Issue Issue 2 2008
Knauf Integral is ceiling success
With a history spanning 35 years, Knauf Integral is a leading producer of gypsum fibre products for the building industry.
The company’s semi-finished as well as finished products and innovative systems are used in the drywall and plastering processes, and for flooring that create spaces to live and work in. As part of the globally renowned Knauf group, which operates in over 150 countries worldwide, the company prides itself on its reputation for competency, reliability and the use of sustainable materials. Having recently broken into the UK market, Knauf Integral is keen to increase its global footprint, further spreading its message to ‘build on and with us’.
But why should companies feel the need to switch from more traditional building materials to gypsum? Peter Fischer, the company’s managing director, explains the advantages, saying: “The most obvious reason to use these products is that gypsum is non-combustible. Many building products, especially flooring are made from steel encapsulated boards which is a massive disadvantage in a fire as the heat is transferred to the wood very quickly. Gypsum has a content of bounded crystal water which gives the flooring in case of fire a longer stabile temperature curve of minimum 20 minutes before the temperature rises up – it can be the difference between escaping a fire or not.
“In the event of a fire the product is also nontoxic because it doesn’t contain any glue, which becomes poisonous when it is burnt,” he continues. “There is also the advantage of strength; instead of glue we use cellulose fibre in the gypsum which acts as a reinforcement as well as providing a high level of noise absorbance. Lastly, it is as easy to use as wood, there is no need to invest in new machinery when switching to gypsum products as the processes for building are exactly the same,” Peter adds.
It therefore comes as no surprise that Knauf Integral’s products are attracting the attention of companies from across Europe. After attending the Interbuild exhibition in 2006, Peter was contacted by three British flooring installers who were impressed with the non-combustible designs that had been showcased. After a series of meetings permanent contracts with all three interested parties were agreed.
It is just the beginning of what is set to be a sustained period of growth. With the manufacturing and construction industries booming in the East of Europe due to the expansion of the European Union and relatively cheap labour costs, there are many opportunities for companies such as Knauf Integral – opportunities that Peter is keen to take advantage of. “We will be expanding into Eastern Europe; we have plans to establish ourselves in Croatia, Slovakia, Lithuania and Czech Republic. While we are one of the leading companies in this area, this is a new market for them, but we have a detailed strategy in place,” he comments.
It doesn’t stop there; with stagnant market conditions in Germany being one of its major challenges, Knauf Integral is looking to all parts of the globe to boost its turnover that currently stands at 30 million euros. Outlining his vision for the company, Peter says: “The focus is very clear; we want to become more active in Eastern Europe, Northern America and also in locations such as Saudi Arabia and the Emirates. We are looking to reach a production output of 4.5 million sq ft and three years.”
While that may seem ambitious, the fact that the company is in control of the whole chain from the sourcing of the raw material through to the finished product gives Knauf Integral a clear edge over its competitors. Its biggest advantage is perhaps the ability to use the gypsum from the vast swathes of natural ground and resources that it owns – all of which can be found within 15km of the production plant.
The value of the employees – who are comprised of skilled engineers, a specialised sales team, product managers and a centralised R&D unit – is also clear. “The people we have here are right behind the company, it’s not simply a case of work for them so they are reliable, it is about working as a team. They also share the belief that we don’t just sell a customer a product then leave them to it, so we have skilled individuals guiding them at every stage. They help the client to identify the correct product for the job right through to demonstrating the correct method of installation. This is how they work and that is very important for us.”
Having expanded both its production facilities and its presence in the European market in the last year, it is clear that Peter and his organisation are more than ready to achieve its targets. By combining sustainable building products which demonstrate both safety and quality the company has given itself a platform to become a world leader in its industry sector.
Products: Gypsum fibre products
Sites: One in Germany