Mon, Apr 22, 2019 - Page 16 News List

FEATURE: Taipei expo highlights innovation

By Kwan Shin-han  /  Staff reporter

Where can consumers find quality bed or kitchenware? Does Taiwan produce non-toxic wooden furniture? What kind of new products are featured in intelligent buildings?

The four-day Taiwan International Architechture, Design and Building Material Expo in Taipei, which ended on Monday last week, not only answered all of those questions, but also shed light on how local manufacturers can survive in a market that is vulnerable to global trade policies and production costs.

The portable pneumatic vacuum elevator, NuVa, was introduced by Howtobe Technology Co Ltd (好厝邊), a subsidiary of elevator supplier GFC Ltd (崇友實業) at the expo at Taipei World Trade Center Exhibition Hall 1.

The company said that its elevator does not require a shaft or machine room.

“When an earthquake strikes and the power goes off, the NuVa will return to the ground floor and open automatically,” a Howtobe employee told the Taipei Times.

At another booth, Kitchenware manufacturer Helion International Co Ltd (赫里翁) introduced the company’s intelligent kitchen system, which is able to detect leaking gas and control the gas switch remotely.

“There are a lot of inquiries from customers, as they want to know how our products function while they are at work,” Helion general manager Yu Chiu-nan (游秋男) said.

In the Taiwanese furniture sector, manufacturers are keen to maintain a competitive edge, as consumers are placing more emphasis on convenience and security, as well as intelligent and environmentally friendly designs.

Others are collaborating to provide high-end services and fend off intensifying competition from foreign firms.

“Do you see the booth next to us that sells kitchen cupboards?” asked Liu Ming-fu (劉明富), chairman of Taipei-based hardware importer Liu San Hardware (劉三五金).

“They need our hinges to increase their products’ value. It is a win-win situation for us, because we import quality products from abroad to add value to the local industry,” Liu said.

The Taiwanese furniture market boomed in the 1960s, with sales peaking between the late 1970s and late 1980s.

However, many manufacturers relocated to China or other emerging markets to cope with rising production costs at home.

More recently, the industry has faced other problems, such as a lack of new talent in the carpentry field, increased competition from Chinese manufacturers in the low-end market and formidable German firms in the high-end segment, a 2014 Taiwan Institute of Economic Research report said.

Taiwan’s furniture exports totaled NT$46.92 billion (US$1.52 billion at the current exchange rate) in 2017, an annual Taiwan Furniture Manufacturers’ Association report said.

The US was the sector’s largest export market at 43.4 percent, followed by Japan at 14.35 percent and China at 5.71 percent, it said.

In the same year, furniture imports totaled NT$18.85 billion, with 51.82 percent coming from China, followed by Italy at 8.03 percent, Indonesia at 6.48 percent and Vietnam at 5.32 percent, the association’s data showed.

The US-China trade dispute has prompted some Taiwanese firms operating in China to relocate part of their production bases to avoid tariffs, while benefiting those who have factories outside China.

“We have seen increased sales of server rail kits in the US market,” said Ling Lin (林靈), an international sales specialist with King Slide Works Co Ltd (川湖科技).

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