Indonesia is famous for being one of the major furniture manufacturers, with nearly $2 billion USD worth of furniture being exported every year. The supply is as high as it is versatile. As a potential furniture buyer in Indonesia, you need to know the essentials in order to make successful purchases. Especially as a novice, it is easy to lose track of the essentials. This guide will help you avoid nasty surprises when buying Indonesian furniture, especially for import and export.
Where to buy furniture in Indonesia?
The most prominent city to buy furniture is Jepara, the “city of wood”. There is no place like this city located in Central Java, where the city breathes wood and furniture. Complex craftsmanship skills have deep roots in the local culture. Ibu Kartini is the patron of the city. She was the first Indonesian woman to attend university. As a noble, she was able to break from traditional female-unfriendly practices and through her works she became an example to many. Moreover, it is known that she acted as catalyst, when she developed the market for the local craftsmen in Jepara. As of today, Jepara has a huge furniture industry. There are hundreds of small suppliers. In the last 20 years, Jepara has attracted foreign management, which resulted in a surge to the international market. There are all sorts of furniture manufacturers in Jepara, Indonesia, with most of them producing wooden furniture.
Then there other major cities on island of Java, the most populated island, where you can find furniture export manufacturers. For instance, in Jakarta, there are huge fully-automated factories that produce furniture for companies like Walmart and Ikea. Also, in Semarang and Surabaya you can find automated manufacturers where you can buy furniture with huge minimum order quantities. There is Solo where some furniture suppliers are positioned. Notably, this is the place where Indonesian President Jokowi himself boosted his career as a furniture factory owner.
What furniture should you buy in Indonesia?
There are many options when searching for furniture in Indonesia. As mentioned before, you can find both machine-made furniture and handmade furniture. In general, you will face high minimum order quantities if you order machine made furniture. Then, you can mainly choose between metal and wooden furniture. As for wood, species like teak, mahogany, mango, rosewood, suar, acacia, rattan and bamboo are among the popular choices.
Furthermore, furniture manufacturers offer lots of upholstered furniture. The upholstery itself can be local batik, woven cloth and mostly cotton, or more expensive imported fabric. The main advantages of local handmade upholstery are flexibility, fast lead time and low minimum order quantities. Furthermore, the handmade characteristics give a unique quality to it. On the downside, you need to allow some tolerance in color differences between batches, especially for the brighter colors. Also the materials used are quite little. On the other hand, imported upholstery is usually consistent and machine made. There is a high variety of materials to choose from at a good price. Lastly, you have the choice between natural finishes and painted finishes. Let’s have a look at some of the products Indonesia has to offer.
You can find anything from big dining tables, to beds, drawers, armoires to outdoor furniture.
Obviously, most offered furniture is meant for adults. However, many manufacturers are willing to make furniture for kids or babies upon request. Some even specialize in this side branch.
Depending on the wood species, you’ll need to make sure to avoid the presence of fungi, and termites and other insects in the wood. So ask your supplier if they fumigate the products. Usually fumigation is done just before products are transported. However, some countries like Australia, with the tighter import rules, require more thorough fumigation before the finishing process.
Furniture with a low moisture content
Especially because of its tropical climate, you need to pay attention to the moisture content (MC) of the wooden furniture you import from Indonesia. If not, your furniture could easily crack once it reaches its final owner.
The moisture content is calculated as the weight of the water relative to the weight of the wood. Wood has the quality to absorb water in its cells that run along the length of the tree. First the wood stores the water in its cell walls, shown in the figure below. Once these cell walls are saturated, the water fills the cell cavities, called free water. On average, wood with an MC of 28% only has water left in its cell walls. Around this percentage these walls are full and the wood is fiber saturated.
It is important to realize that the wood only shrinks and swells below this point of saturation. Below 25% shrinkage becomes visible. For more information on shrinkage by wood species and the different directions of shrinkage, click here. Because of these differences in shrinkage, you need to dry teak until 10% MC, where for mahogany 14-15% is already acceptable.
In general, you can consider wood dry between 12-15% MC. When you buy your furniture in Indonesia for export, you need to make sure the wood is properly kiln dried in a controlled environment. As soon as the wood moisture level falls below 19%, it has already shrunk for the biggest part and will show its drying defects, if any.
