Nucraft and Canadians score high in popularity poll

June 10, 2011
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Just in time for NeoCon comes a MADA survey of OFI suppliers regarding their favorite customers. And the local winner, in second place, is Nucraft.

Michael A. Dunlap & Associates in Holland is known for the MADA/OFI Trends Survey (OFI is Office Furniture Industry), but this is Dunlap’s first survey of suppliers, designed to “measure how suppliers view their customers and to measure certain criteria in the business relationship,” according to his news release.

Completed in May, the survey focused on 15 of the largest office furniture manufacturers in North America. Companies that supply the industry were asked to rate each furniture manufacturer on a scale of 1 to 5 in respect to 10 business activities. A 1 rating is Not Acceptable, with 5 being Excellent. The business activities were Accounting/Finance, Engineering, Information Technology, Manufacturing, Marketing and Product Management, Quality Management, Product Development, Sourcing/Purchasing/Procurement, Top Management, and Overall Experience.

The scores for each furniture manufacturer and each business activity were collected and evaluated into a total score for each manufacturer.

If you want to see how your company did, you’ll have to buy the report from MADA.

Dunlap did reveal some of the winners, however. The manufacturer with the second highest overall score from suppliers was Nucraft, in Comstock Park, just north of Grand Rapids. The third-highest rated manufacturer was Teknion Corp. of Toronto.

First place? Inscape (formerly Office Specialty), about 40 miles north of Toronto. Inscape has annual sales of approximately $90 million.

“Nucraft is pleased to be so well thought of by our supplier partners,” said Michael Fedrigo, VP of operations. He added that “a very high percentage of our supply base comes from local West Michigan suppliers.”

The suppliers were asked which companies they currently supply and which they would like to supply. Steelcase led the list of current customers, whereas Trendway Corp. was the company of most interest to suppliers.

The survey was sent to more than 200 individuals involved with the supply of components, raw materials or services to the office furniture manufacturers, drawn from a database Dunlop said he has collected over the years. He said from 15 to 20 percent of the suppliers completed the surveys.

“I was surprised to see many of the high marks that manufacturers received,” he said. “I had actually expected a little more disgruntlement — which I didn’t see.”

Dunlap said the concept of partnership between manufacturers and their supply base has taken a new direction over the past 10 years or so, and he’s not talking about just the office furniture industry. The former adversarial relationship that used to be the norm has changed, he said.

“There was a time when manufacturers just sought out the lowest price,” said Dunlap. “Lowest price never translates into the lowest cost. We’re in a totally different world today.”

Something for every1

Grand Rapids long has been a hotbed for furniture innovation. Gill Industries might be the next innovator to build on that legacy with its introduction at NeoCon of the every1 seating mechanism. It’s based on the principle of a “virtual pivot” in that it relies on its multi-linkage design that adjusts on an individual basis without the need for spring resistance. It operates by balancing the user’s weight and hip point, thus allowing adaptation to the user’s body weight.

Brad Miller, Gill’s director of advanced development, said the science behind the mechanism is pretty cool.

“The kinematics of the mechanism provides a superb ergonomic ride, with great lower-back support and positioning of the body for users less than 75 pounds up to 300-plus pounds,” he said. Plus, its unique design and patent-pending mechanism is 100 percent recyclable.

Gill hopes to see wide-scale production and incorporation of the every1 mechanism in several of its customers’ seating designs by early 2012. As its name implies, this could be something for everyone.

Parking for a song

Monthly parkers in the city-owned Area 4 lot behind Van Andel Arena will be moved to other facilities in August to make room for the six-night Rock the Rapids concert series.

“We’ll move folks north and get them in,” said Kimberly Miller, parking manager for Parking Services. Parkers will move to ramps north of Fulton Street.

And to help ease any angst that might accompany a move, Dennis Baxter and Dan McCrath — partners in Blue Cap Entertainment, which is staging the series — will give the parkers a free ticket to the concert of their choice. But not every parker: Miller said any Grand Rapids or Kent County employee who parks in the lot won’t receive a free ticket, as there are rules against that sort of thing.

Maybe that could become a new issue for negotiations between the city, the county and their respective unions when contract bargaining time rolls around. Picket or ticket?

Where are we?

Gov. Rick Snyder can be commended for the Pure Michigan Business Connect program, which seeks to form public-private partnerships (mostly private) that inject cash and professional services into startups and growing businesses in Michigan.

Because something needs to be done to raise the state’s public business image.

Area Development, a national site and facility planning magazine, recently published its “100 Leading Locations for 2011,” a sort of roundup of the most desirable places to do business based on 14 national surveys. The magazine used those surveys to determine the “best” cities in which to do business based on the total number of lists on which each city/region appeared.

Austin, Texas, led the way with placements on 10 of the 14 survey lists. Denver and Seattle landed on eight each.

Grand Rapids? That would be a big, fat zero. In fact, the state of Michigan was shut out. No Detroit, no Lansing, no Ann Arbor — no nothing.

Either West Michigan is the best kept secret in the country, or Canada has annexed the entire state and didn’t bother to tell us. And before you say Grand Rapids isn’t well known nationally, test your geography skills with these locales: Lawton, Okla.; Logan, Utah; Opelika, Ala.; and Pascagoula, Miss. All of them landed on at least two lists, including the Milken Institute’s “Best Performing Cities 2010.”

The unpleasant nature of ‘farm to table’

The smell was so bad and so pervasive, it managed to make a story in the regional version of Newhouse News Booth Newspapers. Following the tweets was not enough fun to take one’s mind off everyone’s mini-search for the source of the stench or the headaches brought by it under the scorch of record-setting temperatures.

And so it was welcome news from the West Michigan Environmental Action Council, which posted a link to a story in Great Lakes Echo, Michigan State University’s Knight Center for Environmental journalism:

“A long winter and a wet spring are bringing the perfect storm of manure management to the Great Lakes region, experts say. That’s because manure used as fertilizer on farms combines with water and flows into waterways.”

The waste from animals at large farms is stored over the winter for up to six months before it is spread as fertilizer in the spring, said Dave Drullinger, an environmental quality analyst at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. If it isn’t stored, the manure would run into the water along with the melted snow or rainwater. The long winter and recent extreme rain has farmers worried about running out of storage space, said Drullinger. But the wet conditions prevent applying manure to the fields, he said.

The excessive rains changed the regular planting season, also delaying the spreading of manure, said Scott Piggott, manager of the Agricultural Ecology Department at the Michigan Farm Bureau. Usually planting occurs in April; this year, many Michigan farmers could not get in the fields until June.

Farmers who got the manure out were forced to put it in soils saturated with water, which leads to run-off, said Drullinger. That’s when soil fully saturated with water cannot absorb more and additional water runs off into waterways.

Right now the fields are saturated, said Lynn Henning, who works to promote awareness about water for the Sierra Club of Michigan.

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