The flip side of Quality

What is Quality?
Quality – The standard of something as measured against other things of a similar kind; the degree of excellence of something.

Excellence – the quality of being outstanding or extremely good

Good – that which is morally right; righteousness.

Keeping the three definitions in mind one can say that quality of any product is best defined by its righteousness.

This has been put into standards, certifications, etc. to determine a products quality or degree of righteousness.

Righteousness in context of Plywood
There are many factors that determine righteousness in context to plywood. Listed below are a few factors:

Where is the raw wood sourced?
Today we recognize the fact that our forests are depleting due to enormous wood cutting. Depleting forests add to global warming and make the planet unhealthy. Hence, we need to take responsibility & extra care to ensure that the plywood we use is made from plantations wood rather than forests. There are various certification agencies that help us identify that the wood used is from a genuine origin.

What type of wood is used?
Just like animals we have species of wood which are endangered & extinct. For example the African black woods are now endangered & the recent ban on certain species of ebony goes to show the same. These woods are black in colour which makes them highly desirable for furniture manufacturing. Being in the trade ourselves, we notice our customers’ demands growing for these species as they become harder to source. People want exclusive materials, no matter what the price & ignore the reason behind it’s high price.  Africa, as we all know has been in shambles and government regulations can easily be overruled by monetary settlement. Hence, endangered species become extinct and no one is even aware.

The illegal unregulated forest cutting to feed the oblivious consumer is one of the main reasons for deforestation & problems like global warming, reduction in bio diversity which in turn threatens to crush our ecosystem and other such profound effects. It is a matter of grave concern for everyone.

Labour Involved
Global market has created a new dimension in exploitation of human resources where the developed countries exploit developing countries. They look for cheaper & cheaper outsourced partners evading any corporate social responsibility which they would have to worry about in their own countries. The choice of lowering the costs by cutting corners are solely left to the business owners in the developing nations. The manufacturers do not have alternative source of earning and thereby succumb to the demands of the multinational corporation. This leads to bonded labour, child labour and underpaid labour. It is a known fact that in developing nations one can buy their way out of legal complications as everyone is looking to make the extra buck.  We all praise China for their leap in industrial development; little do we know about the conditions of the labour involved.

The domestic market in developing nation follows the same pattern. Manufacturers, to save costs use child labour, inhumane working conditions, bonded labour, no unions, no safety measures, old and worn our machinery etc. to cut costs in order to make their product cheaper than the competition. This in turn results in human costs. Accidents happen, lives are lost.

Cutting Corners:
Manufacturers are cutting corners by

  • Using substandard raw materials sourced from various countries. This has two effects 1. Its true strength and quality is questionable 2. It would not be as resilient as indigenous wood, since indigenous woods having grown in the same environment as that of use are more resistant to the weather conditions.
  • Producing variable thickness material. This would never have the same strength and fail to deliver on quality and finishing.
  • Improper glue composition. This would result in moulding, waterproofing and loss of durability. At times when better plywood is required i.e. marine grade or fire-retardant grade then the quality being delivered becomes all the more suspect.
  • Core gaps i.e. gaps in-between the layers of wood used to make plywood. This would result in poor design execution as screws would not hold, laminate would come off, ply would shatter, waviness in the plywood and many more design & finishing failures.
  • Unregulated use of harmful chemical.
  • Illegal labour use – bonded/child labour.
  • Forgery & falsification of ISI mark and other certifications through the process of bribes.

The cost involved in fixing, replacing (wasting) and maintaining final products made from substandard material is actually higher than buying authentic product the first time.

The stress of the entire deal would be a greater bother and lead to health issues.

The human cost of using bonded/child labour is just wrong.

Indian Plywood Market:
Indian plywood market is really huge and competitive. In this world of cut throat competition everyone cuts corners to make their product inexpensive and given the competition developed by the import market (sourcing of inexpensive products from China) the market scenario now is worse than ever.

As per Ken Research (Ref 1):

  • India Plywood Market is expected to reach INR 479.7 Billion by 2019
  • Future Growth of India Plywood Market is expected to be led by surge in commercial space and rise in number of households

As per Sourcing Hardware (Ref 2:)

  • Indian plywood market is following 15% compounded growth
  • Around 30% of the industry revenue is generated from large companies but 70 % of the industry revenue and production coming from small manufacturers, many of whom do not even possess a license to produce.

Consumerism has reached a whole ‘nother level where the cost of scrapping & rebuilding clubbed with the culture of having the latest in design has taken the wastage of materials to an all-time high.

The short-sightedness created by the media has driven our society to a point of not realizing how we are adding to the waste. Most people may be aware of the same but the “daily grind” keeps them from thinking about the real problem and keeps them occupied by hollow entertainment. The documentary “The True Cost” talks about the same impact as relating to the fashion industry which is a 3 trillion dollar a year industry today. Plywood, Wood, Wood Veneers and other finishing products, being lifestyle products, follow similar trend.

There is a whole range of products being produced:

  1. True value, ethical & quality branded products
  2. Substandard products by big brands
  3. Genuine ethical products by small time players
  4. Substandard materials from small time players.

We all complain about builder flats, this is the root problem for the same, inferior raw materials result in inferior final product. We, as traders of plywood have noticed that even large companies have created sub brands to facilitate such poor quality materials to builders. Most of the brands have special project rate materials which are nothing but substandard inexpensive materials used by the builders so that they can use the name of the large company but actually use the inferior product manufactured under the same brand name.

Truth behind certifications:
In our world where money talks each of these standards can be falsified, bought or worked around thereby substandard material are openly being sold in the market place. If the cost of settlement with the authorities is lower than the cost involved in producing genuine products, the answer becomes obvious.

We as consumers have to be aware and demand authentic products. We cannot splurge on depleting resources, something which is finite. We know today that we consume more than we are sowing and the problem is that most of the consumption is wasted so in effect we are just splurging and wasting until we start to question the authenticity of our building materials and everything else around us.

We encourage all our clients to think before buying and endorsing any brand or product. It’s important for our health, a cleaner safer environment and better planet for our children.

Every little effort counts, let’s be aware and wise.



Ref 1:

Ref 2: