Guest Column

Collective collaboration key to robust office furniture economy

May 10, 2019
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The global furniture industry, like many others, has endured its share of ebbs and flows throughout the years. A recent analysis by Zion Market Research predicts slow and steady growth upward of 5% between 2018 and 2024. However, one thing remains certain: A strong global furniture industry is good for all members of the industry, from retailers and manufacturers to the suppliers of raw material and components.

West Michigan, Grand Rapids in particular, knows this well as its history in furniture manufacturing dates to the early 19th century. Currently, we have the top three global leaders in the commercial furniture industry — Haworth Inc. of Holland, Herman Miller Inc. of Zeeland and Steelcase Inc. of Grand Rapids — right here in our backyard. Look beneath the surface, and you uncover scores of suppliers who support them, playing a key role in the development of best-in-class products and, not to be overlooked, tens of thousands of jobs.

Seamless and unseen

The inside view of the industry is not unlike the very furniture being designed today. To the naked eye, a desk or chair may appear to be just that. However, multiple internal components often have been incorporated to support the design, functionality and ultimate adjustability of each piece. For adjustable furniture — our subcategory expertise — these unseen components are essentially the “brains” of the furniture.

This “hidden” niche is where LOGICDATA has its stronghold, designing and developing the unseen but powerfully robust and precise software and components that provide smooth and seamless motion. Headquartered in Austria, the company has been in the Grand Rapids area since 2011, supplying adjustable and smart componentry to the large West Michigan furniture manufacturers, as well as many companies across the county. We are in the midst of expanding our office to manage our current demand and effectively position ourselves for predicted future growth, as forecasted by the manufacturers we supply.

Wellness, productivity and efficiencies

Motion-based, adjustable furniture has become one of the fastest-growing categories as employers recognize its extraordinary health and ergonomic benefits. This increased interest has led to an influx of self-rising desks and tables and other furniture designed to promote movement.

The adjustable concept also serves to support a more flexible shared workspace. As employers navigate the rising costs of office real estate, many are looking to optimize their footprint with a combination of shared space and the flexibility for some off-site work, among other ideas. Clustering and benching of work surfaces are increasingly common, as they afford a better use of space and foster collaboration.

Market growth a collective ‘win’

Collaboration, a hallmark of the industry, has never been more important than today. It is critical that each segment of the commercial furniture industry continues to not only meet consumers where they are, but to identify and drive the trends to develop innovative, ergonomic solutions to also meet them where they are going.

This global market growth, be it fast or slow, is a collective win, a “ripple effect” traveling to all ends of the office furniture industry. For this industry, it is accurate to say, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. All hands are needed on deck to ensure a robust office furniture economy.

This industry collaboration includes organizations like the BIFMA, the trade association for business and institutional furniture manufacturers, together raising the bar for state-of-the-art technological advancements in office furniture.

And now the momentum is in full swing, as members of the global office furniture industry are ready to bring their best to shine in Chicago at the 51st annual NeoCon, ushering the next iteration of innovation at the commercial design industry’s leading tradeshow, held at the Merchandise Mart on June 10-12.

Stefan Knappitsch is president of LOGICDATA North America in Grand Rapids. Headquartered in Austria, LOGICDATA is a global leader in the development of mechatronic system solutions for adjustable furniture for both home and office. Learn more at www.logicdata.net.

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