DPM Heng Swee Keat at the Singapore Furniture Industries Council 40th Anniversary

DPM Heng Swee Keat | 3 December 2021

Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at the Singapore Furniture Industries Council’s 40th Anniversary on 3 December 2021.


Ms Sim Ann, SFIC Patron and SMS for Foreign Affairs and National Development,

Mr Phua Boon Huat, President SFIC,

Friends in the SFIC,


Good evening.I have sometimes heard people call the furniture industry a sunset industry. I have never believed it – some of you may have heard me say before: there are no sunset industries, only sunset mentalities. And I haven’t encountered any sunset mentalities here. With your enterprise and dedication, the industry has defied this labelling and continues to be an integral part of our economy. As we hear, globally, the furniture industry is expected to grow by 5% per annum, driven largely by a fast-growing middle class in Asia. Consumers have also become more discerning, and are prepared to pay a premium for quality. The needs and demands of consumers continue to evolve, and our furniture industry must continue to transform to keep pace with the changes.

Global Trends

Major changes in the global economy – the digital revolution, the greater emphasis on sustainability, the need for resilience – have all been accelerated by COVID-19. These trends also have a profound impact on the furniture industry.

Take the digital revolution. It is transforming the furniture sector in at least three ways. First, it has changed demand. With working-from-home becoming more prevalent, there is a surge in demand for home office furniture. We are also seeing greater demand for smart furniture – from simple features such as incorporation of power and data outlets in furniture, to smart chairs that improve your sitting posture. Second, digital has changed how we purchase. More are consuming online, and businesses that can provide a good virtual shopping experience can access a wider market. We have also seen a rise in the use of AR and VR, with furniture retailers developing virtual showrooms. In fact, furniture retailers are working with interior designers to visualise how different pieces of furniture will look like in the actual environment. Third, digital has changed how we produce – there is now greater use of data analytics and AI in design, and more automation and robotics in production.

It is not only in the digital realm that change is taking place. Sustainability is becoming increasingly important for consumers. More will need to be done to green the furniture value chain – from securing materials from suppliers based on their environmental performance, to introducing traceability across the value chain, to adopting advanced manufacturing methods that reduce wastage, including 3D printing of furniture. There is also a greater call to consume less through the circular economy through the upcycling of second-hand furniture, through new business models, such as furniture as a service, and through product design with the use of recycled materials.

The disruption to supply chains has also affected many of you. Some furniture products have waiting time running into months. Overseas factory closures, travel bans and increased logistics costs have been hard on some of SFIC’s members. It is timely to rethink the resilience of your supply chains. Furniture enterprises need to explore supply chain diversification, working together with partners in the region. In addition, you can band together to consolidate supply needs across a group of manufacturers to achieve lower costs of production and procurement, and identify new supply leads.

Transformation and Change

The furniture industry is no stranger to change. Indeed, you have a good head start. SFIC has been instrumental to the industry’s transformation journey since your formation in 1981. You started out as an association mainly for furniture manufacturers. Today you represent a wider spectrum of the industry – including those who undertake design, provide components, and do retail. Many of your members have a regional or international footprint – with overseas markets tallying up to over 80. The SFIC recognised early the value of partnership – working together to uplift capabilities in the sector and in turn create more opportunities for members.

Despite the global pandemic and economic uncertainties, SFIC has been a strong partner in supporting the ITM effort to transform and grow. You have a whole range of programmes to help companies digitalise, internationalise, and build new capabilities through various support measures. You are nurturing a new generation of workers to take on new roles in the sector – from leadership programmes, to helping others transit into the sector. A good example is the Career Conversion Programme or CCP for interior fit-out specialists, developed in collaboration with WSG to address the gap of local talent in this space. This is the third CCP that is launched. The first two CCPs were for designers and digital operations specialists. So far these two CCPs have brought more than 300 talents into the sector.

In addition, you have in fact been harnessing the major global trends to your members’ benefit. On digitalisation, Creativ-Space, your B2B digital platform for fit-out projects and furniture e-sourcing, makes your companies readily accessible to global buyers 24-7. You have taken sustainability seriously. I am glad that Enterprise Singapore is working with you and your members to embark on sustainability initiatives and capture new opportunities in the green economy as part of the Enterprise Sustainability Program. As a result, there are many success stories among your members – showing that, far from being a sunset industry, the furniture sector can be a thriving and dynamic one. What we need to do is to continue to adapt, change and transform.

Pushing the Boundaries of Possibilities

Today, I am glad to join you to push the boundaries of possibilities further with the launch of the Furniture Industry 2025 Roadmap. I commend all of you here for coming together to move the industry forward. You are an excellent role model of what an effective TAC can achieve – to solve common challenges and push new frontiers. This roadmap builds on the good work that has been done. The vision for this roadmap is most apt: “Be the nexus of tomorrow’s work-life integration for sustainable urban living” – responding to digital and sustainability shifts that I mentioned earlier. The roadmap emphasises greater market agility, to more nimbly respond to shifts in demand. As importantly, the roadmap emphasises greater collaboration – not just within the furniture sector – but with other stakeholders to develop better products. For example, by working with the healthcare industry for better ergonomics, with urban planners and designers for better functionality and fit, and with researchers on greater automation and ways to produce lower-carbon furniture. I also encourage you to work even more closely with SUTD, NAFA, Lasalle and with other institutes of higher learning in the design of your products. You are celebrating your 40th anniversary with your roadmap to 2025, and I look forward to an even more vibrant and thriving furniture industry when you commemorate your 45th anniversary. The roadmap is complemented by ongoing meaningful initiatives. For example, SFIC has recently joined forces with the Singapore Business Federation and Singapore Green Building Council to form a new Alliance for Action. The AfA brings together stakeholders across different sectors to enable the supply and adoption of low emitting materials and furnishings in indoor spaces. This effort improves indoor air quality, and will consequently lead to better well-being for occupants.

At the heart of the roadmap and the AfA is the spirit of partnership. All of you in the furniture industry know this far better than me, that when we assemble different pieces together well, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts. Instead of some boards and legs, you have a dinner table. Out of disparate parts, you create the ability for a family to come together over meals. So you understand, deeply, the power of partnership. You have done well in collaboration within the sector. You have been partnering other sectors. And you are pursuing productive partnership at the regional and global levels.

It is my pleasure tonight to celebrate with you both SFIC’s 40 years of pulling Singapore’s furniture industry together, and the completion of your first week at the helm of the ASEAN Furniture Industries Council or AFIC. It will be an exciting two years ahead, with Mr Ernie Koh as president of the AFIC. With a rapidly expanding middle class, the market in this region has significant room for growth. There are also opportunities for cross border partnerships to work on opportunities such as digitalisation and sustainability. I am glad to that AFIC plans to set up a special sustainability taskforce to adopt more green business practices in the region. I also hope that, in sustainability and many other areas, SFIC can use your term as chair to further strengthen intra-ASEAN trade and our region’s competitive advantages for a global market. I have every confidence that this will be a fruitful time for SFIC, your members, and your partners in the region.


Congratulations once again on your 40th anniversary. More importantly, congratulations for looking ahead with the launch of your roadmap for 2025. I look forward to a great 45th anniversary, where we can succeed together. Thank you very much.