Why Quick-Step Majestic heralds a new era for UNILIN’s laminate production
In September 2016, UNILIN, division flooring launched its brand-new Quick-Step Majestic laminate. Combining extra-large planks with true-to-nature looks and practicality, the new collection is bound to revolutionize laminate flooring as we know it. At the same time, the advent of Majestic coincides with a new chapter in UNILIN’s innovative production process. With a new hi-tech production line (price tag: € 10 million), the flooring pioneer will safeguard its leadership position and continue to fulfil its promise of top quality and service.
In the last few years, interior experts have witnessed a surge in popularity of large flooring planks. Quick-Step was one of the first to offer a valid response to this trend with its iconic Largo range. With Majestic, the brand goes even further by throwing water resistance, unparalleled authentic looks and unique bevel technology into the equation as well. However, introducing a new product – especially when it’s larger and more ingenious than anything made before – into production doesn’t happen overnight.
From concept to production
At UNILIN, manufacturing new laminate products is the result of careful coordination and collaboration between several departments: R&D and design, Engineering, Information Systems and Plant Management. Everything starts, however, with UNILIN’s in-house design team, which draws inspiration from virtually anything, from nature to the latest trends in architecture and fashion. In this way, Quick-Step creates floors that are both trendy and timeless.
After capturing the right trends and ideas, the design team starts working on the prototypes. Original wooden planks, which serve as the basis for new laminate floors, are selected with the utmost care. The search for perfect originals is an intense job: from the iridescence, to the balance of the wood grains, cracks and nuts, … Everything has to be perfect. In many cases, the best features of each plank are combined digitally to create the perfect plank.
“Based on original wooden planks, the R&D team uses innovative techniques to develop a product that combines natural beauty with the practicality of high-end laminate,” explains Ruben Desmet, General Manager Laminate at UNILIN. “When the prototypes are finished, we need to find a way to produce this beautiful, high-quality product, so that it conforms with and exceeds our customers’ expectations. Together, we strive to create the best possible production scenario.”
Through the introduction of new manufacturing technologies, UNILIN’s laminate production process increasingly focuses on automation and data exchange. On the renewed production line, a product announces itself at the main computer. The order assignment is then communicated to production operators via displays.
“We are steadily building a ‘smart factory’,” says Ruben. “Here, different production stations no longer work as islands, but communicate with each other and with human operators in real time. For an industry leader like UNILIN, this approach offers many advantages in terms of quality, flexibility, and preventive maintenance.”
The most important aspect of production is to guarantee the quality of the end product. New products, like Majestic, need to meet Quick-Steps stringent quality standards as well. Ruben: “Thanks to new technology, we now have more control over the production process. This allows us to create a product that is 100% stable.”
Quality control itself is done mainly by in-line cameras that record every passing floorboard. They can identify an impressive range of common errors. Yet, a human touch is paramount as well. In the milling line, for example, a sample is taken every ten minutes and inspected by the operator.
Flexibility is key
The switch to `Factory of the Future’ is about more than guaranteeing quality. Today’s clients demand increasingly flexible services: shorter delivery times and more varied orders. Ruben: “In a traditional production environment, changing the line to another décor or collection was cumbersome and time-consuming.
To shorten the turnaround time, we needed to decrease human interaction and replace routine jobs by computer-guided processes.”
So far, the efforts have been paying off. “We are the only industry player to offer next-day delivery for a wide range of products. Ultimately, our goal is to deliver the right product, to the rhythm of our clients. Only by doing that, will we remain at the forefront of the flooring market. Creating innovative, qualitative products and offering impeccable services is a continuous process.”
Role of the operator
An increased focus on digitization doesn’t rule out the need for human operators in the production process. Ruben: “Quite the opposite, in fact. Our operators were involved very early on in the upgrade process. That way, the production environment meets their ergonomic needs. This increases their well-being at work, enhancing productivity and efficiency along the way.”
Although change is inevitable, UNILIN aims to offer its operators every opportunity to adapt to their new production environment. “Now more than ever, operators have to be able to interpret data. That’s why we are organizing in-house training sessions and courses. So that we can continue to grow together.”
Majestic laminate will be available in 10 breathtaking decors – from vintage and reclaimed to rustic and smooth – from September 2016 onwards. The collection represents the most spacious (2.05 m by 24 cm) and luxurious laminate flooring ever from Quick-Step.
What’s more, Majestic uses the same groundbreaking technology used in Quick-Step Impressive. This means the planks offer unparalleled authenticity thanks to the matching textures and the way in which the bevel is in perfect balance with the character of the floor. Furthermore, they offer extreme water resistance, superior scratch resistance, and durability. Majestic is also equipped with the patented Uniclic system, enabling quick and easy installation.
UNILIN produces laminate, engineered parquet and luxury vinyl flooring under the Quick-Step, Pergo and Balterio brands as well as wood-based panels (particle board, MDF), decorative panels, roof systems and insulation boards. UNILIN employs 4800 people at 20 production sites worldwide. UNILIN had a turnover of 1 .4 billion euros in 2015 and forms part of the international listed group Mohawk (NYSE: MHK).
Quick-Step is a quality flooring brand produced by UNILIN. On-going research and innovation along with a strong focus on quality have made Quick-Step one of the top players in the flooring industry. The brand, known for its patented glueless Uniclic® installation system, has evolved from being an affordable alternative to wood to a category in its own right, bringing a wide variety of design floors that are swift and easy to install and maintain in every situation. Today, Quick-Step is a global engineered wood, laminate and luxury vinyl flooring brand active in over 100 countries. A true leader in design, innovation and quality.