The 2021 Furniture Manufacturing Exhibition was held at the Hickory Subway Convention Center in Hickory, North Carolina
HICKORY, NC – When COVID-19 closed worldwide travel last year, production equipment supplier Atlanta Attachment Co. sought ways to continue building business and improve communications with its furniture manufacturing customers.
To do so, AAC developed a virtual reality system that allowed customers to view product demonstrations at the company’s Lawrenceville, Ga., Facility from its own location. The tool became an aid to both sales presentations and user training at a time when trips to a customer’s location or customer trips to AAC were out of bounds.
The VR system, created as a direct response to the pandemic, is a solution the company plans to build as it moves forward as a cost-effective tool for AAC and its customers.
“We’ve had to look for creative ways to keep marketing our equipment when it’s all closed,” said Eric Iverson, sales manager for AAC’s division, at the Furniture Manufacturing Expo in recent weeks in Hickory , NC, where the virtual reality unit was shown to prove it. “This (system) takes the customer to our apartment for an experience that can’t be done over the phone or with Zoom. We can send the unit to its location to make presentations and train its own employees with our equipment.”
AAC’s VR system was just one example of how suppliers are working with manufacturing partners to better manage the critical challenges they face by obtaining production inputs and increasing lead times. .
Mobles Today has visited several suppliers at FME to understand the navigation issues ranging from the flow of raw materials to the delivery of their products to their manufacturing customers.
Control what you can
Communication with customers occurs at any time, but when it comes to managing delivery times and customer expectations, the current environment demands even more from suppliers in the furniture industry.
Shipping is the main problem currently to the Paris-based cutting equipment manufacturer Lectra.
“Manufacturing is fine, but we’ve had issues with shipping, with getting the product from Europe,” said Jim Collins, vice president of car and furniture sales at Lectra. “We offer a delivery time to the customer when he buys, and that changes on the fly. For the most part they have been understanding. “
With the availability of container slots and reduced vessels, he added, Lectra has focused on improved forecasting.
“We have increased our communication with the factory,” Collins said. “When we approach someone who places an order, we make sure we have everything on hand to build it and get production up and running as quickly as possible.”
Similarly, the manufacture of the products is not the main problem of Zünd America, the American division of the Swiss manufacturer of cutting machines Zünd, which supplies high-tech machines to upholstery manufacturers.
Zünd is building more cutters than at any time in the company’s history, according to sales director Bill Richards. He said Zünd’s own supply chain is in good shape, but getting the equipment to customers is a challenge. However, with customer contributions to the specifications, Zünd’s production model allows for faster changes when it comes to getting orders to the door, which depends on the company’s control.
“Eighty-five percent of the cutting parts we use are obtained less than 50 kilometers from our office in Switzerland and, due to the modularity of our systems, we can build many basic machines and then create a solution more customized for particular manufacturers, “said Richards.” For us it’s a matter of getting the machines to the customer with all the delays in shipping. “
Such supply chain problems have changed the way manufacturing customers view investment in their equipment, Richards added.
“Customers are looking for versatility, a tool that can do many things,” he said, noting that Zünd’s machines “can cut leather, cut paired fabrics, route forests, cut foam, all in one machine.” .
Find work solutions
Hickory Springs launched its new Underdown mechanism at FME, which incorporates its Enduroflex seating system to deliver a true queen surface on a sofa bed or twin surfaces in the same unit. Sales Vice President Jason Porter said the company is figuring out solutions in light of supply chain challenges.
“We’re using pocket coils produced here at Hickory to replace some of the foam in the pillows,” Porter said. “We can remove more cushions from the foam we have assigned. It doesn’t solve the whole problem, but it does provide us with more use of the pillow. “
Porter added that Hickory Springs is making calls to prioritize the mechanism styles it runs for production.
“Close communication with customers is key to making sure we’re crafting the right product for them,” Porter said. “We have also been trying to get more products from regions or countries that we had not used until now, such as Mexico, parts of South America and Canada.
“We also have customers who send us foam (for their production) who have obtained new resources that they have found in reaction to the assignments. We’ve been looking, they’ve been looking, so there are a lot of eyes and hands out there. “
Porter noted that Hickory Springs has had to hand out more price increases than some suppliers, as it offers so many different inputs for production, but it seems customers are getting it.
As a stocking distributor sourcing decorative nails and legs from wood to metal to acrylic from China, Vietnam and India, Lee’s Decorative Showcase is among many that depend on a tense ocean-loading infrastructure. Its home factories are also facing high demand, but President Jay Levi said the company has made adjustments.
“We’ve changed our order patterns and end up making smaller, more frequent shipments because it’s hard to get components done quickly enough,” Levi said, noting that price increases are almost certain these days. “I am surprised that, with some of the price increases, customers do not say a word. Everyone is on the same boat. In the early 1980s (with inflation), prices went up pretty regularly, but it’s nothing like today. ”
Keep the focus
Novita supplies cushion inserts and padding, both alternative down and down, including its Silkoline denier fiber. President David Rahimi said a highly targeted market has helped the company maintain service in difficult times.
“One of the advantages we have is that we have enough inventory in the U.S. to ship most orders the same day via UPS,” said Rahimi, who noted that 99% of Novita’s product catalog is currently in stock. in stock. “People are surprised when they hear it, but we are not looking for the market for products at lower prices. We go after the high end and we can accommodate that volume. “
A new border boxing machine that automatically cuts and sews padded fabrics to the sides of the mattress or pillow highlighted Atlanta Attachment Co. presentations. The unit, which has two years of development, also has an ergonomic advantage, as its function does not require manually stretching the pieces of fabric to remove wrinkles or formations.
Efficiency and labor savings are long-standing goals for equipment manufacturers, but these days they are an even higher priority for customers.
“We’re getting more requests for more automation due to the lack of manpower,” Iverson said. “Not only are we suppliers of equipment, but we are providers of solutions and we work to calculate the return on investment from customers so that they can justify the expense.”