For many in the industry, this year has been one of change, assimilation and adaptation to new rules and protocols required in the wake of COVID-19. One of the biggest changes – and challenges – has been the inability to travel overseas for sourcing and product development.
Not that many in the industry are complaining about giving up weeks-long trips to Vietnam, Malaysia and China. In fact, many have relished the opportunity for extended time at home.
At the same time, there is still work to be done. Thanks to technology – ranging from Facetime and Skype to Zoom meetings – product is still being developed and engineered. It’s just that the process is mostly being communicated with overseas teams on a screen.
Obviously the industry already used these technologies before, communicating with teams in Asia late at night on details ranging from dimensions and construction to finish. But more often than not, teams would travel to see the samples in person before approving them to be shipped to the U.S.
Now, thanks to the pandemic related travel restrictions, most are suggesting or requesting any changes virtually before having that product sent here for final approval.
Many furniture executives I’ve interviewed say it has been this way for some time, as most haven’t traveled to Asia from the past eight months to nearly a year. Some interviewed over the summer months were expecting to travel once again in the fourth quarter, but a resurgence of the pandemic is making that highly unlikely.
The question is how long will it be before we can travel once again? Will it be in the first or second quarter? Or will it be sometime in the second half? For now, it appears all this virtual product development will continue, at least until cases subside or until a promising vaccine is available to the masses.
Feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or just give me a call at (336) 508-4616. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and other sourcing issues affecting the industry.
I’m Tom Russell and have worked at Furniture/Today since August 2003. Since then, I have covered the international side of the business from a logistics and sourcing standpoint. Since then, I also have visited several furniture trade shows and manufacturing plants in Asia, which has helped me gain perspective about the industry in that part of the world. As I continue covering the import side of the business, I look forward to building on that knowledge base through conversations with industry officials and future overseas plant tours. From time to time, I will file news and other industry perspectives online and, as always, welcome your response to these Web postings.