According to statistics from the Malaysia Timber Industry Board (MTIB), exports of major wood products in 2016 were worth RM 22,109 million. Out of that amount, rattan furniture exports were RM41.9 million while wooden furniture exports amounted to RM 7,562 million.
Since wooden furniture contributed just over 34% of total wood product exports in 2016 it is no surprise that the government and timber sector agencies pay considerable attention to this sub-sector of the economy.
The MTIB is encouraging the Malaysian furniture industry to venture into more Original Design Manufacturing (ODM) as opposed to focusing mainly on production and export of furniture parts based on designs from overseas manufacturers. The MTIB stresses that dependence on parts exports, while generating high sales volumes the profit margins are very small.
Recently the MTIB organised a Professional Designers Programme (PDP) as a sub-project of its Furniture Design Development Project. In collaboration with the Malaysian Furniture Promotion Council (MFPC), MTIB aimed to take research in furniture design to the next level through the development of design with professional designers and Malaysian furniture manufacturers.
Malaysian companies are not accustomed to employing the services of designers as they rely on buyers to provide designs but now they are beginning to appreciate professional designers and are recognising the added value of original designs which boost product value and price.
The new designers programme is introducing manufacturers to the concept of in-house design so it may become part of their business culture. Participating companies are learning how to work with an external designer – how to create a design brief and how to setup a royalty agreement to compensate designers. This process is very new and ground breaking for most furniture makers in Malaysia.