger regional markets. Our common aim for 2015 is to keep EPLF sales figures at a high level.”
Images - captions:
elne1501_b1: EPLF President Ludger Schindler: “Our aim for 2015 is again to keep EPLF sales figures at a high level.” – Photo: EPLF
elne1501_b2: EPLF Marketing Chairman Max von Tippelskirch: “The EPLF is broadening its involvement in the Russian market. We see good future opportunities here for our members. Photo: EPLF / Swiss Krono Group
elne1501_b3: Eberhard Herrmann, Chairman of the EPLF Technology Working Group: “We are due to publish new generic EPDs for laminate flooring in the spring of 2015.” – Photo: Egger
elne1501_b4: The EPLF is doing pioneering work in the field of “deeply textured surfaces”: During the course of a three-year research project, appropriate test methods and a requirements catalogue will be developed. – Photo: Kaindl
- EPLF Press Conference, 18th January, Domotex Hanover: -
elne1501_b5: EPLF board on 18th January 2015, Domotex in Hanover (from left): Eberhard Herrmann, Max von Tippelskirch, Paul de Cock, Ludger Schindler. Photo: EPLF
elne1501_b6: EPLF president Ludger Schindler on 18th January 2015, Domotex in Hanover. - Photo: EPLF
elne1501_b7: Board member Eberhard Herrmann on 18th January 2015, Domotex in Hanover. - Photo: EPLF
elne1501_b8: Board member Max von Tippelskirch on 18th January 2015, Domotex in Hanover. - Photo: EPLF
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