A study of technological capabilities and innovations in the furniture making industry in Southwestern Nigeria
The study assessed the level of technological capabilities in the furniture making industry in Southwestern Nigeria. It also examined the nature and extent of innovation as well as the factors influencing technological learning and innovations in the industry. Furthermore, it evaluated the effects of technological capabilities, innovations and clustering on the performance of the firms in furniture industry. This was with a view to recommending policy measures to enhance the innovative performance of the furniture makers. The study covered Lagos, Oyo, Ondo and Ekiti States because of the predominance of the industry in these selected locations. The sample population consisted of 319 master furniture makers and 352 join man and apprentices. The questionnaire administered to master furniture makers/companies and elicited information on the bio-data of the respondents, their technological capabilities, the nature and extent of innovations generated and factors influencing technological learning and innovations in the industry. It also elicited information on the effects of the innovations on the performance of the furniture makers. The second set of questionnaires on the skilled join man and apprentices elicited information on the technological learning and the language used in instructing them. Personal observation and focus group discussion were employed to obtain more information on clustering advantages. Both descriptive and inferential statistics techniques were employed for data analysis. The result showed that majority (75.5%) of the master furniture makers expended between N10000 and N200,000 in setting up their workshops. About 24.5% of the respondents invested between N200,001 and N2,000,000 in setting up their workshops. This showed that investment capability level of the industry was very low. The sources of investment of master furniture makers were mainly from personal savings (74.0%), and family input (18.8%). The furniture makers had strong linkages with customers (4.25) and raw materials suppliers (4.03) and their associations (3.9) but little or no linkage with technical school, polytechnic, university and research institution. Learning in the industry was mainly through on the job training (91.5%). About 2.2% learnt furniture jobs through formal education while the remaining 6.3% learnt furniture skills through both formal education and on the job training. Over 67.8% of the respondents reported to have spent 3 - 4 years in learning their furniture skills, while about 14.7% claimed to have spent 4 - 5 years. Majority (76.7%) of the master furniture makers were trained using Yoruba language and also used Yoruba language to train their apprentices. There was a significant difference (F = 10.82; P < 0.001) among the reasons for embarking on modifying furniture products. These reasons include creativity, intrinsic, motivation, competition, social among others. In conclusion, the furniture makers possess high minor change capability which had justified some innovations. However, their investment and linkage capabilities were very low. Policy measures to enhance innovative performance of the furniture makers were established, such as establishment of furniture clusters by states and local governments.