14 JUNE 2019
Building a Solid Furniture and Design Industry
Local furniture manufacturers and design professionals have been urged to unite to build a strong industry that’s increasingly under threat from a tide of international imports flooding the local market.
By uniting, they will strengthen their capacity to lower the costs of doing business, navigate the impact of the fourth industrial revolution and encourage a robust trade in the South African economy.
With the challenges faced by the industry laid bare, one of the solutions was to come together as an industry under the eThekwini Furniture Cluster, said Anu Pather, Programme Manager for Furniture in the Sector Development Department at eThekwini Municipality.
While there has been little interaction between industry stakeholders previously, this Cluster, unique to Durban, is a partnership between eThekwini Municipality and the Furniture Industry to develop the competitiveness of the furniture sector in the region.
“This industry has not been interacting with each other for a while, and we believe that clustering is the way to go in order to unify this industry. As an example, the clothing industry was fragmented, but through our clustering initiative, we have seen them perform better,” said Pather, who has developed KwaMashu Furniture Incubator as an industry infrastructure which supports small and micro businesses.
Last night, the Cluster held the first of its many networking sessions, partnering with the African Institute for Interior Design Profession (AIID), aimed at encouraging industry discussions.
Dozens of interior designers, furniture designers and manufacturers, industry experts and retailers networked at the exclusive furniture and design company Weylandts in Umhlanga.
The Cluster partnered with the AIID to develop relationships between furniture manufacturers and the interior design fraternity.
The event was ground-breaking, said Pather, and will be the start of a highly beneficial networking and relationship-building between the two fraternities.
“Design is an element often ignored within the manufacturing space and linking these opposite philosophies will strengthen the industry’s ability to capture the domestic market as well as view Africa and other markets as a possibility for export in the not too distant future.
Through this initiative, furniture manufacturers will find alternate business linkages which will allow them to break into new markets like singular homes, housing estates and the hotel and tourism industry within the domestic market where bespoke and unique furnishings and furniture is required,” said Pather.
Guest speaker, Professor Justin Barnes, Executive Director of the Toyota Wessels Institute for Manufacturing Studies, urged the different stakeholders to unite to learn about their common challenges, as technology would soon impact on all their businesses.
“Major disruptions to the way we work are coming our way. We think the company next door is our competition, but that’s not true.
Technology, already widely being used overseas for mass production is our threat. They have scale. If we don’t unite and if we don’t start investing in technology to build knowledge, then we will be left at the side-lines,” said Barnes.
He also urged companies to invest in greener methods of production. “Clustering is important here, if we can create groups and share learnings we will share the burden of responding to the challenges we will be facing,” he said.
Nqobile Mthembu, owner of Woodnovation, based at the KwaMashu Furniture Incubator, said the platform to network opened new opportunities.
“This will advance and empower SMMEs who face many issues in trying to enter the market. This way, we will have access to people who can help us achieve our company’s goals,” she said.
Issued by the eThekwini Municipality’s Communications Unit. For media enquiries contact Msawakhe Mayisela on 060 966 4220