Almost 7000 trade visitors were offered an insight into the latest trends and developments of the furntiure fittings and components industry at ZOW, in Bad Slazuflen, Germany – the heart of Europe’s largest furniture manufacturing cluster.

Some 204 exhibitors from 21 countries showcased their latest products and services at the 21st edition of ZOW. Two dozen of those companies were making their début to coincide in a timely manner with the beginning of the ordering cycle.

There were notable exceptions of course – particularly in the field of surfacing – with this being the year of Interzum/Ligna, but organiser Horst Rudolph was at pains to accentuate the positive. “We are delighted that the re-orientation has been met with the fundamental approval of both the exhibiting supply companies as well as of the furniture manufacturers, buyers and designers,” says Horst Rudolph, managing director of Clarion Events Deutschland.
“We are confident that the new concept will develop its full signal effect in the coming year and that we will achieve our target of attracting 500 exhibiting companies to the show.”

As always at ZOW, the smaller stand sizes and hospitable nature of the event makes a flyinh visit all the more attractive in the odd-years. In 2016, no matter what the booth sizes, a minimum of two fair days is recommended.

The fair and the exhibiting companies also received praise from the Dutch trend researcher Lidewij Edelkoort, who curated the new exhibition space ZOW-trend_works: “ZOW provides access to the innovations of the supply industry in a compact format. It is an ideal platform for the transfer of knowledge and experience,” remarked the Dutch expert.

Two key highlights of this year’s event were Union Knopf’s impressive new handle collections, and the stunning scratch-proof matt surfacing from Senosan – the very people that produce the best high gloss surfacing.

In addition to the presentation of forthcoming design trends by Lidewij Edelkoort, the main focus of the fair concerned the individualisation of serially produced furniture. This issue was highlighted at forums and special display areas along individual steps of the value chain. It was the central theme of a panel discussion.

The consensus among the attendees, according to the organiser, was that besides lean production at a high technological standard and sophisticated logistics, it is imperative that companies have, above all, a standardised data management system, an efficient supply network as well as a good team to enable them to take advantage of the opportunities offered by individualisation. The kitchen industry has already set a good example in Germany in the recent past where the import quota is now down to just 1%.

“Although the furniture industry must rise to meet the challenges posed by this megatrend of progressing individualisation in the years to come, it does, however, also open up new perspectives for the sector. This is the reason why we will be continuing to focus on this key issue next year and providing case examples and potential solutions”, states Rudolph.

By continuing with the focal issue of the fair, ZOW is, in particular, responding to the needs of the industry.

Georg Frey, a partner of ZOW exhibiting company Lignum Consulting, also sees further potential for optimisation in many enterprises when it comes to product individualisation:

“The approach taken by ZOW is precisely what is needed here. In the future, it will be increasingly important to be able to produce swiftly and in a cost-efficient and customised manner.”

Therefore, the consulting company developed a self-assessment questionnaire in the run-up to the fair, which focused on the international timber and furniture industry:

The questionnaire provides manufacturers and suppliers with information on the extent to which they are geared up for increasing variant diversity as well as ideas and proposals concerning what adjustments still need to be made.

Next year, ZOW says it will offer exhibitors and visitors a ‘high added value’ including exciting themes, one-on-one contacts and a targeted match-making service.

The 2015 edition of ZOW was a bit of a shock to the system – it is clear to see that the management team has its visitors’ interests at heart and is persuing a path of visitor and exhibitor engagement to maintain its relevance for another 21 years – I’m sure the journey will be interesting.

Trendspotting at ZOW

• matt surfaces
Superb matt surfacing is beginning to be offered in the face of the now ubiquotous gloss and textured surfacing

• mixed and tactile materials
Materials are being skillfully blended with each other – metal and wood particularly

• warm metals
Copper, brass and warm gold fittings and detailing is now an established trend

• fluid forms
Decorative fittings using fluidity and a natural artisanale sensitivity

• material honesty
allowing the material to be recognised in its purest forms