Malaysian Furniture for the Global Market

Malaysian Furniture for the Global Market

The Malaysian furniture industry has developed from a cottage-based industry in the early 1980s, supplying mainly the domestic market, to become a full fledged export industry today, serving the world market.

The availability and natural abundance of raw materials in Malaysia, especially with the advent of Malaysian oak (Rubberwood) as a suitable and quality material for furniture production, has been instrumental in the development of the furniture industry in Malaysia. Other contributory factors include relatively low labour costs coupled with a skilled and dedicated workforce, investments in the latest production techniques, and high quality furniture products at value-for-money prices in the global market.


In addition, steps are taken by the Malaysian government to provide good infrastructural facilities. State-of-the-art commercial warehousing, telecommunications and transportation facilities guarantee a speedy and consistent supply chain for the industry. Because it is an important generator of foreign revenue, the government has taken a keen interest in the growth of the furniture sector according high priority and specific measures to sustain raw material supplies, intensify modernisation, and increase research and development.


As an export-driven industry, the furniture industry has learnt to be receptive to changes in the marketplace, the global environment, and consumer demands. There is now a focus on the design and production of higher quality products. Attempts are being made by the industry to incorporate the latest styles, materials, and trends. A growing number of manufacturers are investing in new technology and the latest automated processes. Many now boast an array of quality and charter awards and ISO certifications.

Promoted as a target industry under the country's First and Second Industrial Master Plan, the Malaysian furniture industry is now a new growth sector for the economy and has been a key element in the country's bounce back into the path of economic success after the Asian Economic Crisis.


The growth of the industry in the past decade is phenomenal. From a mere 2.5% of total timber products export in the 1980s, it has surpassed individual timber product groups in export earnings to contribute 33.6% in 2001 with exports equalling RM4.8 billion. In 2002, it contributed 34.2% with furniture exports worth RM5.2 billion. Malaysian furniture is now being exported to more than 170 countries worldwide. From a global perspective, in the year 2000, the Malaysian furniture industry had an exports to production ratio of 85% making it first in the world. And the Malaysian furniture industry's total exports were valued at RM5.6 billion ranking it tenth in the world.


The Malaysian furniture industry has evolved from a local manufacturing base to produce for the international market. Buyers around the world are astounded at the range and diversity of Malaysian furniture. Now efforts are taken to progressively convert the industry's largely custom-made products to branded products bearing quality standards with worldwide recognition.







Export of wooden furniture


The Malaysian Furniture Industry Council (MFIC), is a national body entrusted with the growth of the furniture industry in Malaysia. The MFIC plays a catalytic role in assisting both the private and public sectors by promoting the development of the Malaysian furniture industry in the global marketplace. It has earned itself a strong reputation internationally.


To ensure the industry's success and prominence as a global player in the years to come, the MFIC has numerous initiatives to promote and market the industry's activities. Among the more prominent of its developmental activities is the Malaysian International Furniture Fair (MIFF), an annual showcase event held during March in Kuala Lumpur. This event has gained international accolades and opened a world of opportunities for the international furniture fraternity and put Malaysia on the world map as an important location for the manufacture and supply of furniture.


Arrangement of overseas furniture fairs and trade missions for Malaysian furniture makers are also being undertaken by the council. In addition, the council helps its members keep abreast of the latest industry developments through regular technical seminars and training. Forward planning and dynamism are constantly advocated.


Besides marketing at international furniture fairs, the MFIC also networks with other regional groups to share ideas and business information. Malaysia, through the MFIC, is a regular member of the Asean Forest Products Industries Club (AFPIC), and the Council of Asia-Pacific Furniture Associations (CAPFA).







Export of non-wooden furniture


Design innovation and changing styles herald a new chapter in the Malaysian furniture industry. There is emphasis in the industry to increase modernisation and innovation. Computer aided design systems and new composite materials are now being utilised by local manufacturers. The focus is now on brand awareness and identity, a key to making Malaysian furniture companies strong global players.

With its current base and future potential, the Malaysian furniture industry is no longer content with solely expanding export volume growth. It is now looking towards a new growth curve in its value chain and new directions in achievement.


With the support and guidance from the government, MFIC is targeting RM7 billion in export of furniture products by 2005 or earlier. It hopes the industry will capitalise on current investments and continue its growth to a greater level, making Malaysia the furniture centre of Asia.

-Furniture & Furnishing Export, July 2003