Herman Miller Redefines The Box

June 6, 2008
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CHICAGO — Herman Miller is hoping to make an impact at this year’s NeoCon through three new products.

The first new product is not furniture, but a technology called Space Utilization Service that will help determine how an office space is used. Small black boxes, called motes, are strategically placed throughout a room. The motes detect vibrations and send a signal out every 10 minutes to a receiver, which aggregates the data and sends it to Herman Miller to be analyzed. In the past, space occupancy has been measured by “bed checks,” where a person walks through an office at designated times during the day, and checks to see which seats are filled and which are not.

“This is measuring continuously and then reports every 10 minutes,” said Todd A. Thompson, advanced development manager with Herman Miller. “With the bed check version, it was four times a day, so this is much more accurate.”

Once the data is analyzed, Herman Miller helps point out which spaces are being well used and which are not, in hopes of better utilizing available space. In some cases, the information can help a company determine if it needs to add more square footage, or perhaps cut some and save on real estate costs.

Herman Miller’s second product to debut at NeoCon is Nala, a chair that falls into the company’s Herman Miller for Healthcare line. Nala is designed for clinical use, with safety as a main emphasis — evident through Nala’s features. One of the first features noted when sitting in the chair is that it strategically places a patient’s feet firmly on the floor. The armrests fold up to allow the patient to get in and out of the chair more easily. The armrests have a lever — easily pressed for a patient with arthritis or crippled hands — that allows the back of the chair to recline without taking the patient’s feet off the floor. The speed the chair reclines and springs back again is set to be patient-friendly as are the materials.

Kent Gaward, vice president of marketing and project services for Herman Miller, said Nala would be used in settings such as a maternity room, or possibly home care or other areas of extended care.

Teneo is the third product that Herman Miller is showcasing at NeoCon. Teneo is a filing and storage line designed by Ayse Birsel and Bibi Seck, who work with Hewlett Packard, Target and Renault in addition to Herman Miller. The two said their goal was to deconstruct the “metal box” and reconstruct a new storage solution.

The Teneo line includes several products: bookshelves, easels, carts and more. Adaptability was a strong focus when creating the Teneo line, as it is designed to cross over into multiple markets and meld with some of the company’s other lines. Teneo also demonstrates its adaptability by creating 80 complete products out of 20 components, the main component being anodized aluminum rings that create the frames for each product. Some ornamentation options such as backing can be changed in and out as the consumer desires.

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