“Discover a new Dimension”. Our search was not exactly for new galaxies – but rather for the third dimension of our Interior Solutions division. The journey from edgebands to surfaces was a logical yet challenging expansion of the REHAU product portfolio. After all, from that point forward, we didn’t just follow the design of the board manufacturers but started designing on our own, and since then we have been moving on the same level as designers and trend setters. Ten years ago, at the interzum 2013 trade fair, we presented the first version of our polymeric surface to the furniture world.
There was an immediate positive response from the entire world to the idea and technical implementation of the first two product lines: RAUVISIO crystal and brilliant. The expert jury of the Red Dot Awards recognised the potential and uniqueness of the RAUVISIO crystal glass laminate straight away and honoured it with the coveted Design Award. We spoke with Hans Peter Mehnert, Director of the Furniture Systems and Components subdivision, about the anniversary, the greatest challenges and additional expansion levels of the REHAU surface range.
There are numerous board manufacturers in the market. So why start a separate collection with REHAU surfaces?
We were guided by two ideas for the initial concepts. One is basically in our DNA, in our pioneering spirit to replace other materials with polymers and thereby give the product a few new, clever properties or make it easier to process. The second was the logical consequence of a successful growth strategy for the Interior Solutions division: the journey from edgebands to surfaces.
We focused on a specific product segment from the start and intentionally wanted to distinguish ourselves from the traditional volume business, namely the traditional clamping board industry. Our idea was based on polymeric laminate. But we first needed the process know-how of carrier plate and laminate compression in order to arrive at a marketable product. We invested and developed a great deal in the area of the process technology to create a reproducible, true-color and distortion-proof board of the highest quality. Then step three was the finished, laser-edged furniture item from one mould. With this triad, we successfully entered the market, internationally, now boasting a wide range of business models, depending on the needs of our customers in the various countries – whether for industrially designed furniture production, the craftsmanship and dealer networks for components or even finished furniture modules.
We relied on our strong team to master such a great challenge, which only works when everyone pulls together. I am truly proud of this incredible team performance.
What is so special about this material that we were able to take the leap from edgebands to becoming a comprehensive provider of furniture components?
We already meet many important conditions that go beyond the edgeband. We know materials and workflows in production and processing. We have special expertise when it comes to color fidelity, decorative adjustments, collection and quality management. REHAU is much more than a supplier. At all times, we are also a service partner and problem solver and operate at our customers’ sites with our sales and technical teams.
We transferred these competencies to our boards. Furniture surfaces today have more than just specific properties such as gloss levels, anti-fingerprint coating, micro-scratch resistance and much more. Every feature requires a lot of internal experience and process know-how at our company. But ultimately, all materials must always impress our customers and decision makers and prove that they are innovative and suitable for production and assembly.
With this product range, it is very important that we think not only in terms of industry volume but also give interior designers or carpenters the opportunity to order small, project-specific quantities. This is a true challenge in terms of logistics.
With edgebands, we follow the design of the board manufacturers. When it comes to surfaces, we also want to be trendsetters. How do you manage to find the right interior design trends?
Developing a sense of where the journey is going requires not only good networks but also in-house specialists who observe the international furniture markets and screen the design-oriented sectors, such as automotive, fashion and cosmetics. By now we have both. When it comes to design, we’re no longer just followers but now innovators and have been launching our own collections in the market for several years. This includes the color collection “Passion for color”, as well as our own product upgrades, such as our RAUVISIO crystal Deep Collection. This new and unique collection adds a novel and exciting component to our smart glass: a subtle metallic shimmer. In this respect too, I’m very proud that we have received renowned design awards again and again. Our latest indicator of success is the Red Dot Award for the Deep Collection in the product design category of Materials and Surfaces.
RAUVISIO crystal Deep Collection
What is the role of the design match in the REHAU portfolio?
It is THE higher-level story. Because we transfer the surface not just to the edgeband but also to other front elements, such as roller shutters or plinth and sealing elements. Our holistic design gives us a true USP with our customers. Anyone who has ever tried to combine different materials in the same color knows how difficult it is to find the “perfect match” here. Not all whites are the same, after all. Our design and collection match makes the purchasing process easier for our customers – providing a one-stop shop, so to speak. This means that we have to consider the design match for every new product. This aspect was also acknowledged by the jurors of the Red Dot Award, German Design Award and Iconic Award: Innovative Interior for our noble matt collection.
Sustainability – how does the polymeric surface fit into this?
In our society, the transition towards sustainability is in full swing. There are many exciting concepts here. But consumers must also be willing to pay for this. We manufacture products that are high-quality per se and intended to last for a long time. We meet all the compliance regulations and ensure that the raw materials we use are harmless – the pressing of our boards in Germany is now performed with 100 percent green electricity, with other countries following suit where possible and we are reducing packaging in all possible ways. Our traditional furniture carrier board is based on a core of PEFC-certified timber material covered with polymeric laminates or coating materials. With last year’s RAUVISIO eco.fino, we have already introduced a range in which the entire board consists of 98 percent recycled materials. Other material-preserving concepts with nearly 100-percent recyclability are ready to launch.
Furniture industry or carpentry, where do you have the most fans?
We have fans in both segments. Due to the high industrialisation quota, our volume business in Central Europe operates through the furniture industry, primarily businesses in the kitchen industry, and nearly all of which have included our surface ranges by now. But of course, it is just as important for us to broadly cover the retail and carpentry segment and we are on a very good path here.
From a global perspective, we have developed various target group-oriented business models and collections so we would have to draw a different picture for each country. Whether dealer, carpenter, interior designer or distributor – it always depends on the market, its sale structures, the machine parks and the available purchasing power.
What can your customers expect for the future?
Inspiring, innovative products, easy-to-process materials, sustainable solutions – and our services for customers and partners. The world of surfaces opens up many more dimensions for coming full circle to our market launch ten years ago.
Today, our mission is to support our customers with sophisticated solutions for interior construction and cabinetry – with a very high quality and service level. Our slogan “Enabling Exceptional Design” expresses this standard. Our holistic solutions make it possible for our customers to carry out exceptional projects. This way we are setting the stage for creative interior construction.