Economic Development, Manufacturing, and Technology

Furniture lab moves to West Michigan

September 8, 2015
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Advanced Furniture Testing
Advanced Furniture Testing applies experience and technology to help it customers obtain the compliance needed to sell their products. Photo via furnituretest.com

A global leader in furniture safety testing, inspection, certification, auditing and validation has opened its North American Furniture Center for Excellence in West Michigan to provide services more quickly to the area’s office and commercial furniture industry.

Advanced Furniture Testing, a UL (Underwriters Laboratories) company located at 3480 Windquest Drive in Holland, will now offer UL Mark for Safety Certification at its Holland location, along with other performance and mechanical testing.

UL previously housed the majority of its furniture division and services at its North American headquarters in Northbrook, Illinois.

“(Now) the lion’s share of our expertise is in Holland,” said Doug Woodward, UL Furniture Division leader, North America, and founder of Advanced Furniture Testing.

Advanced Furniture Testing has 18 employees working out of the Holland office, including engineers, marketing personnel and sales people. Prior to the furniture division relocation the office housed 11 staff members.

“About two and a half years ago UL decided to form a furniture division and really focus on the customer and provide customers more services than we had before,” said Sarah Partridge, marketing manager of UL’s Furniture Division. “As part of that we acquired Advanced Furniture Testing, and are building this Center for Excellence in Michigan to provide a full suite of services to customers here.”

To accommodate the additional workers and capabilities, UL completed a redesign of its Holland facility in July. The company held a ribbon cutting at the center last week.

The redesigned layout included changes to the 20,000-square-foot facility that allowed for more office space and made room for the additional equipment needed for increased testing services.

With its North American Center for Furniture Excellence now located in Holland, office and commercial furniture manufacturers, designers and suppliers can expect quicker testing and report turnaround times.

“Timing is critical to furniture manufacturers, who are quickly innovating and launching new products to meet market demands,” said Alberto Uggetti, vice president and general manager of UL’s Furniture Division. “More styles of furniture are becoming power-enabled, so the UL Safety Certification is in more demand than ever before. Having a facility in the heart of the U.S.’s furniture industry is critical to meeting our customers’ needs and timing.”

The UL Mark is the single most accepted certification mark in the United States, appearing on 22 billion products annually, UL reported.

UL and Advanced Furniture Testing certify more than 120 furniture products a year for UL Safety Certification, and conduct more than 700 performance tests a year.

“When you think of the modern office environment, you’ve got plugs, electrical outlets and speakers in conference tables and panel systems (commonly known as cubicles), fabrics, electrical cabling, all those things can pose safety risk if the cords are exposed,” Partridge said. “That is why people ask for the UL Mark. It demonstrates that their products comply with guidelines on how these things should be built and manufactured to be safe.”

The Holland lab is approved to certify products to the following standards: UL 65 for wired cabinets, ULL 962 for household and commercial furnishings, UL 1286 for office furnishings and UL 2040 for folding rollaway tables. The lab also is approved to certify to CSA C22.2 No. 12 for portable luminaries, CSA C22.2 No. 68 for motor operated appliances and CSA C22.2 No. 203 for manufactured wiring systems.

The lab also provides testing for the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association, or BIFMA, and the Government Services Administration.

UL does not expect to do any hiring directly related to opening the Center for Furniture Excellence in Holland, but Partridge said the organization is always advancing with the industry and often adds people with expertise needed to meet demand.

In addition to Holland, UL has furniture testing and certification laboratories in China and Italy, as well as three other U.S. locations.

UL’s other furniture locations in the United States include Northbrook, where flammability testing is performed, a Jasper, Indiana, facility for performance and durability testing, and a Marietta, Georgia, location where chemical emissions testing and GREENGUARD Certification are performed.

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