I still like to think back to my early days at CLASSEN in Baruth from 2006. At that time, all departments such as work preparation, purchasing and technology were located in one office building. Of course, it was very familiar and much smaller than today. We often met in the morning for the first work meeting of the day in the coffee kitchen. That's where we exchanged ideas: How was production going? Was there anything to improve? What was new? Quality and production issues in the shortest possible way.
When our laminate flooring was being laid in the offices, we had the idea: it would be nice if CLASSEN were to be written on it somewhere. So, just before closing time, we put our logo on a laminate floorboard on the first floor. At that time, we didn't have digital printing. So we and a few colleagues quickly printed out the CLASSEN logo on paper, pressed it together with the surface layer to tile size and profiled it. Back then, you could do something like that in the evening. And this laminate board with the logo is still here today.
From the very beginning, it was my job to make sure that our products complied with all legal requirements and also received certain quality labels. One of my first tasks was to implement the CE marking, which became mandatory for laminate flooring in 2007. It states that all legal requirements of the EU regarding environmental compatibility and consumer protection must be met. Although we have always taken care to produce in an environmentally friendly way and without harmful vapours, we now had to be able to prove this very precisely.
At the same time, I helped to set up quality assurance. At that time, we had four quality inspectors who independently checked our goods - in addition to the plant operators in production. The quality assurance department has grown steadily in terms of both personnel and requirements and is now headed by my colleague Madleen Hansche.
Furthermore, today we do not only rely on the human eye. In addition to the quality controllers, the optical surface quality and the lacquer quality of the bevel profiles are checked by high-resolution camera systems. This is used, for example, to detect decorative defects or missing lacquer coatings and to automatically reject tiles that are affected. Today, we have a total of eleven such camera systems for monitoring the surfaces and 18 for monitoring the bevel profiles! This is unique in our industry in this quantity at only one location.
Today, there are not only legal requirements that we have to fulfil, but also more and more additional certifications that are important to our customers and that partly go beyond the legal requirements. Since we produce in Baruth for practically the whole world, we have to regularly check our products for every single certification that applies in a particular country. For example, in order to receive the "Blauer Engel" environmental seal in Germany, we have to regularly prove that we use wood from sustainable forestry, work with low-emission wood-based materials and do not cause excessive environmental pollution through the production, use and disposal of our laminate flooring. Similar proofs with partly different requirements have to be provided, for example, for the GreenGuard Gold label in the USA, for the Finnish M1 seal, which is important in Scandinavia, and so on. A daunting task, but one that is very important for consumer protection.
"Our products are safe and healthy for living!"
Despite the high standards our products meet, we rarely get to hear from customers: It smells in the rooms, we get headaches or there are some other complaints. The cause of the complaints is then blamed on our floor. In doing so, customers forget that in addition to the flooring, the walls have also been painted or new furniture has been placed in the rooms. Although we can prove with our certificates that our products are healthy to live with and meet all legal requirements, this evidence is sometimes not sufficient and we have to have our products tested by accredited institutes. When the results of these are available, we can always justifiably say with pride: "Our products are safe and healthy for living!" No complaint has been justified so far!
Of course, a lot has changed at our Baruth site, if only because we have grown so much to become the largest integrated laminate factory in the world. Even though the exchange of ideas with my colleagues is still very important to me today, it is no longer as uncomplicated in the coffee kitchen due to our current size. Nevertheless, our goal is still to produce the best quality and standard-compliant products.