In 1977, the company Perstorp, based in Trelleborg, Sweden, presented the very first laminate floor made of particle board covered with high pressure laminate. This product, while far from fully developed, was the beginning of an international flooring revolution. At the beginning of the 1990s, and following a few technical learning processes, laminate became one of the leading floors on the European market with the introduction of a direct coating. For the growing European laminate flooring industry, it was high time to form a special interest group. In 1994, eight well-known European manufacturing companies – Alsapan (France), Hamberger (Germany), Kaindl (Austria), Meister Leisten (Germany, now MeisterWerke Schulte GmbH), Dekaply (Belgium), Unilin (Belgium), Vesterby (Denmark) and Witex (Germany, now Windmöller Flooring) – gathered in Bonn, Germany, and founded the Association of European Producers of Laminate Flooring. Since then, the laminate flooring industry has experienced many exciting developments, with the EPLF and its members consistently in the driving seat.
Barely any other kind of flooring has made such astonishing technological progress in the last few decades, capturing such a large global market share in a short period of time. Correspondingly, the EPLF has also steadily grown, both in terms of membership numbers and its significance; in two decades, the association has evolved into a strong, internationally-renowned network for the European laminate flooring industry. The EPLF regards itself as an international platform for the exchange of views and experience among manufacturers of laminate flooring and their supplier industries. At the same time, the EPLF acts as the mouthpiece of this industry with regard to national and transnational corporations in the public sector, on subjects such as standardisation or the development of international commercial relationships. Regular external communication is also important to the EPLF, with comprehensive information available to end consumers and specialist retailers.
The EPLF's members currently consist of 21 manufacturers from 11 European countries and 33 suppliers and service providers for the laminate flooring industry. The latter cover a wide spectrum, from timber suppliers, paper manufacturers, decor printers and impregnators to chemical companies, profile producers and machine manufacturers. The EPLF manufacturers currently supply approximately 55% of the global laminate flooring market and over 80% of the European market. This makes the EPLF the world's largest continental association in this industry, with its vital role as a special interest group for European exporting manufacturers and their suppliers. Only European manufacturing companies that can demonstrate their ability to manufacture good-quality, technically sound products over a period of at least one year can acquire ordinary membership of the EPLF.
Consistency ensured by the dedicated EPLF board
The EPLF management board is occupied by qualified members, working with considerable personal commitment for the interests of the industry. EPLF president Ludger Schindler has been successfully leading the association since 2002, following in the footsteps of Roland Elbracht (Witex), Göran Dannborg (Perstorp) and Ulrich Windmöller (Witex). Dr. Theo Smet (Unilin) has been active for the same length of time; in 2002, he took over the role of convenor of the EPLF Technical Committee from Bengt Almqvist (Perstorp), and since then has invested a great deal of skill and passion for international parquet flooring in the development of important standardisation work. In 2008, Volkmar Halbe (Parador) became convenor of the EPLF Market and Image Committee, following on from Ralf Eisermann (Akzenta). Since then, Halbe has worked not only to maintain the EPLF's good public image, but also to provide impetus in terms of market observation and strategy development. The newest member of the board is Max von Tippelskirch (Kronotex), who followed on from Didier Stumpf (Alsapan) and Martin Prager (Kronotex) as deputy president in 2012 and who actively contributes to the EPLF's strategy planning. In 1998, Peter H. Meyer replaced Berthold Heuser as managing director of EPLF e.V. Since that time, the EPLF association headquarters have been located in Bielefeld, Germany.
“Truth and clarity”
Thanks to the commitment and expertise of the numerous members of its internal committees, the EPLF has been highly dynamic in the industry, initiating and overseeing many important developments. Right from the beginning, the EPLF actively supported the transparency required in the laminate flooring market for commerce, trade and consumers. “Truth and clarity in product statements” has been championed as a rule of thumb since 1994 in order to promote high-quality products with certified functional properties, and to position these clearly on the market. These objectives shall remain of absolute priority in the future, in view of the steady expansion of the global market offering and the risk of diverging functional properties and varying levels of product quality.
Guaranteed quality for consumers worldwide
According to EPLF president Ludger Schindler: “Thanks to its dedicated members, EPLF is now a major international player, contributing a great deal to the positive development of laminate flooring on the global market through its various activities. We would like to thank all of our colleagues for their personal commitment and their constructive collaboration over the years.”
So how does the EPLF see the future of laminate flooring? International markets are evolving, and the European laminate flooring industry is experiencing many opportunities and challenges in the face of technological advances. The EPLF's role is to combine the interests of the European laminate flooring industry and its suppliers. It promotes standardisation work and the implementation of the latest technological expertise on an international level in order to successfully market sturdy, premium-quality laminate products with the highest design standards. Schindler comments: “Laminate is and will remain a first-class sustainable flooring with convincing functional properties, outstanding environmental credentials and a great deal of creative potential. We are also actively pursuing our joint quality strategy for standardisation, product safety and market transparency in new growth regions such as Turkey, Russia and Asia. In doing so, the EPLF helps to ensure that the outstanding quality of European laminate flooring will be able to enjoy continued international success in the future.”
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