Since January 1, 1999, EPF, the European Panel Federation, has represented the European manufacturers of particleboard, MDF and OSB, with a total production in 2003 of 36.1 million m3 of particleboard, 11.2 million m3 of MDF and 2.4 million m3 of OSB.
The EPF thus took over the tasks of FESYP, the European federation of associations of the particleboard manufacturers (founded in 1958), and Euro MDF Board (EMB), the European federation of MDF manufacturers (founded in 1986).
The above two paragraphs, taken straight from the EPF website which can be found at, go some way towards explaining the background to the  organization which represents the vast majority of European composite panel makers.
The formation of the EPF from the two constituent bodies, FESYP and EMB, marked something of a milestone in the history of the European industry in that it gave one voice to the particleboard and MDF industries at a time when various and increasing challenges required strong and credible political and public representation.
At the time of its formation, the EPF, at least officially, represented only particleboard and MDF interests; the OSB manufacturing sector had no official voice.
“There was no association for OSB and when a number of manufacturers became established they started thinking about a promotional organisation for their sector,says Kris Wijnendaele, secretary general of the EPF. “The need for such an association became very acute when OSB capacity in Europe increased and, as all OSB producers were also producers of particleboard and/or MDF, we thought it logical to offer them a structure which already existed. There was no change to our official structure – all but  one producer was already a member of EPF so we simply added OSB to the EPF in 2001.”
The process of combining the EPF and EMB was concluded in 1997/98 and the first joint annual meeting was in fact held in Munich in 1998, with the EPF formally ‘taking over’ from both organisations in January 1999, with Frans de Cock of Unilin of Belgium as its first president.
“The main driver was that most leading companies in both organisations were producing both particleboard and MDF and did not see the necessity for two organizations with two separate sets of meetings and so on,points out Mr Wijnendaele.
“Both were different in that FESYP was representing the particleboard industry as a lobbying body on technical and environmental standards and on political issues, while the EMB was set up at the beginning of MDF in Europe as a communication and promotion tool for the product, to assist people in using this new panel.
“But by the end of the 1990s, MDF was so well established that [EMB] members thought it could be added to the work of FESYP in one larger organisation.”
So that leaves the European plywood producing industry currently outside the EPF structure.
These companies have their own representative body, FEIC – the European Federation of the Plywood Industry ( It is headquartered in the same building as the EPF in Brussels, and Mr Wijnendaele is secretary general of both organisations.
For the first time, the FEIC held its annual meeting at the same time as the EPF in June 2004. The two organisations’ members shared the gala dinner and the open part of the general assembly (to which press and associate members are also invited and which offers an opportunity to suppliers to give some promotional information to members).
“Why did we do this?asks Mr Wijnendaele. “If you look at some of the bigger players, several produce plywood and particleboard/MDF and several of the bigger plywood producers like the opportunity to talk to OSB producers. They also want to be active in the wider European wood based panels industry. That is why we came to the idea of ‘combining’ our annual meetings.”
It must have been well-received because the format is to be repeated for this year’s annual general meetings, this time to be held in Riga, Latvia.
Both EPF and FEIC come under the umbrella organisation CEI-Bois, also headquartered in Brussels.
“We are based in Brussels because of the issue of representation to the main European institutions,points out Mr Wijnendaele.
CEI-Bois, the European Confederation of woodworking industries, was founded in 1952 and represents the interests of the European woodworking industry, which includes some 100,000 companies employing around 1.9 million workers. It is again in the same building as the EPF and FEIC.
The primary goal of CEI-Bois is to further the interests of the European wood sector and, to this end, it aims to influence EU policy making. It is the main body representing and defending the interests of the European woodworking industries towards the European Union.
That is a quotation from its website, and really encapsulates the aims and objectives of its two member organisations too.
“CEI-Bois has two parts,explains Mr Wijnendaele. “One is everything concerning the solid wood processing industry, with branches in sawmilling, (represented by EOS), parquet (FEP) and wood preservation (WEI).
“The other is the panels side of the industry, represented by EPF and FEIC.”
The Confederation also has two categories of members: national associations and those European branch organisations.
There is another organisation representing another sector of panel manufacture: the producers of wet-process fibreboard (hardboard, and softboard or insulation board) have their own association, FEROPA, the European Federation of Fibreboard Manufacturers, headquartered in France, whose website can be found at
Coming back to the subject of the EPF, the federation has a managing board comprised of a president, from the particleboard and/or MDF producers, a vice-president and seven board members, also all from the producing industry. The president (currently Lazlo Döry of Constanzia-Iso AG) is the chairman of the board and normally serves for a period of four years, with re-election at the AGM each June.
The managing board is responsible for the day-to-day running of the EPF and putting forward major policy decision proposals to the federation’s general assembly, which is open to all members. The assembly is held three times a year, in the autumn, spring and just before the annual general meeting, in June. The EPF has two categories of members:national member associations (WPIF in the UK, AssoPannelli in Italy, Febelhout in Belgium, and so on); and individual companies and groups which can be direct members, whether or not they are in their national associations.
