(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 product offering has been an expression of the leadership in innovation held by European manufacturers. It offers conclusive value-added benefits which users around the world can benefit from,” as Max von Tippelskirch, Vice President of the EPLF (European Producers of Laminate Flooring), explained. The EPLF Innovation Manifesto is the association’s response to trends in the flooring market and forms the cornerstone of a long-term quality campaign led by the European laminate industry and its suppliers.
“The aim of our Association is to stake a strong claim for European laminate. We want to create momentum for the European laminate of tomorrow. The EPLF Innovation Manifesto is a new strategy paper that formulates how the EPLF perceives itself and defines the guiding principles for our future association work,” Tippelskirch continued, deputising for EPLF President Ludger Schindler who was unfortunately unwell.
A worldwide promise
The message from the Association of European Laminate Producers is clear: “Quality and Innovation made in Europe”. Thanks to the commitment of its members and the activities of the organisation itself, significant international milestones have already been laid for the development of laminate. Everyone in the EPLF is committed to carrying this forward, not least via this manifesto, and are firmly focused on this in their work for the association. “Quality and Innovation made in Europe” is more than just a slogan – it is a global promise to provide flooring with unique properties.
This is where the EPLF, as a European network, comes into play. Since 1994, the work of the association has been defined by continuous standardisation work and a quality policy offensive for European products. The joint aim is to ensure that sustainable product quality, future-proofed design and innovative technologies win through in all markets in the long term.
Securing the claim to leadership for the future
It has to be said that laminate flooring has reinvented itself time after time over 40 years. In their role as worldwide leaders, European laminate producers have never stood still; 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 von Tippelskirch: “Our current products reflect Europe’s leadership in innovation. Constant innovation is manifested in tangible advantages for our customers, and from these we can gain development potential for our laminate flooring, thereby securing our leadership claim for the future. Our innovative spirit and a consistent focus on benefits to customers have always been the drivers for developing more and more new and improved laminate products manufactured in Europe.”
So not only does laminate have a remarkable development history, its future is equally exciting. Final consumers now focus less on familiar product categories when choosing a type of flooring and more on simply finding the best flooring for their needs. As a result, categories have become a discussion topic amongst industry specialists only – but what counts for consumers is good quality and performance characteristics, arguments that have traditionally favoured European laminate.
However, the market position of European laminate products must be constantly reinforced as the pressure of international competition increases. Not because there are so many products in the rest of the world of the same quality as in Europe, but because many retailers and consumers are not clear about how to reliably measure 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 consumers be able to enjoy for a long time? And which flooring is easy to install?
There is more to laminate than meets the eye
In this digital era, markets are becoming more transparent. But is the flood of information on the internet really a reliable guide for the consumer? This is where advice must be actively given to help them separate the wheat from the chaff and 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 to the same extent in local markets. There is more to laminate than meets the eye – this is the core message for success into the future.
The EPLF Innovation Manifesto sets out ten propositions, from which it derives its future strategies.
1. European laminate producers have experience.
2. European laminate producers have courage.
3. European laminate producers are close to their markets.
4. European laminate producers foster competition.
5. European laminate producers support qualification.
6. European laminate producers promote dialogue.
7. European laminate producers guarantee standards.
8. European laminate producers create market presence.
9. European laminate producers have team spirit.
10. European laminate producers guarantee sustainability.
How does the EPLF put this into practice?
Innovation doesn’t happen 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 for the 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. The result of this teamwork is a number of success factors that bolster the huge innovative strength of European laminate. The following factors determine the practical work of the EPLF:
1. The EPLF guarantees experience
The EPLF engages in continuous research and development work through its Technical Committee and special ad hoc groups. Documenting the research results serves as a reliable knowledge base and is also the driving force for technical progress and developing 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 scope of competition law, the EPLF operates as an expert network and an information/dialogue platform. Overarching industry topics are worked on by committees and ad hoc groups and in seminars. The knowledge passed on by extraordinary members gives ordinary members the chance to recognise new trends and technological developments (e.g. digital printing) at a very early stage, then evaluate them and incorporate them into their own product ranges. It also gives members the chance 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 by increasing their market penetration in existing markets and entering new areas, both geographically and subject-wise. By holding advanced training on strong future regional markets, the EPLF aims to indicate and enhance future opportunities for quality European products in various regions of the world. EPLF sales statistics serve to further increase market transparency across the entire sector. And finally, 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 distortions of competition in the regional markets, both inside 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. The publication of technical information in the main market languages aimed at specialists and consumers provides a practical foundation for companies to give prompt training to their staff. Potential future projects for the EPLF include increased e-communication via www.eplf.com, expert seminars and, in certain circumstances, the award of association grants.
6. The EPLF creates dialogue
Professional communications between EPLF members centre on quality and innovation. The EPLF General Assembly, held at the premises of an ordinary or extraordinary member, acts as a point of contact for detailed discussions on innovations and trends within the European laminate industry. A fixed structure was created for this dialogue with the setting up of the group meeting format “LAMINATE 2020 – Forum of Innovations” in 2016. This is where suppliers in the EPLF give their major customers insight into their own way of thinking and progressing. It gives European laminate producers first-hand creative impetus to incorporate this into 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 EPLF research projects of a pilot nature and works continuously on EN and ISO standards to stay aligned with 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 campaigns for harmonised standards and pursues the goal of a single EU market. It clearly opposes individual states within the EU going it alone, and non-harmonised regulations which hamper the free movement of goods and services. Its support of the EU Ecolabel demonstrates acknowledgement of 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. Members display it on packaging, product leaflets, advertising material and at trade fairs on EPLF logo boards and roll-up banners. The quality campaign run by the EPLF and its members is also communicated in several languages via the website www.eplf.com and disseminated by means of in-depth PR work in specialist media.
9. The EPLF promotes team spirit
Within the boundaries of competition law, the EPLF encourages joint projects and communications with other partners. This includes joint communication about the enforced standards. Industry players can meet up on an equal footing within the EPLF. The structured work of the Association which includes conventions, meetings, seminars and new meeting formats reinforces internal collaboration. The EPLF is also available as a partner for discussion and cooperation for international industry trade fairs.
10. The EPLF is committed to sustainability
The EPLF has an educational function, especially in the European home markets. One of the goals of the EPLF is to promote environmental, economic and social sustainability in equal measure. The EPLF’s continuous commitment to environmental sustainability is demonstrated by environmental assessments, life cycle analyses, Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) and the EU Ecolabel. The EPLF is involved in the debate on CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) and is considering the option of joining the United Nations Global Compact initiative. All members of the EPLF are committed to Europe and to high standards in production.
Mr von Tippelskirch commented: “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. By taking these ten points seriously and working hard every day to put them into practice, European laminate will remain what it justifiably is today: flooring that is fit for the future – and the best laminate in the world.”