The global economy’s on the uptick and many businesses are on the path to recovery following the recession. But, for furniture manufacturers, all’s not as rosy as it seems – there are new hurdles ahead. And, for those manufacturers that don’t rise to the challenge, the future could be scary.
One of the biggest difficulties facing today’s furniture manufacturers is the demand from consumers. Globalization and, in particular the dominance of Chinese manufacturers, has increased market competitiveness like never before. This has put consumers firmly in the driver’s seat – and this power has made them more demanding than ever. They want faster delivery times, more customization options, fashion-forward designs, and, of course, more competitive prices.
For manufacturers that are already painstakingly juggling their costs, this adds yet more pressure. They can’t increase the price of their collections, so they need to look at how they can better control their costs. This must be done across every step of the design and manufacturing process – and it will likely require changes to processes, technology, and even the deployment of staff.
Forward-thinking furniture manufacturers are one step ahead. They’re using new technologies to help them better anticipate, control and secure their costs at every step – and the investment is paying off. So, what are some of these secret tools for success?
1. Virtual prototyping
How often does a design reach a physical prototype before you realize it’s not worth pursuing? By then, you’ve already invested time, money, materials and other resources. To overcome this, manufacturers are using advanced software to produce virtual prototypes instead. It lets you explore a multitude of creative possibilities and adjust the placement of different cut lines, model sizes and inner structures to accurately anticipate the costs and see the impact on margins. It shortens the prototyping process, reduces the number of physical prototypes, and lowers all the associated costs.
2. Marker-making software
Fabric wastage is another significant cost in furniture manufacturing – particularly patterned fabric. To help manufacturers gain more control and reduce their material consumption, they’re using advanced marker-making software. This automatically arranges all pieces onto the material and evaluates all the ‘What if?’ scenarios, to create the most efficient markers in just a matter of minutes. So, less material is wasted and the process can be done faster, making it even more cost-efficient.
3. Accurate documentation
To reduce errors – and their cost – it’s important to ensure that technical documentation is always completely up to date, even if modifications are added at a late stage. Manufacturers should look for software solutions, such as those from Lectra, that create accurate technical datasheets once the design is finalized and ensure changes to the 3D model are automatically made when it’s flattened back down to 2D for industrialization. This saves time and avoids human error.
These are just some of the technologies helping upholstered furniture manufacturers to fight fit in an increasingly tough marketplace. Remember though, technology alone is not enough to secure success. If you’re going to achieve maximum return on investment, new technologies need to be carefully integrated into your processes and managed in the right way – and that’s another investment altogether.