JUI FENG... Fresh Design, Rugged Quality


2009-09-30
Winding through the plushest rice paddies this time of year on the island of Taiwan, GPS really wasn't much help in guiding wfd to our destination, JIU FENG Kitchenware & Cabinet Development. As we exited a thicket of betel nut trees, the beautifully constructed factory appeared next to a lagoon. In a setting like this it was hard to imagine that Taiwan pumped out $134,509,754,108 USD in products for export last year, according to the Bureau of Foreign Trade. Where do they hide all the factories? JUI FENG is a fledgling manufacturer of furniture and cabinet systems. They started off over a decade ago specializing in stainless steel cabinets. Having excelled in that sector for 14 years, the company was soon equipped to embark on a broader range of more aesthetically stimulating mid to high end modular cabinet systems. In the show room, General Manager Ms. Zoe showed us a variety of laminate patterns you won't find in typical suppliers' catalogs. Predominantly wood grain based, designers incorporate some very fresh patterns and hues which lend a natural feel to the end product, while subtly allowing interior designers to mix in modern hardware and sophisticated colorization. The laminates are scratch resistant, tough and beautiful. Tough Enough for the Tropics *********************************** An all too common problem with edge banding laminated on particle board in subtropical climates like Taiwan comes from moisture. Laminates tend to bubble over time and edging loosens off easily. As yet, just 15% of JUI FENG's production goes to export. Most of the company's clientele are high end interior designers who cater to rising levels in lifestyle. Decorating trends these days in Taiwan see a shift from traditional type shop-fitting towards more pre-fab; partially due to a decline in young people willing to undergo the 3 plus year carpentry training process, and also because demands for higher quality are on the rise. The stickler is that building codes lack rigid standardization. You can't mass produce cabinet systems with confidence that they will fit into most kitchens, so custom woodworking had a strong market in the past. With a shortage of skilled craftsmen now, the angle for JUI FENG is to produce small batches to order, and let the interior design crews of their clients make the installations. Taiwan also has seen a long term trend in the past where end users want fast and pretty results that are just surface deep in quality. Cabinetry was built onto structure that was nail gunned to concrete walls, meaning that if you want to move house you can't just unscrew the unit and take it with you. You have to destroy the piece if you want to get at the nails, let alone move it. This is a country where development is still very aggressive. You may not be here for a few months and upon return find yourself saying, "Was that skyscraper here before?" On the street level new shop fronts appear regularly, and revamping with many seems to happen every couple years. The cycle is fuelled by demands for the cheapest price, the fastest end result, and superficial quality. Humidity accelerates wear. Veneers peal up, things fall apart. OK, time to change our décor again. After all, as markets are developing so rapidly, shop fronts need to evolve with the times. This attitude seemed to work in the past, but people can't afford it these days. What people want more now are aesthetically fresh, modular and mobile furniture systems that will last. Quality from the Core ************************* Here is where JUI FENG excels. "We may lack the decades of experience other manufacturers have, but we never stop production," says Ms. Zoe "We are solving the problems they couldn't surpass." It starts from building furniture from the inside on out. Jui Feng uses imported and tested treated N313 composite board. It is green, highly resistant to moisture, and extremely tough. Edging is adhered with imported German glue of unsurpassed performance. This adhesive costs double what similar producers use. These are the materials, but insistence on quality requires only the best machinery. HOMAG of Germany is the expert of choice for JIU FENG. Their complete line of high-speed CNC equipment includes very expensive panel saws, edge banders and machining centers. A tour of the production floor was more like walking through a clean room of an R&D center. Dust extraction is so efficient at JUI FENG they probably never have to sweep the floor. She explained that smoking is not allowed because the ash and smoke are just as unwelcome as wood dust. "You don't want any contaminates between the edging and the wood; just hot, top quality adhesive." A point about production: as soon as a panel is cut to size it is immediately edge banded. This eradicates the entrance of any moisture. Precision is so tight that the internal wood is completely sealed, and you can't feel even the tiniest discrepancy between veneer and edging. Everything is super smooth to the touch. Upon production, every single panel whether a drawer front, conference table top or headboard receives a computer printed out sticker containing a serial number and other details. All is stored to computer via CNC/office computer integration. These records allow the company to efficiently replicate a job or detail of any job they have ever done. In essence, HOMAG's slogan "Success with a System" is exactly what allows JUI FENG to flexibly pump out wide variety, small batch custom orders. The equipment truly is born of state-of-the-art strategies, innovative engineering and outstanding system competence. In fact, JUI FENG product is so rugged that even the work benches they use are constructed from the same materials they produce! Even the Work Benches? ***************************** Kitchens and cabinet systems are just a part of what JUI FENG produces. Office furniture, DIY kits, even work benches are all fair game. They'll produce any thickness panel required, and after 4 years of wear and tear in the factory, all the edging on these thick work tops is still rock solid. We saw a variety of breathtaking furniture with a variety of styles ranging from traditional Asian furniture to modern credenzas. Open a drawer and the action is like a hot knife through butter. Close it and it self-retracts almost as if it were hydraulic. The slides are hidden underneath the drawer, and it is formed to maximize the space on the sides where the slides would normally cost you 2cm of width. When we think of quality we think solid wood. The impression composites and laminates have left in the past has been one of cheapness. Not the case with JUI FENG. Combining the best technology from Europe, sophisticated quality materials and hardware with a team of well educated designers is spawning lots of new stuff from the interior decorators the company caters to. About 15% of clients sell JUI FENG products globally. Being that the product holds up great against the harsh climate of the subtropics, anywhere else in the world it will hold up for a very long time. Our suspicion is that once word gets out, production for export will skyrocket for JUI FENG.
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