Miller Taking Abak Around World

June 18, 2004
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HOLLAND — By adapting a European office system for the North American market, Herman Miller Inc. seeks to take design flexibility to a global level.

Not only can the Abak system work in any office setting — from executive suite to an open floor plan — but also now Herman Miller says it has made the system adaptable to any market around the world in which it does business.

The refinements to Abak — a highly flexible Italian-designed system sold in Europe for six years — gives Herman Miller a product line that's usable in the European, North American and Asian markets.

According to Eric Moes, Herman Miller's senior product manager, what's driving the introduction of Abak in North America is a customer base of multi-national companies that wants a common design theme and aesthetic for their global offices.

"It looks like it is definitely a trend and we wanted to make sure we could address that for our customers," Moes said.

"We wanted to make sure we had a truly global product so wherever Herman Miller does business, the product is available."

The backbone of Abak is a spine wall that delivers utilities and power to workstations.

The system includes freestanding furnishings and lightweight screens that define workstations. The system is designed to facilitate collaboration and interaction among office workers.

In adapting Abak for the North American market, Herman Miller made some design changes that make the office system more suitable for American tastes and work styles.

For one, individual workstations have more space in the North American version than the European, where workers tend to work closer together.

To American office workers, Moes said, "territory seems to be a lot more important."

Abak was also strengthened for the North American market to handle more weight and make it more durable, and was given more storage space that American workers seem to covet, Moes said.

As Herman Miller made those changes, designers held onto the clean, sleek Italian styling.

"(Abak) offers a unique global alternative to our customers who desire a clean aesthetic while addressing their application needs for a bench-style, more open and collaborative environment," said Keith McRobert, director of office systems at Herman Miller.

Abak has appealed to several business sectors in Europe, Moes said.

The system targets the mid- and high-end markets where clients are willing to pay for a system that offers high function, design and durability, he said.

"We've got a lot of people out there who want to know when they buy something they've got peace of mind, they've got durability, they've got integrity of design that will stand the test of time," Moes said.

Herman Miller introduced Abak in North America last week at NeoCon in Chicago, where the system won a Gold Award in the Furniture Systems category in the Best of NeoCon design competition.

Herman Miller also used the event to showcase Intersect, a portfolio of new and existing office furnishing products that are designed for workstations and common areas within an office.

The company introduced the Intersect products in April.

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