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Help Wanted: Furniture Manufacturing Industry

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December 6, 2021 | Bill Esler

Whitsett, NC—Prepac Manufacturing Ltd. sells RTA (ready-to-assemble) furniture exclusively online through retailers like Wayfair and Amazon. Produced just-in-time in a highly automated plant, Prepac furniture ships within two days of order receipt.

The Delta, BC-based firm invested $27 million to open its first U.S. manufacturing operation, which commenced production in May 2021 in Whitsett, NC. With a target of 200 employees, Prepac is still hiring for key positions. In the last few weeks Prepac posted a number of higher-level jobs at its new plant, including Machining Supervisor; Production Manager for second and third shifts; Machine Operator 1 for second and third shift; Inventory Analyst; and Maintenance Technician for second and third shift.

Prepac is not alone. Like their cabinetry manufacturing counterparts, residential furniture producers throughout the region are contending with surging orders coupled with logistics issues, supply shortages, and challenges finding workers.

Century Furniture, a unit of Rock House Farm, reports 4,000 orders in its pipeline, twice the typical backlog of 2,000, with delivery times stretching to six months from what ordinarily would be six to eight weeks. “We would love to expand capacity, but we’re the furniture mecca of North Carolina—every other furniture company is in the same boat we are,” Century Furniture Human Resource VP Amy Gruyer told the The New York Times.

Century Furniture employs 250 and has increased overtime hours to reduce the load. Alex Shuford, CEO of Century Furniture and parent firm Rock House Farm says, “The surge [in orders] isn’t going to last as long as it would take to go to a completely training workforce and get them up to speed.”

Area makers of upholstered furniture makers, including Century, Ethan Allen, Restoration Hardware, and Bassett, have been supporting Catawba Valley Community College Furniture Academy, which emphasizes upholstering. Guilford County Community College near Whitsett also offers classes in furniture upholstery. For Prepac, which makes non-upholstered items like RTA cabinetry, hutches, and other storage of laminate and solid pine, the strategy is to seek employees via job fairs and ADP job listings has been the strategy. Things could be worse; while it lists eight jobs open in North Carolina, Prepac’s factory in Delta, BC has 47 openings.

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