“We find it invaluable to have industrialists contributing to the work of the EPF and participating in meetings,says Mr Wijnendaele. “Our prime objective is that the industrialists have maximum input to ensure that what we do helps the companies in the industry as much as possible.”
The EPF has five working groups: economic affairs, technical, environmental, OSB, and promotional. These are all tied in with the official working groups on standards such as CEN/TC112-Wood Based Panels.
Funding for the EPF comes from two directions. Firstly, there is a fixed fee payable by every member. Secondly, there is a fee calculated on a company’s individual production volume of particleboard, MDF and OSB up to a ceiling of €50,000 for individual member companies or associations.
There is also a category of membership for ‘associate members’. These include machinery makers, resin, additive and service suppliers, paper and decor producers, consultants, powder coating suppliers and so on, as well as the North American Structural Board Association (SBA) and the Italian organisation for collecting and recycling wood. “In fact anyone who has an interest in the European wood based panel industry,confirms Mr Wijnendaele.
“The associate members have no voting rights but can be invited to give presentations to working groups or the general assembly or to contribute expertise on a specific subject.”
Other sources of funding for the EPF are sales of its very comprehensive annual report and services for other organizations in acting as consultants, or in a similar capacity.
“We are very focused on what is important to our members,points out Mr Wijnendaele. “We like them to come to meetings and say what they want from us and also we can show them what we are doing on their behalf. Opportunities for networking among members are also very important.”
So what does Mr Wijnendaele see as the main strengths of the EPF?
“We have a broad membership structure covering virtually all EU25 countries and some others. It includes many suppliers in closely related industries and covers the vast majority of European producers.
“Also, our structure and our ties to CEIBois and the various national associations leads to an efficient decision-making mechanism and lobbying capabilities with very wide networking to relevant countries, decision making bodies and European and international standardisation. Our quarterly meetings also allow quick decision-making and the launching of actions through our network. And with a relatively small team, we can get widely coordinated representation actions.”
What does Mr Wijnendaele see as the main challenges for the industry today?
“Raw material supply in competition with the energy sector – ‘the biomass issue’,he says, referring to the subsidising of power generators in Europe in the last few years.
“We have to convince all relevant authorities and institutions – and the public – that wood’s first use should be for products which can be reused or recycled and that the primary form of recycling is panels. After this, the prolonged life cycle can still be used to recover energy from them and through this prolonged life cycle, carbon from the original tree is stored for much longer and this contributes to the Kyoto Protocol objectives.
“This is CO2-neutral energy production plus a whole value chain, adding a factor of at least plus-25 in employment and plus-10 in value per cubic metre of wood products, compared to burning that original cubic metre of wood.
“The big fear is that wood will become too expensive as a result of competition from the energy sector.”
On this issue, Mr Wijnendaele says the EPF has achieved the setting up of, and involvement in, a working group within the EC (European Commission) which has  concluded that the subsidy of, and support for, renewable energy is slanted too much towards the benefit of energy producers rather than increasing the supply of raw materials for renewable energy, to the benefit of the whole forest-based industry chain.
Also, in a communication on renewable energy sources issued by the EC in May 2004, the Commission did not decide to increase the targets for biomass energy as intended, but said it wants to set up a biomass plan to ensure that its policy does not distort wood raw material markets.
“This shows that the EC is listening and realising the distortion effects and this is partly because of the work of the EPF in the working group with the Directorate General of Transport and Energy,says Mr Wijnendaele.
The EPF also keeps an eye on trade and anti-dumping issues.
A third important area is in promoting the interests of wood in terms of sustainable development and the EPF is working hard to have wood based products recognised as carbon sinks under the Kyoto Protocol.
The Construction Products Directive and its requirement for CE marking of structural panels is also a well-documented area of heavy involvement for the EPF in recent years. The Federation is now disseminating information on this to architects and specifiers; and to the trade itself.
The EPF also continues to address the issues raised on emissions of VOCs (volatile organic compounds) with respect to raw materials and products, and is active in public advocacy and following up regulatory initiatives that may impact production plants, or the classification of products.
“We encourage members to reduce the environmental impact of their products and processes in the context of ‘sustainable development’,says Mr Wijnendaele.
In addition to all the foregoing activities, the EPF runs test projects and has two in progress currently.
One is on reaction to fire in actual use situations, and of panels not covered by existing classifications. The other is the determination of the moisture resistance of wood based panels, eventually using a single test rather than the two systems currently accepted under CE marking.
“We have set up an evaluation project with six European test laboratories and 12 European panel manufacturers to evaluate this wet bending strength method and hope to report later this year,says Mr Wijnendaele.
The issue of competition for wood for energy generation versus panel production was a classic case of somebody having what seemed like an excellent idea – encouraging the production of energy from renewable fuel. But they failed to think of the farreaching consequences and implications – for example for the panel industry – of their decision to subsidise energy production from wood.
That is the strength of having an organization such as the EPF which can watch out for such ‘low-flying missiles’ and hopefully shoot them down on behalf of the industry before they do irreparable damage.