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Mass Production versus Made-to-Order
by Terry Canup

Most Furniture in today's marketplace is assembly line, or mass production furniture.

It's a fact of modern economies. Efficiency is a key to making profit. The most efficient way to produce furniture, as it is with cars, is by offering specific models and producing them in large quantities. This worked well for Henry Ford in the early 20th century, and it works well for the furniture industry today.
Assembly line furniture manufacture Assenbly line furniture production
Assembly Line Furniture Production
Companies like Ashley, Crown Mark, Simmons, and Coaster have become very successful by identifying the highest demand consumer items and producing them at very moderate costs. This keeps pricing low to the consumer and allows more people to own nicer furniture. Prior to the industrial revolution in the 1800s and before, furniture was crafted by hand.
Mass production of furniture
Mass Production of Furniture
Hand crafting takes a skill and talent. Furniture makers apprenticed for years under a master craftsmen before they started producing their own pieces. Many of these pieces are now treasured antiques. While not realistic for the mass consumption, it is still possible to get custom made furniture in today's market. Much of this is in upholstery.
Furniture built to order
Furniture Factory Built to Order
This is really a hybrid construction. Not fully mass production and not fully hand made. The manufacturers like Lane, Best, Capri, and Classic offer a range of basic frame designs, and the customer chooses the covering fabric, leather, or man made material, that fits their needs. This is only slightly more expensive than sheer assembly line and gives the furniture owner a customized piece for their particular room or design. The reason more of this is not available is time.

Assembly line product is pre-made and warehoused in large quantities at many distribution points around the country. If you want something in a hurry, it is generally available the same week, and in some cases the same day. Custom ordered upholstery usually takes 3 to 6 weeks from time of order. With instant gratification being the order of the day in most people's lives, this delay is hard for some to accept. There are companies out there that take advantage of this. They have built their entire business model on the buy it now, get it now concept.

What most people forget is that getting something instantly does not mean you are getting a better product. What you are getting is a mass produced product very quickly. Of course there is nothing wrong with mass production. It simply does not produce the highest quality. There has been a recent mini revolution in the furniture industry as there was in the beer industry before it. Where there are now dozens of micro-breweries producing limited batch specialty beers for the consumer, around many of the major retail areas of the country micro furniture manufacturers have sprung up to fill the niche left empty by the assembly line companies.

It is now possible to custom order casegoods products like chests, dressers, desks that are produced in short time frames at almost the price of the large producers. Customers can now order custom living rooms and bedrooms for economical prices with short delivery times. Made by local craftsman. This has broadened choice in the market. Broader choice keeps prices low to the consumer. It is a good time to consider new furniture with so much being offered at such low prices!


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