Effect of surroundings on furniture
Most notably, take your end-customer into account when you examine the MC grade. What kind of climate is the wooden furniture meant for. Is it for indoor or outdoor purposes? As wood is hygroscopic, it acclimatizes slowly to its permanent surroundings. If the surroundings are more moist, the wood will absorb the moisture until it reaches a equilibrium moisture content (EMC) with its surroundings. On the other hand, if the area is dryer the wood will release some of its moisture to reach EMC. The latter can cause sudden cracks or bends in your furniture.
Another option some factories in Indonesia choose is to use mixed material and use particle boards like MDF to make the side panels or tops. This option is very safe for export because this material is impossible to crack. Because of the mix of materials, the parts constrain each other’s movements. Accordingly, it’s very safe to ship to any country.
When choosing a furniture supplier in Indonesia, you have to assess whether they are up for the job. Especially many smaller suppliers often fail to meet expectations due to poor planning. They tend to misattribute drawbacks and avoid responsibility. Picking the right supplier can be tricky as most will say to be competent for the job.
Quality vs Price: What should you pay for furniture in Indonesia?
The Indonesian furniture industry is highly versatile in terms of quality, product mix and customer service. Especially moisture content of wooden furniture often lacks control. Even if you properly kiln dry the wood, problems might occur later in the process during storage or transportation. Yes, they seem unnecessary. Though, as most locals never see the end result of bad MC management in the less moist countries overseas, they sometimes lack awareness. Then, consistency of products is another challenge buyers face. Suppliers can be rather cunning in hiding poor quality and inconsistencies. Therefore, proper quality control and trust are of utmost importance.
On another note, do not forget that most production is handmade by local artisan suppliers. Even the bigger finishing factories make use of them, except when factories produce 100% machinemade furniture. These handmade products give more charm and uniqueness, but expect the tolerance in differences between products to be higher.
Then, once you receive your products, you might find some deviations in quality. This is why you need to know your supplier’s customer service before sending a deposit. Manufacturers that know they deliver quality will give you the quality assurance.
Depending on the material and the design effort, prices differ significantly. If you’re looking for custom ivory stairs, you can expect to pay the price. There are many different wood types and there is furniture available at every budget. In the end it’s all about value for money. So do not hesitate to ascertain the costs of material. Or else your supplier could be either deceiving you in terms of price or be managing his business inefficiently.
On the other hand, you don’t want your supplier to cheat with materials either. For this reason you should make sure all the necessary certificates are audited.
How can you import furniture from Indonesia?
If you want to import furniture from Indonesia, there are several things you need to know. Firstly, if it’s wooden furniture you’re importing, make sure the wood is SVLK certified. This means the wood being used is certified as legal by the Indonesian government. Click here if you want to know more about other certificates you need to import furniture from Indonesia.
When making a deal with your furniture supplier, most of the time you are either agreeing on a FOB price or an ex factory price. The term Free On Board was coined back in the days after many goods fell between shore and ship. It was not clear who was responsible for the damages. Thus the trade deal came to be; Free on Board. So when FOB, your manufacturer will take care of all the Indonesian paperwork and pay the transport until shipment. Sometimes the deal includes ex factory, which means you need to take care of all the transport, when importing furniture from Indonesia
Most manufacturers offer 20HC or 40HC containers to fill your products in. Consolidation of containers is becoming more popular as appropriate planning technologies emerge. There are also many acquisitions happening by big players in the shipping industry. However, most companies find these methods unreliable, as they are still in their infancy.
In the island of Java, where you can find most furniture manufactures, there are 3 main ports to ship from. There is Tanjung Prio in Jakarta, Tanjung Emas in Semarang and Tanjung Perak in Surabaya. These ports are unsurprisingly all in the North-Java sea, as the south-coast is deemed too risky for ports to thrive. The picture below includes all other major ports in Indonesia.
Pijar Sukma is your reliable French classic furniture manufacturer from Jepara. We offer a wide range of furniture collections. Partners import our Indonesian furniture all over the world. Contact Us today to get more information and free quotations on your preferences.