Children’s furniture as an opportunity

20.10.2020 Jonas Breidenbach, a research associate at Bern University of Applied Sciences, and his team analysed the wood value chain in Ukraine as part of an international project. An interview about the challenges faced by the Ukrainian wood industry and the interdisciplinary role of researchers.

What challenges does the Ukrainian wood industry face?

Jonas Breidenbach: “Ukraine has many forests and hence lots of wood available, which means it is very well placed. It is nevertheless dependent on the export of high-quality wood products to generate a high level of value creation. However, the state of Ukrainian infrastructure is an issue when it comes to quality testing. The Global Quality and Standards Programme (GQSP) should now help to rectify this situation.

What is the role of Bern University of Applied Sciences here?

Jonas Breidenbach: “Bern University of Applied Sciences was called in as a technical consultant to analyse the wood value chain in Ukraine and to identify critical issues. Our study essentially pinpoints the areas where the future project can deploy its resources most efficiently and effectively. The aim is to increase the export volumes and quality of goods and ultimately improve value creation in the Ukrainian wood industry on a sustainable basis.

Bern University of Applied Sciences previously carried out a similar value-creation analysis of the wood industry in Ghana. What approach was adopted?

Jonas Breidenbach: “Firstly, the global sales market and then the Ukrainian wood industry as a supplier were analysed in greater depth. This requires wood industry experts and reliable local partners. The quality aspect was addressed in a third step. In this respect, our expertise from the testing centres at the Department of Architecture, Wood and Civil Engineering was vital. At the end of the analysis, we also looked at the political situation and used synergies from other projects. Our many years of experience in development cooperation stood us in really good stead.”

What was the outcome?

Jonas Breidenbach: “The manufacture of children’s and school furniture in particular holds great potential. On the one hand, there is a sales market, and on the other, there are well-established Ukrainian manufacturers. High quality requirements are placed on this type of furniture, which requires sophisticated testing infrastructure. The same also applies to wooden windows. Both products are in line with Ukraine’s economic strategy and meet the requirements of greater value.”

A look to the future. What steps must now be taken to ensure exports and the quality of these products can be increased on a sustainable basis?

Jonas Breidenbach: “As well as improving the testing infrastructure, there is one key element – time. Good cooperation between the public and private sectors is a key success factor. Companies, associations, standards committees and national accreditation bodies, etc. must engage in dialogue and build trust. Demand and smooth-running global supply chains are also vitally important – which is clearly underlined by the coronavirus crisis.”

Research in the international environment

The analysis of the Ukrainian wood value chain was carried out by the Institute for Timber Construction, Structures and Architecture (IHTA) in collaboration with the Center for Development and Cooperation (CDC) at Bern University of Applied Sciences. The project was commissioned by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). At the end of August 2020, the researchers from Bern University of Applied Sciences presented the study to the global Steering Committee of the Global Quality and Standards Programme (GQSP).

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