Wood is shaped using a CNC router in one of two buildings on the six-acre location.
Promptcon Provides Variety Of Products
By Lucas Ngu
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia—Promptcon Enterprises Sdn Bhd is a company involved in the production of customized furniture parts for living and dining rooms, kitchen and bedroom. The finished products also include audio-visual cabinets and display units, kitchen cabinets, wardrobes and doors, all of which are mainly exported to the United States. Container loads are shipped out to Europe, which is also an important market for the company.
Occupying a six-acre piece of land, the factory is located in the Malaysian capital city of Kuala Lumpur. The production facility is comprised of two large buildings with a combined floor space of 150,000 square feet.
Altogether, Promptcon employs 250 workers for a 48-hour workweek—eight hours per day, six days a week.
Choo Kian Kee, one of the company directors, recalled the early days when the factory was operating from anothe
The finishing line at Promptcon is housed in a separate building.
r location about an hour’s drive from the present site. “It all began in 1989. The old factory was much smaller—only 100,000 square feet in size,” he said. “Back then, we were also producing cabinets but the product line was not as well organized.”
As far as the raw material is concerned, the company imports American timber both in lumber and veneer form, averaging 10 containers per month. According to Choo, the consumption level was 20 containers for the month of April in 2006.
“Most of the American timber comes in the form of veneer, which accounts for 70 percent of the total volume,” he revealed. “Actually, we have been importing wood veneer from the United States since 1996.”
In all, U.S. timber accounts for 20 percent of the raw material used for cabinet products. The rest is tropical hardwood, particleboard and MDF boards, which are sourced within the country. The panels are laminated with veneer and used as decorative panels for furniture or for interior decoration.
Choo elaborated on the use of imported raw material by saying that the bulk of U.S. timber arriving at the mill were No. 1 Common grade, with 10 percent being FAS. “The sawn lumber are of the same thickness, but they come in varying widths—4 inches and up.”
This boring station is one of many at the company.
He further explained that the bulk of the cabinets were made of panels, hence the higher ratio of U.S. veneer compared to the lumber imported by the company. For veneer, the species used include Cherry, Maple, Oak and Beech, while most of the lumber the firm purchases is Oak and Maple.
As the raw material passes through the various sections of the factory, they are cut, planed, molded, drilled, coated and packed before they are shipped out through the port, situated only 15 kilometers away.
At Promptcon, the production facility is comprised largely of two lamination lines and a finishing line. Housed in a separate building, the finishing line is equipped with a pallet line and hanging line.
It is a one-line facility for the processing of solid wood. Inside the mill, the wood—mainly rubber wood and U.S. lumber—are cut to required size, molded, drilled and sanded. For panels, the process is similar, cutting to required sizes before they are delivered to the lamination station to be glued to veneer sheets. After, the boards are shaped or molded using a large CNC router, followed by sanding, finishing and packing.
Furniture parts are packaged before being shipped out.
According to Choo, the company is quite contented with the quality of U.S. wood supplied to the mill, but he conceded that there were problems because the sawn lumber came in different sizes. With widths of four to 16 inches, thus resulting in wastage. “Moreover, the size of the timber strips is not consistent—one end can be smaller than the other.”
Like many Malaysian manufacturers, Promptcon “laments” that it is getting less from what the company actually pays owing to a different way of measuring wood in the United States. In comparison, Malaysian wood suppliers appear to be more generous with their “full-sawn” size compared to the American “bare-sawn” size.
Naturally, Choo prefers all the U.S timber to come in one standard size and thickness, but he fully understands the need to maximize yield and minimize wastage for American millers.
He went on to say that sometimes the quality of veneer would fall short of expectations, assuring these were isolated incidents for American timber, but not the case for suppliers from Europe. “As such, we are happier to get suppliers from the United States than from Europe where we encounter problems of this nature on a more regular basis,” he commented.
As a whole, the company is happy to see that at least 90 percent of American timber that arrives at the factor
Promptcon employees laminate veneer panels.
y is in good shape. “Occasionally, there are delays in shipment, but it is nothing serious.”
So far, the company’s focus is on the low and medium range of the market. Going for the high-end segment of the market would be too labor intensive and costly for Malaysia, as Choo pointed out.
“For us, our forte lies in our highly-mechanized production facility, as well as our ability to provide delivery for our customers,” added Choo, who is also a member of the Malaysian Furniture Industries Council.
The company markets its range of products through exhibitions both at home and abroad. It also has direct links with buyers and agents on distant shores.
In the future, Choo said that the factory would expand its veneer line by 100 percent, and that simply means more orders for veneer from the United States in the coming months.
Choo Kian Kee is director of Promptcon Enterprises Sdn Bhd in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.