Flexline Furniture Industries Sdn Bhd is located in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
FlexLine Furniture Specializes In Oak Production
By LUCAS NGU
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia—Unlike many other factories in the region, Flexline Furniture Industries Sdn Bhd is one Malaysian manufacturer that processes American timber but does not ship the end product to the United States. Although the use of raw material is market dictated, it exports furniture to the U.K. market instead—for the simple reason that American Oak looks like English Oak, but the latter is something that is hard to find in the United Kingdom nowadays.
The company’s sales and marketing director, Sharon Kung, told Import/Export Wood Purchasing News during a recent interview, “We import eight containers of White Oak from the United States each month and we use them mainly for the manufacture of beds and bedroom furniture. The color and grain are very similar to English Oak so it conjures warm and nostalgic feelings, reminding our customers of the Oak furniture that their grandparents had.”
Another reason for using American timber is the customer demand for plantation wood. “Our customers, especi
Tai Chin Moon is the factory manager for the company, and Sharon Kung serves as the sales and marketing director.
ally IKEA, insists on plantation wood. We’ll get a bad price for our products if we use tropical hardwood,” explained Ms. Kung.
Aside from imported Oak, the company also uses other plantation wood like Acacia, mainly for outdoor furniture, and also Rubberwood.
Established in 1989, Flexline has evolved from a manufacturer of mattresses to an export-oriented enterprise that specializes in beds, tables and chairs, as well as outdoor furniture. Today, the company’s annual turnover stands at RM$2 million with the bulk of its products being exported to the United Kingdom. The rest are shipped to IKEA outlets in different parts of the world.
The company’s 2.6-acre furniture making facility is located about 15 kilometers from the Malaysian capital city. Employing a staff of 240 workers, the factory operates eight hours a day, six days a week.
Flexline’s forte lies in its emphasis on quality as it strives to meet the exact demands of customers in the medium and higher segments of the market. In this respect, its success is manifested by a mere one percent reject for products delivered to customers.
The firm processes Oak imported from the United States.
Looking back into the past, Kung recalled that it had not been smooth sailing all the way. “Due to the competitive market situation both at home and abroad, the company’s turnover registered a decline between 2001 and 2004. At that time, we tried to concentrate on the local market, but were not very successful.
“During that time, we tried to diversify into other product lines and invested RM$7 million in equipment and machinery, resulting in the setting up of a complete line of tubular furniture making equipment, and also equipment for wrought iron furniture.”
The company also revamped the old production line by investing in state-of-the-art machinery like CNC routers and placed an order for a RM$2.4 million Compwood wood-bending machine.
Towards the end of 2003, the company was facing financial difficulties and sought the assistance of an overseas investor. This resulted in a change of ownership of the company and the appointment of a new chairman.
For Flexline, it is clear that the local market is not mature enough to accept products churned out by sophisticated machinery. The focus has therefore shifted to worldwide sales. The effort has paid off handsomely with an en
Flexline imports eight containers of White Oak from the United States each month to use in the manufacture of beds and bedroom furniture.
thusiastic response from the United Kingdom and France.
Its emphasis on the export market resulted in the recruitment of a sales and marketing director, as well as regional manager for European sales to spearhead marketing efforts in the United Kingdom, Europe, the United States and northern parts of Asia.
Currently, all furniture items that roll off the production line are loaded into containers for shipment to customers overseas. While some of the products are supplied semi-finished to those with manufacturing plants for further processing, the rest are delivered to wholesalers and agents.
Through its expansion efforts, the company hopes to achieve its target of achieving an annual business turnover of RM$35 million.
The attainment of ISO9001:200 certification speaks clearly for the company’s emphasis on quality. In Malaysia, Flexline ranks among the top 50 small and medium industries.
Commenting on American hardwood, Kung said, “The White Oak that we use is pretty good so far. The
The company assembles furniture parts in house for some customers.
re aren’t too many complaints about the sawn lumber that comes in. We are also looking at Cherry and Walnut, but they are expensive.”
Like most other importers of U.S. hardwood, the U.S. grading system posed a problem during the initial stage. “For example, prime grade is 80 percent clear or perfect with the other 20 percent of the wood comprising black marks. Unfortunately that is something that is not acceptable to our customers,” commented Kung.
At Flexline, the American hardwood comes in No. 1 Common, as well as FAS grades with thicknesses of 4/4 and 5/4. Widths vary from 4 inches, while the length is 4 feet or longer.
The company is not contented with the European market and is eyeing the world market for the future. Also, it wants to set up its own research and development department to improve on designs. Currently, it’s not just the raw material that is customer dictated, it has to produce what the customer wants, also in terms of design.
With the existing factory operating at full capacity, the company will soon be moving to a new and bigger site which is more than double the current 2.6 acre plant. For the future, it will mean higher production volume and bett
Some of the products are shipped semi-finished to those with manufacturing plants for further processing.
er utilization of equipment as well as using more species of wood, according to Kung.