Carving out success in wooden exports

Wooden furniture companies in Indonesia have doubled their income after taking part in training courses to boost production efficiency and improve overseas opportunities.

Furniture—predominantly made from teak or mahogany—is one of Indonesia’s big exports. But even in the region of Jepara, known in particular for its carved furniture, the manufacturing industry has been marked by poor production efficiency, resulting in less recovered timber and lower overall quality of furniture products.

So in 2009, eight Indonesian organisations began working with the University of Melbourne and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) to turn this around.

They wanted to help the 15,000 small-tomedium-sized Jepara-based businesses improve the drying, treatment, and finishing processes and increase timber recovery, while exploring new manufacturing technologies and styles to boost the furniture’s appeal internationally.

The 16 representative Indonesian companies involved in the project saw their income increase by half, along with a 40 per cent rise in sales.

And the benefits are expected to reach further into the future for up-and-coming designers. In a traditionally male-dominated industry, one young female winner named Oei Ria Octavillia was among four Indonesians who travelled to Australia for a week-long furniture design course at RMIT University in Melbourne as winners of a competition to find talented designers and link them with furniture companies.

“The designers learnt about the ‘Australian concept’ of furniture manufacturing, which incorporates design, product development and prototyping, and smart manufacturing methods based on production optimisation, packaging and marketing,” says Associate Professor Barbara Ozarska, leader of the project.

“They’ve already started transferring their new knowledge to other furniture designers and manufacturers through workshops and training courses held in Java.”

Credit for banner image: Barbara Ozarska.