On 14 and 15 May, the members of the EPLF met in Bad Oeynhausen (Germany) upon the invitation of Windmöller Holding GmbH for a very special annual general meeting. In 2014, the Association of European Producers of Laminate Flooring (based in Bielefeld, Germany) is celebrating its 20th birthday. At the ceremony on 14 May, a reunion was held with various companions from two decades of successful association work. The EPLF's Markets and Image Committee and Technical Committee had previously gathered to carry out intensive project work. At the meeting of ordinary members on 15 May, Paul De Cock (Unilin) and Eberhard Herrmann (Egger) were newly appointed to the EPLF board.
The positive market figures for the first quarter of 2014 went one step further: At the general EPLF meeting in Bad Oeynhausen, the atmosphere was one of joyful celebration. Around a hundred current and former members, friends and patrons enjoyed an impressive ceremony, held at the GOP Kaiserpalais in Bad Oeynhausen on 14 May, to celebrate the EPLF's 20th birthday. For Ulrich Windmöller (from the company Windmöller), the "founding father" and honorary president of the association, it was a matter of personal importance to invite members to his home town for the occasion. A witty speech delivered by the incumbent EPLF president Ludger Schindler, a welcoming address by Dr Jürgen Köckler from Deutsche Messe AG, and a speech by keynote speaker Elmar Brok (Chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs), along with a diverse, top-class variety show, ensured that guests were in the ideal frame of mind to enjoy a cheerful evening of celebration.
Dr Theo Smet steps down – Board expanded
The regular board elections were scheduled to take place during the meeting of ordinary members held the next day, where Ludger Schindler (Meisterwerke) was confirmed in office for an additional two-year term as president. In line with the EPLF's traditional European focus, the board was expanded at the meeting in Bad Oeynhausen: in addition to Max von Tippelskirch (Kronotex), who was confirmed in office as deputy president, the members elected Paul De Cock (Unilin, Belgium) as deputy board member. Volkmar Halbe (Parador) remains chairman of the Markets and Image Committee. Dr Theo Smet (Unilin), who is stepping down as chairman of the Technical Committee after 12 years of service due to age-related reasons, received a standing ovation. The members elected Eberhard Herrmann (Egger) as his successor. Ludger Schindler praised Dr Smet for his outstanding expert knowledge and his personal commitment to international standardisation work, which is of paramount importance to the EPLF. Dr Smet affirmed that he would continue to play an active role within the association. Georg Kruse (WPT) was also confirmed in office as the association's accounts auditor. With its newly appointed management board, the EPLF considers itself to have the best possible staff to carry out the large number of tasks at hand.
Working together for "Quality and Innovation made in Europe"
"We can confidently declare that over 20 years of collaboration, we have been able to set a great deal of things in motion. The result of our association work is a unique success story in the laminate industry", summarised president Ludger Schindler. He continued: "None of us could have achieved this on our own. The platform upon which each brand can successfully build its own foundations could only be created by working together. Time and time again, there are moments where we rely on one another. And those who strive towards quality and innovation never fully reach their goal. We shall never grow tired of representing our position and actively shaping future developments in our common interest."
The future holds sufficient areas of action for the EPLF, namely: the ongoing exchange of expertise and experience between the leading producers, experts and testing institutes; consistent representation of the interests of European producers and the high quality requirements in regional markets; comprehensive awareness and information campaigns for retailers, trade experts and end consumers; forward-looking contribution to the creation of standards and technical regulations for the product group as a whole; and systematic support in the development of new markets and the exploitation of future opportunities for the sector.
Market as a whole showing an upward trend
The main topics covered at the meeting of members included the statement concerning the economic situation of the European laminate flooring sector. Compared with the same period in the previous year, the market for laminate flooring produced in Europe by member firms was stable with a slight upward trend in the 1st quarter of 2014, although there were differences in the individual sales markets: eastern Europe, Asia, North America and South America recorded gains, while sales in western Europe saw a slight decline. Germany proved consistent as the largest single market, yet EPLF producers observed clear losses in the Turkish market, which is attributed to Western Europe, compared with the previous year. The EPLF considers that the negative development of the exchange rate of the Turkish lira may potentially be the reason for this, and that it may also reflect the initial consequences of Turkey's current anti-dumping procedure against German laminate flooring producers.
In this context, EPLF president Ludger Schindler stressed the neutral role of the association, which is committed to the interests of all of its members – including those of its Turkish members: "For the purposes of fair competition, all market participants must stick to the rules. Should there be legitimate reason for complaints, these must be resolved in the interests of all parties."
EPLF members have continued to battle against widespread counterfeiting in Russia's growing yet very fragmented market. The association's "Russia task force" is currently preparing appropriate measures for a consistent quality drive in this region. Targeted contacts with Russian associations and retailers are being constructed and a qualification initiative is being implemented for Russian retailers and trade experts. In addition, the EPLF wishes to contribute towards mobilising the region's standardisation and testing work, in collaboration with its members that already operate in Russia.
Wood Flooring Summit 2016
Chairman Volkmar Halbe (Parador) presented the Markets and Image Committee's current projects. For example, the EPLF aims to further internationalise its PR work towards the end consumer via the German market. The association's online presence is also to be completely redesigned. Following the considerable success of the second Wood Flooring Summit in Hanover earlier this year, the EPLF shall also contribute to the planning preparations for the next event to be held in 2016, in collaboration with the Deutsche Messe AG. In the EPLF's Markets and Image Committee meeting on the previous day, Susanne Klaproth, representing Deutsche Messe AG, drew a positive conclusion of this year's Wood Flooring Summit, which featured a total of 200 international exhibitors.
Progress in standardisation work projects
The international standardisation projects undertaken by the EPLF's Technical Committee remain highly diverse. For the last time, chairman Dr Theo Smet presented the most significant results of the past few months. As previously announced, the new EPDs (Environmental Product Declarations) for laminate flooring shall be published at the end of 2014. Good further progress has been made on work to revise EN 14041 for elastic, textile flooring and laminate floors. In view of the current progress on the revised versions of EN 13329, 14978 and 15468, the standards are expected to be published sooner than planned. The first draft of the revision of EN 13329 shall be presented at the CEN/TS 134 meeting, to be held in Winterthur in June. A separate working group on the topic of "Mixed Products" is to be created within the CEN/TS 134. At the ISO/TC 219 meeting held in Atlanta (USA) in April, the revised version of the ISO/DIS 24338 ("wear resistance") was unanimously adopted, meaning that this standard can now be published. An equally unanimous conclusion at this event was the vote for the revised ISO/24334 ("locking strength"). Dr Smet also announced that, following on from its technical data sheet, the EPLF has now published a two-page information leaflet on the topic of underlay materials, which can be downloaded free of charge from the EPLF website. To conclude, Dr Theo Smet thanked all EPLF participants for the fruitful collaboration over the last twelve years and wished his successor, Eberhard Herrmann, the best of luck in the exciting field of standardisation work.
The next meeting of EPLF members will take place from 20 to 21 May 2015 upon the invitation of the associate member company Homag AG (Schopfloch, Germany).
For information about laminate floors and an overview of members of the European brand producers in the EPLF, please visit www.eplf.com
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