Franco Bulian, the new director of Catas since 1 January, outlines the plans for 2021 of Europe's leading testing laboratory for the wood-furniture sector.
After a 2020 marked by great uncertainties, it is now necessary to look to 2021 with confidence. This is what emerges from the words of the new director who, examining last year's figures, says: “We closed the terrible 2020 in an absolutely better way than we could have expected. The first few months were wonderful, but in March the cataclysm overwhelmed us all, leading us to a 15 per cent drop in the number of tests carried out compared to 2019, a figure that we fortunately managed to recover in the second half of the year, closing with a turnover that was even slightly up on the previous year, also thanks to the higher number of product certifications we issued, 175 compared to 168 in 2019. And for a few months now the situation, at least as far as the number of tests is concerned, has been back to normal, with the inevitable fluctuations due to the ups and downs of possibilities, certainties and sensations that the different colours of the areas in our country and around the world allow“.
Positive regulatory effects
Despite the lack of trade fair events and appointments and the consequent reduction in the launch of new products, the wood-furnishing sector has not given up and has even proved to be vital, thanks also to the renewed interest shown by consumers in the domestic space, which has become increasingly important in this pandemic period.
These new requirements have also had a positive effect on the tables of the various international technical and regulatory commissions in which Catas sits. “Paradoxically, the area of standards is working very well, because the change in mentality that we have experienced, from face-to-face meetings to the greater use of tools that were almost unknown before, has allowed more frequent meetings, more in-depth analysis and quicker decisions, all to the benefit of the quality of standardisation,“ commented Franco Bulian.
Sustainability, ecology, health: key issues for 2021
Sustainability, ecology and health are core values for Catas and will certainly be at the heart of the 2021 programme of activities. With regard to emissions, for example, in the first few months of 2021 Catas recorded an upward trend in requests for testing from customers all over the world, many of whom had not had any direct relationship with the laboratory in previous years.
The San Giovanni al Natisone site continued to invest during the pandemic, with 76 test chambers now operating at full capacity.
The issue of healthy environments is therefore always in the spotlight and there will be important news in the near future: “In the Uni sphere,“ Bulian added, “we are working on a standard for the classification of emissions from furniture components for indoor pollution. At the moment there are no rules deriving from specific laws or regulations, and Italy could be the first country to adopt a standard allowing furniture surfaces to be classified according to their emissions and components, including painting cycles. Technically we could say that such a provision would allow a manufacturer who wants to make objectively low-emission furniture to identify healthier melamine-faced panels and coating cycles on the market“. On the subject of sustainability and ecology, one of the first objectives of the year will be to propose a service for assessing the life cycle of a product, the so-called LCA - Life Cycle Assessment. This is an ambitious goal, which could involve intermediate steps in the evaluation, proven by tests and measurable results, of the sustainability or “environmental respect“ that a certain product can boast. LCA certification is a complex process that requires significant investment from companies. It could therefore be absolutely strategic to be able to define and set up different “intermediate“ systems, always recognised and shared, to certify the “green value“ of a table, sofa or chair through more affordable procedures, allowing companies to gradually approach these fundamental issues for the future.
The professionalism of Catas
Its organisation and structure allows Catas to work in the best possible way both nationally and worldwide, always standing by producers interested in its expertise and high professionalism. The figures confirm this. “On 31 December 2020, we had 170 accredited test methods, compared to 138 twelve months earlier, a figure that bears witness to our commitment to providing the wood and furniture industry with certificates that are an important and recognised calling card for quality throughout the world. I think it is also worth remembering that more than 40 per cent of our work responds to the demand of companies all over the world,“ concludes Franco Bulian, “and we want to grow further, but without forgetting Italy, where we are already present in two very important districts, in Triveneto and Brianza, and we will soon be able to announce a new initiative that we are certain will offer us and many wood-furnishing companies interesting opportunities.