In 1912, Peter M. Wege founded the Metal Office Furniture Company in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This company would go on to become used Steelcase furniture. He had worked in the sheet metal and fireproofing industry for some time before starting up his own company. He worked for the Macey Company and had designed fire proof safes and filing cabinets for them. These products also began to be sold by the Metal Office Furniture Company.
Wege had already filed 25 patents before he had founded the Metal Office Furniture Company. The first patent that was filed for the company was for a fireproof wastebasket made from steel that was known as The Victor. The process of bending the steel at right angles meant that the wastebasket was very light and this is one reason why it was so popular. During this time smoking was popular in offices and the use of this bin meant that cigarettes could be discarded with no risk of fire breaking out.
In 1915 the company designed and supplied 200 steel desks for the Custom House Tower, which was Boston’s first skyscraper. These desks were made available for sale to other businesses as well. They also provided office furniture for the Johnson Wax headquarters in 1937 in collaboration with Frank Lloyd Wright. This was a partnership that was to last for two years and is considered to be the birth of the modern workstation.
The name Steelcase was first trademarked in 1921 after it was used in an advertising campaign that promoted the benefits of steel products over wooden ones. The company became officially known as Steelcase Inc. from 1954 onward.
1977 Series 90001
By the late 1960s the company was selling a greater volume of furniture than any of its rivals and it became known as the leader of this industry. During the 1970s they expanded internationally into markets in Europe, North Africa and Asia. The Series 9000 line of furniture was released in 1973 and this soon became the flagship brand for the company. This was also the year they made their biggest ever shipment of furniture to one location, the Sears Tower which had only recently been completed. They furnished 44 floors of the tower and the delivery included more than 43,000 pieces of furniture.
Changes in the economy and the way workplaces operated in the 1980s and 1990s meant that Steelcase also had to adapt. It began to focus on innovation and creativity within the workplace and also began to work more closely with architects and interior designers. This was also an approach they took when it came to the design of their own headquarters. Their current headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michigan was opened in 1983. They also opened their Corporate Development Center in the same city which had ten research laboratories. They stayed in this pyramid shaped building until 2010. They became the majority shareholder in IDEO, a design company, in 1996. The CEO of IDEO, David M. Kelley was named the Vice President of technical innovation and discovery at Steelhouse soon after. In 2007 Steelhouse began to sell IDEO shares back to the managers of the company.
Multiple 15 Desk
Steelcase lost a patent infringement law suit in 1996 that was brought by another furniture company, Haworth Inc. This dispute had lasted over seventeen years but was bought to an end when Steelcase were ordered to pay damages of $211.5 million.
In 1998 Steelcase became a publicly traded company that used the symbol SCS. It began to make use of modern technologies in its products from the early 2000s and it also reorganized its workforce during this time. Steelcase University was opened in 2000 and this became a center where employees could expand their knowledge of the company which helped with their development. Their plant in Caledonia which produced wood furniture became the first plant to be given a LEED certification in 2001. In the following year they created the BlueSpace smart office prototype in partnership with IBM. LearnLabs were launched in 2010 and these were models that could be used in higher education which were designed alongside IDEO.
Steelcase is publicly traded and is the largest manufacturer of office furniture in the world. Its headquarters are in Grand Rapids, Michigan but it operates in 80 locations around the world and employs 11,000 people. Global Business Centers are located in Malaysia, Mexico and Romania and these centers provide support to dealerships and offices that are located in these countries. They have showrooms that are named WorkLife Centers in North and South America, Europe, Asia and Australasia. Manufacturing facilities of the company can be found in the Middle East, Asia, Europe and North America.
As well as designing and producing furniture, Steelcase also produce textiles, furniture systems, wall coverings and architectural products. All of these products are either sold online or via 800 dealerships that are located all around the world.
The current CEO of the company is James Keane who has been in charge since 2014. In this year its revenue was $3 billion which has increased from $2.9 billion in the previous year. It was ranked 753 in the Fortune 1000 list that was compiled in 2014.