How customers see our products depends on how well we tell our story.

By Kenn Busch

Furniture and millwork companies in North America are in the midst of a huge paradigm shift. For those who remember that buzz phrase from 20 years ago, don’t worry, you are not in a time warp. “Paradigm shift” is perhaps the most efficient way to describe the two most important issues facing furniture and millwork producers:

  1. The drive toward ever-higher degrees of value engineering; and,
  2. The rocketing importance of using “green” materials and methods.

For many manufacturers, these trends raise question marks and dollar signs. “What does ‘value engineering’ really mean?” And, “How can I convince customers to cover my increased costs for ‘green materials’?”

Companies working with laminates and composite panels can relax ‚ you have those bases covered, maybe even without realizing it. But when an architect needs your help value-engineering a project back into budget, do you have all the tools you need to make the best suggestions for materials substitutions? Or when designers or consumers ask, “What’s green about your products?” are you ready with a quick, simple, positive response?

If your answer is “no,” you are not alone. The truth is, many of the materials and products you already use have powerful green and value-engineering stories, but they have never been effectively communicated to you or your customers. And it is these stories that are the secret to being able to sell your work based on value, rather than price.  

So let’s back up a step and look at things through the eyes of architects, interior designers and consumers, and develop a true value-based story to tell.

In Designers’ Terms
Architects and interior designers are our most important first-tier audience for a value-based product story. The materials, furniture and fixtures they choose for their commercial and residential projects sends important messages to everyone who interacts with those spaces ‚ hotels, banks, retail stores, schools, clinics, restaurants and especially their places of work. Choosing sophisticated designs and smartly combining materials sends a positive message; specifying products that cannot handle the wear of the application sends a negative message.

Professional Specifiers Want:

  • Designs that meet current trends;
  • Custom, proprietary designs;
  • Consistency of design and color from order to order;
  • Durability appropriate to the application;
  • Ease of fabrication and installation;
  • An environmentally sound choice.

Laminated composite panels deliver on each of these demands. In reality, this category of materials can be engineered to almost any aesthetic and performance goals your customers have, and in most cases are much more efficient to manufacture, handle and install than their alternatives.

When you factor in the costs and environmental impact of the materials they replace, the story gets even better. And when your story hits home, price becomes a secondary issue; it is value that matters most.

So, What’s the Story?
The bottom line is, furniture and millwork made with composite panels and man-made decorative surfaces are a durable, practical and economical option for a majority of commercial and residential applications.

Most of the products mentioned in the Surfaces Primer have exact matches in complementary materials for maximum value engineering and design coordination ‚ you can deliver exactly the right performance for any level of use without compromising design.

All of these surfaces are carried by composite panels, which are 90 percent recovered wood fiber that will not be wasted.

Also, the designs and textures can replace exotic woods, stones and other materials that are expensive or impractical to process and transport.

Keep these points in mind, and you can help customers realize that products made with decorative overlays are not just an inexpensive option, but a responsible choice.

Kenn Busch is publisher of, a Web site focused on innovative uses of decorative surfaces for furniture and interior design. He was the founding editor of Surface & Panel and Laminating Design & Technology magazines, and is a regular presenter at the European and Pan American Laminates Conferences.


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