Selit Dämmtechnik invited EPLF to hold its annual members´ meeting in Mainz (Germany) at the end of May. The weather was great and, with a view looking over vineyards, the setting was perfect. Here in Mainz, a new board was elected: Ludger Schindler (MeisterWerke) remains 1st chairman of the board, Max von Tippelskirch (Kronotex) was appointed his deputy. The two representatives of the EPLF Working Groups also remain on the board: Dr. Theo Smet (Unilin) and Volkmar Halbe (Parador). Georg Kruse (WPT) took on the position of EPLF annual accounts auditor.
The president of the association, Ludger Schindler, welcomed BASF Switzerland (Basel/Switzerland) and Hueck Rheinische (Viersen/Germany) to Mainz as new member companies. BASF supplies the laminate flooring industry with resin and varnish, Hueck Rheinische supplies the industry with press plates and press pads. The EPLF now comprises 21 ordinary and 28 extraordinary member companies. Ordinary members include the manufacturers of laminate flooring while extraordinary members supply them.
An important topic for the association meeting was the economic situation with regard to the European laminate flooring industry which is developing well at present. The European debt crisis is putting pressure on the markets and slowing down global growth. Despite this the laminate flooring market in western Europe remains stable, while eastern Europe has managed to fair even better. Turkey is one of the most important growth markets and France is also displaying stable trends. Most of the North American market is served by local producers and is therefore no longer of relevance to the European export trade. Bulk business on the Asian market is also covered by local producers, but there are still good sales opportunities for European producers at the high end of the market, especially in China. The South American market is displaying a continuous upwards trend – headed up by Chile and Mexico. "EPLF member companies have their own production plants, joint ventures or sales offices all round the globe," says Ludger Schindler. The association represents around 50% of the global market.
Presentation: A personal view of Brazil
The programme for each of the EPLF meetings of members focuses on information about markets. And this time it was the turn of Brazil. Karl-Heinz Naumann, Eurolatina International, from Sao Paolo presented the country in a very graphic and entertaining way. The German, who has lived and worked in Brazil for 30 years, explained the opportunities and risks associated with entering this market and stressed that deciding whether to do so or not must be a well-considered move. On the one hand, Brazil is the six largest global economy with a growing per capita income and huge potential sales. But on the other hand, companies wanting to enter the market have to deal with countless bureaucratic obstacles and a poor infrastructure. "If you want to work in Brazil, you need good local partners," says Naumann.
An equally entertaining but very different presentation followed from Patrick van Veen, a biologist and behaviour scientist. He introduced the EPLF representatives to the "art of grooming". Taking the example of apes, he explained why interpersonal processes in companies happen in a particular way and not in other ways. "Knowing this enables us to respond to it," says van Veen, applying his knowledge to both employees and managers alike. After a dispute, it's always important that people make up again – sticking with the idea of apes, so they can groom one another.
Working Group on Corporate Social Responsibility
While the presentations were interesting and entertaining, there was also plenty of time to hear about the work of the EPLF Committes. The Technical Committee is working on an important project of active involvement at EU level in the revision of EN 14041. Their aim is to include ecological parameters, such as limit values for VOC emissions in the standard and to make the standard accessible to end users.The group has enjoyed great success with the ISO standard for laminate flooring which is about to be adopted following eight years of intensive work by the EPLF and ISO committees. This gives the international laminate flooring industry its first global standard on the testing and assessment of laminate flooring. A brand new Working Group has been set up to focus on the "Corporate Social Responsibility" of companies which produce laminate flooring. "Consumers in this sector are increasingly demanding and we are well advised to respond to this promptly," says Dr. Theo Smet, representative of the Technical Commitee.
The Market and Image Commitee were very busy in Mainz discussing the subjects of "flooring labels" and "packaging trends". Catrin Krüger from the Verbraucherinitiative Berlin e.V. provided an overview of the most important quality and environmental symbols for flooring and emphasised that the credibility of a label for the consumer depends greatly on the independence of the body awarding it. Andreas Prössl, a management consultant from Aachen, gave the Group a few interesting ideas on how to package laminate flooring more intelligently, especially with regard to convenience and sustainability – subjects of importance to association communication in 2012. Volkmar Halbe, representative of the Market and Image Committee, again underlined to the meeting the success of the Woodflooring Summit event at Domotex 2012 and informed members that Deutsche Messe AG is also planning a Woodflooring Summit for 2014.
The EPLF 2012 meeting in Mainz closed with plenty of new ideas and suggestions. Information, business, networking – the member companies tapped into everything the association has to offer. The next meeting will take place on 5-6 June 2013 at Kaindl in Salzburg.
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