Special Report: Furniture Industry 4.0
Published 31st December 2019
The era of Industry 4.0 (IR4.0) is here and continues to gain traction. However, this revolution’s effect will vary widely from industry to industry, based on products and customer expectations.
The Malaysian furniture industry – a major contributor to the nation’s gross domestic product – offers employment to more than 93,000 workers of varying skill levels and has been identified by the new Government to adopt the IR4.0 . . . but compared to other industries in the manufacturing sector, it’s experiencing a slow start.
Professor Dr. Jegatheswaran Ratnasingam from the Faculty of Forestry, Universiti Putra Malaysia, says the Malaysian furniture industry is not ready to embrace IR4.0.
“Many manufacturers are still highly dependent on the workers, including foreign workers, and they have neglected to look into making the work simpler through automation. They do not see the need for it because of the input of raw materials and workers,” shared Prof. Dr. Jegatheswaran.
He said another challenge is that the industry is dominated by small- and medium-sized, family owned companies, and many of those are not very receptive to outside ideas, including technology.
Prof. Dr. Jegatheswaran, who is also a veteran furniture researcher, said the Universiti studied to what extent the industry is open to automation, along with the quantum of investment and other challenges.
He says most of the factories are using automation from Industry 2.0 and 3.0, which is still very basic and without digital technology, and needs to be operated and processed by manual workers.
“The larger companies are more receptive to automation – especially those using particle boards of MBF boards – because the products are very standardized, so they can be automated,” he said. “Automation is usually used only towards the end part of production operation . . . the preparation part of the components is still somewhat labour intensive.”
According to Prof. Dr. Jegatheswaran, currently only about 12-15% of companies are gearing towards Industry 4.0 – a level where information technology is used to the fullest, including cloud technology, AI and robotics.
Perhaps a main factor for the slow adaptation of automation is that about 80% of Malaysian furniture manufacturers produce wooden furniture, which is not easy to manufacture using full automation.
“If factories are fully automated, their [furniture manufacturers] industrial productivity can be increased by at least four times, and the quality of furniture becomes more consistent. This leads to the turnaround being more competitive as well.”
- Prof Dr Jegatheswaran
Check out some of MIFF 2020 exhibitors that moving towards automation and a believer of IR4.0
Ecomate Sdn Bhd
Ecomate, a particle board furniture manufacturer that exports household furniture, is gradually changing its production line by adopting some automation machines.
“I personally think that using these automation machines will increase the quality of the products, as well as productivity,” said Jason Koh, director of Ecomate. “My employees only need to adjust the required size in the programme, and everything can be done by machines.”
According to Mr. Koh, the panel-based furniture is mainly standardised in shape and form, making it a prime candidate to have fully automated factories. The processing steps are consistent, thus it only needs a small amount of labour compared to the other industries.
“The company’s production department is gradually being introduced to automation,” said Mr. Koh. Automation machines are being used in the first segment, middle segment and also the last segment of the production line.
“This allocation is to ensure the errors are being minimised in every important production step,” he said. “If IR4.0 technology is applied in furniture manufacturers, the activity and quality of the products can be maximised, and it will numerously reduce dependency on foreign workers.”
Visit Ecomate at PWTC, Hall 3, Booth 322A
Yong Yoke Keong, managing director and chief executive of Artwright Group, together with his company is a believer of IR4.0, and has made the basic preparations by investing in an enterprise integrated leading software SAP R3, which is the first step towards IR4.0.
“We also have a fully integrated R&D software PTC CREO, that performs design for manufacturing process. Our design labs can communicate with multiple factories directly to their machines, avoiding production mistakes,” he said, adding that the IT infrastructure enables Artwright to add on additional latest digital structures without fissures.
Founded in 1965, Artwright produces and exports premium office interiors with good ecological balance and ergonomic designs.
“We also invest in talent to develop new high-quality, high-design products. We recently invested into multiple new servers to ready our hybrid cloud structure to propagate our information and integrate any customer responses and sales demands,” shared Mr. Yong.
The world, he said, is recognising the new industry revolution and is taking it on – and 5G communication infrastructures and block chain technologies will further enhance and hasten the IR4.0.
Visit Artwright Group at PWTC, Hall 2B, Booth 2B05
Explore more manufacturers with well-defined craftmanship and state-of-the-art technologies
|Johann & Joann
MITEC, Booth M605
PWTC, Booth 315
MITEC, Booth M702
|Yeu Hong Furniture
PWTC, Booth 201
Read full story of Furniture Industry 4.0 at Furnish Now Dec 2019 Issue
Check out more MIFF 2020 exhibitors products at Fabulous Furniture
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