NeoCon: Steelcase Nurtures Medical Market

June 19, 2006
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Steelcase, the global leader in office furniture, was shut out in the traditional office categories of the Best of NeoCon competition. Two new Steelcase chairs, the stackable Move and high-end Siento, failed to capture the attention of judges. Its innovative and affordable Turnstone brand, which has won a dozen awards since 2000, also was ignored.

At odds with its West Michigan peers, the Steelcase showroom featured a collection of existing 8-by-8-foot workstations in a show of support for the cubicle. It even named the exhibit “Steelcase Embraces the Cubicle.”

Whether that same reception occurs in the marketplace, however, remains to be seen. On his company’s strong award count, Herman Miller CEO Brian Walker was quick to point out that awards don’t convince customers to buy a product, and actually mean very little outside of the Merchandise Mart.

At least in one market, Steelcase was dominant, as it took home two of the five health care prizes and the category’s only Gold awards in a strong introduction for Steelcase’s newest venture: Nurture.

Nurture serves as an umbrella for all of the Steelcase companies’ ongoing health care programs, including 12 new launches at NeoCon, many of which had no awards category in which to be entered.

Working with health care institutions such as Mayo Clinic, Massachusetts General Hospital and Ascension Health, Nurture is taking the same approach toward the hospital as Steelcase competitors are taking toward the cubicle. Through research-based design, it hopes to help health care providers increase the quality and efficiency of care.

As it demonstrated in its NeoCon showroom, this can involve changes as simple as mounting closet and cabinet doors on slides rather than hinges, or placing cup holders on over-bed trays.

“Just something as simple as a cup holder makes this so much more useful,” said Libby Ferin, director of experience marketing and communication. “No one is thinking about things like that.”

Other points of interest include Nurture’s approach to a soothing waiting room, a modular lab and an interaction-based office.

Nurture’s Opus casegoods received a Gold Award and Designtex’s ABC Collection won a Gold Award for health care textiles.    

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