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Indiawood 2020
22 - 26 February 2024 | BIEC, Bengaluru, India
International Trade Fair for Furniture Production Technologies, Woodworking Machinery, Tools, Fittings, Accessories, Raw Materials and Products

Juergen Köppel, EUMABOIS President on India and its future

Q1. India is being touted as a major production hub for the furniture manufacturing Industry, what according to you are some of the challenges and opportunities here.

A.1 As per Global Industry reports, India is amongst the top 5 manufacturers in the world with a very promising future in terms of production levels. It is behind China, USA and Germany and on par with Italy.

I have been coming to India since 1994 and have personally eye witnessed the development this sector has gone through. While on one hand we have fully automated set-ups and latest technology, we also have units running single machines with more traditional processes. This is an interesting diverse trend.

As a country, India has all the potential to evolve into a global production hub, and this is not withstanding the possible internal demand the country can witness.

With a population of 1.4 billion and a burgeoning Middle class which, at its moderate estimate of 80 million, is as big as the whole of Germany and with a more generous estimate, at 300 million is as big as the United States of America. These figures show the great potential of the India market and have therefore also encouraged many European manufactures to set up local bases here with own production facilities and strong local sales and service organization.

Leitz for example is investing significantly into machines and people, because there is a great potential this country has to offer.

Skilling also is a great area of opportunity and with the right Government initiatives, is being pushed well to enhance the great talent existing in India.

But just like any other Industry, it has its own set of challenges especially when it comes to infrastructure and logistics. These issues need to be addressed through adequate development and planning on the organizational level.

Q2. As the Woodworking sector grows and develops in India, what factors are attracting more International manufacturers and suppliers to the country?

The furniture and flooring Industry is witnessing a great demand from the growing middle class, which in turn is attracting both international manufacturers as well as machinery and tooling suppliers to set up base in India.

Companies like IKEA are establishing hubs in India to cater to the local demand, but also potentially to serve outlying regions like the Middle East which were otherwise being serviced through Europe.

All of this development is pushing two trends, one being where small and medium enterprises are progressing towards using advanced machines and bigger units moving towards using integrated production lines.

Since quiet a time, international manufacturers like Homag and Biesse are already producing machinery for the Indian market and for export, from within their Indian facility. Tooling manufacturers like Leitz are doing this for specialized tools, too.

Moreover, India enjoys a favorable place in the Asian market as the machines are latest, the talent is available, and the demand is there – both for import and export.

For companies willing to invest in India, they need to focus on selecting the right place as well as building the right sales and after sales network.

So, all in all it is for sure worthwhile to invest in India looking at the great potential the country has on offer.

Q3. How well has the woodworking industry adapted to the principles of Industry 4.0.

A3. Industry 4.0 is a buzzword which has taken center stage in recent times. The woodworking sector though has been adapting practices which were in line with digitalization as early as 1993 when LEITZ presented tooling equipment with transponder technology in it, which today we call RFID. In 2004, HOMAG was already producing machinery which was doing Batch Size 1 production, but at that time nobody was addressing these as digitalized solutions.

In various areas of the woodworking industry, India today works with advanced technologies and a chunk of it comes from German and Italian manufacturers. As users we have to be conscious, that when is this term being used as a mere buzzword and when it is actually accentuating and facilitating the whole process in a better way for small, medium and large enterprises in terms of communicating and interacting with the machinery and the entire process.

Under EUMABOIS umbrella, we are actually running two very interesting projects, namely OPCUA (Open Platform Communication Unified Architecture), under which machines from different manufacturers can communicate with each other through a standardized interface, and ETML (European Tool Machine Language), which enables the tooling system to directly communicate with the machine.

All these initiatives and projects combining the strengths of all European manufacturers give the woodworking industry the joint power to move ahead in the right direction.

Q4. Taking a cue from the information above, how does one integrate the machinery and tooling sector working with such advanced technology, then with the local users, the carpenters.

