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Global Furniture Solutions (GFS) is owned by New Zealand-born Les Matheson, a resident of Vietnam.
American Oak and Ash Make Impact On Global Furniture Solutions

By Michael Buckley

Binh Duong Province, Vietnam–Global Furniture Solutions (GFS) is a company owned by New Zealand born Les Matheson, full time resident of Vietnam with a global outlook and a truly international attitude, manufacturing furniture outside Saigon for export markets - with a Scottish Sales Director, Angela Skinner.

Vietnam has become one of the most important markets in the world for American hardwoods. In fact with shipments at US$143 million for logs, lumber and veneer in 2010 it became number one in Southeast Asia and second only to China as a single market. It is also demonstrating that success breeds success – at least in the context of developing markets. Remember Egypt when shipments were about nil? The need was to get wood on the ground, so that cautious manufacturers there could trial small quantities without making direct import commitments. The same was true for Vietnam not so many years ago, but not today. Now Vietnamese importers and manufacturers all know that the main species of American hardwoods are readily available from landed stocks in a variety of grades and specifications. That interests a company like GFS, which primarily purchases North American White Oak and Ash, and is developing a heavy interest in Tulipwood (Poplar).

Incorporated in 2003, Global Furniture Solutions Vietnam Co. Ltd. is a sole-proprietary company, producing solid-timber and upholstered wholesale and contract furniture. The production facility supplies local and international furniture buyers with what has been called by some industry people ‘the highest-quality furniture to be found in Asia’. The company is certainly proud of its product. Traditionally, GFS Vietnam produced only for wholesale and retail clients; however with the commencement in 2008 of contract production it has expanded beyond these markets, now providing hotels, resorts and furnished apartment developments with an interior fit-out solution.

GFS is replacing designs historically produced by Tasmanian Oak and Victorian Ash with quarter-sawn American Red and White Oak and Ash.
The GFS Vietnam production facility manufactures its product using only sustainable hardwood timber species, highest-quality hardware and luxurious fabrics. The manufacturing process itself is a unique combination of new and innovative technology, superimposed upon traditional and timeless method. The GFS Vietnam cabinetry is manufactured in solid, mainly Australian, lumber using a traditional dove-tail joining method, 15mm drawer-boxes with 3mm ply bases, and steel ball-bearing double extension runners. Where price is a consideration, quality veneers can also be implemented. The product range itself varies from classic ‘farmhouse’ through ‘French-colonial’ to ‘modern-contemporary’; however the presence and efforts of the design and auto-cad teams ensure that no matter what a client’s design-aspirations may be, GFS Vietnam can realize them. Designs reflect the reliance on Australia as the main market serviced to date.

The company has been a regular exhibitor and in 2011 presented its range to the Vietnam International Furniture & Home Accessories Show (VIFA) in Saigon. Noticing the display of American hardwoods and AHEC’s technical promotion created an interest in some U.S. species for the future. While naturally attracted to his native Antipodean, or Australian-Asian species, and knowing the preference of many Australian customers for familiarity of their home species, Les Matheson is constantly open to wood material ideas. His knowledge of local Indochinese species such as Thongwood – a pine – demonstrates willingness to trial new ones. With the gradual and recently accelerating reduction in availability of Tasmanian Oak and perhaps now Victorian Ash, two of Australia’s staples, the search for sustainable and marketable alternatives is now on. So is the research for new markets.

The GFS sales director said of American Oak and Ash, “They are stable and readily available on the ground in Vietnam. With our major focus for the end of 2011 and 2012 being the U.S. market, these timbers will be a staple in our design development.”
In fact Angela Skinner sees the development of materials, designs and markets as interlinked and in this case rather logical. “We are primarily replacing designs historically produced in Tasmanian Oak and Victorian Ash with quartersawn American White and Red Oak and American Ash. They’re stable and readily available on the ground in Vietnam. With our major focus for the end of 2011 and 2012 being the U.S. market, these timbers, both quarter sawn and back (flat) sawn, will be a staple in our design development.”

Up until now the market mix has been 50 percent Australia, with the balance to UK, Ireland and USA. Come in American Hardwoods! “We’re looking,” say both Les and Angela. “With unique designs at the heart of our business, we have to be sure of our materials.”

‘How Green are you?’ was a question put to them in Saigon recently. “Very green” was the answer. The company buys 100 percent of its Hardwoods either certified to Australian Forest Standards (AFS) or from plantations and is moving towards water-based finishes.

The “Made or grown in Australia” story was always a major selling point for both furniture manufacturers and retailers in that market. However, with everyone feeling the effects of the global economic crisis (Australian Hardwoods are extremely expensive and the strong AUS$ make them even more so for GFS in Vietnam) and more in tune with environmental issues, the use of wood from Australian forests has in some cases become a hindrance. GFS now believes that ‘Green’ is such a major issue in Australia at the moment that, although the company uses only government monitored and certified new growth or sustainably harvested timber, it has to constantly look for aesthetically similar alternatives.

In addition to using North American Oak and Ash in its products, GFS is developing a heavy interest in Tulipwood (Poplar).
Administratively, GFS Vietnam maintains its own product design team, backed by an administration comprised of some 20 people. On the production floor a total of 300 employees work to exacting standards, including section management, tiered supervision, sample- makers and quality-control personnel.

The GFS Vietnam production facility is situated on a 150,000 square-foot plot in Binh Duong Province approximately one hour north of Ho Chi Minh City, which houses a 100,000 square-foot factory building and a 5,000 square-foot showroom and office. Within the factory is housed a state-of-the-art machinery park, comprised, in part, of ‘point-to-point’ routers, wide-belt sanders, panel saws – all computerized and automatic front-loading beam-saws and a mechanized finishing/polishing line. Accordingly, the production facility has the capacity to produce and finish up to 75 40-foot containers of high-end product per month, in addition to product samples as required. Given the combination of the machinery park, skilled and efficient management staff and a dedicated quality-control team, the GFS Vietnam product claims consistent quality and finish.

For more information about this company, visit its website online at www.gfsvn.com.
The GFS Vietnam production facility is situated on a 150,000 square-foot plot in Binh Duong Province approximately one hour north of Ho Chi Minh City, which houses a 100,000 square-foot factory and a 5,000 square-foot showroom and office.

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