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Developing New Laminate Flooring Decors: from Idea to Panel

  • Kategorie: General, Products

21. October 2015 | Interview with KRONOTEX product manager Achim Scholz

Where do new laminate flooring decors actually come from? Despite the huge variety that’s already available, the designers keep on surprising us with fresh ideas. Where do they get their inspiration? What is the creative process involved?

KRONOTEX product manager Achim Scholz answered our questions. A trained technician, he has worked for KRONOTEX GmbH & Co. KG for six years. He plays a key role in the development of new decors for KRONOTEX laminate floors. In the following interview, he gives us some fascinating glimpses behind the scenes.

When you create a new collection, what are you sources of inspiration for new décors?
We derive inspiration from a wide range of sources. They include nature, real wood floors, old furniture and much more. You simply have to keep your eyes open and follow your instincts – looking at things and imagining how they might look in a laminate floor.

Do you have certain consumers in mind when developing a décor? If so, how would you describe them?
As we export to more than 90 nations around the globe, we have to take a huge spectrum of possible consumers into account. Décors are in demand for all age groups and applications. They range from playful décors for children’s bedrooms all the way to elegant oak styles for living rooms, restaurants and hotels.

So how does the whole process kead to a market-ready décor? After an idea pops into your head, what stages does it pass through to culminate in manufactured panels?
The best way to explain that is to take a specific example. Say the new decor Everest Oak Beige (D 3081) of the MAMMUT collection. For this collection, we wanted to develop an oak décor with a very elegant but not boring character. In other words, an oak style that would appeal to every kind of consumer. I spent several days visiting hardwood flooring studios in Germany and other countries in order to track down the right real-wood product to serve as the model. When I found what I was looking for, we and our print shop bought about 30 square metres, in words around 80 planks, of the product. We then picked out and scanned the ten best ones. After scanning, we always take another close look at every plank and edit out any unsightly flaws. As soon as I’ve approved the décor, we send the scanned data to our supplier to create the colour separations for engraving the laboratory cylinders for rotogravure printing. Then we head for the lab to test various colours for the new décor. After the colours have been approved, the production cylinders are engraved. Because Nature Oak is an ER (embossed in register) décor, the rotogravure process has to be aligned with the grain. This is technically very demanding, requiring exacting measurements of the paper beforehand. Based on the real-wood planks, we then work closely with the platemaker to get the structure of the flooring just right. Here too, first a laboratory version is made for test purposes in order to finalise the structure for the production plate. In the case of this décor, our goal was to simulate the real wood as closely as possible in terms of both look and feel. After impregnating the décor paper, we press it on to the HDF panel in our own plant. Special production systems let us achieve nature-identical results.

When developing new designs, do you also think about their sales potential? Are you required to walk a fine line between your own ideas and the requirements for successful retailing?
Product developers also have to keep a close eye on whether their creations are economically viable. We naturally always want to maximise sales of our décors. But clever combinations of different décors can also make a lot of sense. What I mean to say is that we also develop décors knowing full well in advance that they won’t generate large sales volumes, but we do so anyway because they upgrade the impression that the overall collection makes. These décors also demonstrate our company’s innovativeness and direction.

How do new trends get started? Who “creates” trends?
Trends result from a combination of an idea and demand. Being one of the largest producers of laminate flooring, we’re obliged to define new trends. Our customers expect that of us.

How do you track trends and changes in demand?
Simply by paying attention wherever I go. Both at work and in my private life. When you’re a product manager, you have to get on top of things in your field day and night, no matter where you are.

How have consumers’ wishes and expectations changed?
Customers are increasingly insisting on high-quality products. They regard laminate flooring as an alternative to real wood, i.e. with the same appearance but more robust.

What are the current trends in laminate décors and flooring in general?
Oak is still number one. But coniferous woods, and especially décors with a used look, are currently all the rage.

Why are oak décors so stubbornly clinging to their position at the top of the charts? Is it really possible to continually “reinvent” them?
There are 500-600 types of oak. It’s also very easy to work with. It isn’t just the variety of types that makes oak so popular, but also its very unique colouring.

Are there parallels or interactions with other areas like fashion or hair styles? If so, can you explain or give us some examples?
Yes, they definitely exist. There’s one example in particular that I love to cite. Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of American Vogue, once posed with her daughter wearing a black-and-white outfit – I think that was back in 2008 or 2009. Afterwards she was repeatedly sighted in the same colours. Soon white cars also became popular, and then furniture and flooring as well.

What kind of décor really gets you excited?
A nature-identical surface with a perfectly matching décor that also sports perfect colouring.

Which KRONOTEX décor is currently your favourite, and why?
My favourite right now is Harbour Oak (D3570). It has a first-class blend of décor and structure. The colouring of the individual planks harmonises perfectly. The recipe for success here is a mix of elegance and modernity with a dash of rusticity.

What distinguishes the design of KRONOTEX décors from the laminate floors of other manufacturers?
I think that all of our competitors do very good work in developing décors. What sets us apart is quite simply the flexibility that characterises our entire company. Short decision-making paths make sure that I’m always in the picture where product development is concerned. It’s definitely also helpful to have the backing of our management, even if a décor, as occasionally happens, doesn’t quite live up to expectations.

The final question: what kind of floor do you have in your own living room?
You may not believe it, but I have a floor from an older KRONOTEX collection in my living room, namely Realstone. It has a stone veneer – real stone was glued onto HDF boards with a click-to-install system.

The Everest Oak Beige décor (D 3081) of the MAMMUT collection The Harbour Oak décor (D 3570) of the ROBUSTO collection Achim Scholz, product manager at KRONOTEX

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