A 4. Well, the carpenter shop itself, or interior fittings shop can be very organized, even if it is not a huge setup. And the solution for example, can be systems like OPCUA or ETML, where by using the same computer language, by having standardized surfaces, the work can be facilitated in a better manner. With most machine manufacturers from Europe, whether it is from Austria, Germany or Italy, it is mostly possible to handle different machines, with some differences in terms of programming.

The local Indian manufacturers are today seeking options and we saw this trend already during the last India Wood, where small to medium enterprises were keen to identify solutions in this regard. The Indian market has indeed come a long way,pure manual manufacturers are now at a point where they are using more sophisticated solutions and also CNC based machines and production cells.

Q 5. So, taking all these trends into consideration, and especially the very special last year that we've had, what trends do you feel will be reflected in the exhibitions in the next upcoming months

A 5. I would say change has already been taking place over the last 20 years, starting in 2000 and peaking around 2004-2005. Before this, all the industrial manufacturers were producing high volume, but not providing individualized solutions. The individualized furniture was coming from the carpenter around the corner and high-volume production was relegated to the big companies. To cater to this growing segment of offering customised solutions, the concept of Batch Size 1 was developed in Europe. China adapted this trend 5- 10 years ago and now you can witness the same development in India. Furniture design for example is getting more and more personalised, which means you have surfaces like the high gloss or you have matte surfaces, or artificial veneers or even embossed surfaces. This demand has been further amplified in current times as people cannot travel, so they have started investing into their homes- the so-called cocooning effect. The production figures for furniture or kitchens, are therefore going up, with personalisation and customisation being the key factors. This is turn is also providing momentum for industrial manufacturing.

The tool manufacturers for instance have to be very flexible with their solutions today. Their products are needed for example for an embossed surface one day, followed by a matte surface next, and then high gloss surface or veneer. For this, the tools have to be specialized or individualized, but also need to be changed very quickly. Similarly, the machine manufacturers also need to increase their level of flexibility. In terms of digitalisation, furniture manufacturers, work with barcodes or QR codes, making sure that the information is always available at the right point to adjust the machines to the processes in the right way.

Overall, the industry is poised for bright times ahead, driven by furniture, flooring and windows/doors demand. As far as exhibitions are concerned, I think it was better to have an open communication with the stakeholders and take their feedback in terms of aligning the dates of the events. The upcoming edition of Indiawood will therefore witness full-fledged industry participation once the Corona pandemic is over and there will be much to discuss in terms of innovations and latest developments.

Q 6. Which countries do you think would benefit from India’s growth trajectory?

A 6. In terms of big production lines, and manufacturing cells, Italy and Germany lead the way. For single line machines, of course there are many manufacturers from different countries but mainly out of Europe. Having said this, being present in India with just a sales office is for sure not enough, it has to be supported by a professional and competent after sales service. In my experience even the best technology fails sometimes if the processes are not ably supported. In general, India is very open to European technology owing to its good reputation. Other than this there is technology from China as well and of course many Indian manufacturers, too. European companies have the advantage of having many years of experience, not just of building machinery but also equipping people with the right skill sets and this will be a major factor as they establish their presence in India.

Q 7. In a post pandemic world, the dynamics of the supply change management has undergone a massive transformation. The consensus is that we will be forced now to harness maybe new trading networks or go down the automation route, or even navigate through unchartered business territories. So, how do you think organizations particularly in India can improve their supply chains to be fit for the future?

A 7. The pandemic in many ways highlighted issues for countries and companies, when their supply chains didn't work anymore. In essence globalisation without a backup became a critical point one had to look into. My personal strategy has always been, think global but act local. By putting equal amount of emphasis on in-house manufacturing, reducing the sense of dependency and planning for the future, Indian companies can future proof their supply chains and their position in the market.

One can even look at creating clusters, so that they can counter supply. Take good ideas which were created otherwhere in the world, talk to industry peers and see how one can bring all of these ideas together. When you are planning, don’t plan for a sprint, instead plan for a marathon with the right strategy and right amount of patience and initiative.

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