Steelcase is a United States-based furniture company founded in 1912 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The company produces office furniture, architectural and technology products for office environments and the education, health care and retail industries. It is the largest office furniture manufacturer in the world. It has facilities, offices, and factories in the Americas, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Australia and Africa.
Steelcase was founded as the Metal Office Furniture Company in 1912 by Peter M. Wege in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Wege was a veteran of the sheet metal and fireproofing industry and had filed approximately 25 patents prior to starting the company. The Metal Office Furniture Company's first products included fireproof metal safes and four-drawer filing cabinets, which Wege invented and manufactured for the Macey Company.
In 1914, the company received its first product patent for "The Victor," a fireproof steel wastebasket. The Victor gained popularity due to its light weight—achieved through a patented process of bending flat steel at right angles to create boxes—and its ability to prevent fires at a time when smoking was common indoors, particularly in the workplace. In 1915, the company began manufacturing and distributing steel desks after designing and producing 200 for Boston's first skyscraper, the Custom House Tower. In 1937, the company collaborated with Frank Lloyd Wright on office furniture for the Johnson Wax Headquarters. The partnership lasted two years and resulted in some of the first modern workstations.
The name Steelcase was a result of an advertising campaign to promote metal office furniture over wood and was trademarked in 1921. The company officially changed its name to Steelcase, Inc. in 1954.
The company became known as the leader of the furniture industry in the late 1960s due to the volume of its sales. Steelcase expanded into new markets during the 1970s, including Asia, Europe, and North Africa. In 1973, the company debuted the Series 9000 furniture line, an office system that became a best seller and the company's flagship brand. That same year, the company delivered the largest single furniture shipment to the then-new Sears Tower. The delivery included 43,565 pieces of furniture and furnished 44 floors.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Steelcase shifted its approach to designing and creating products in response to changes in the workplace and economy. The company also focused on creativity and internal innovation by working closely with architects and interior designers to develop products as well the company's own workspace in Grand Rapids. The company's current headquarters were built in 1983 on 901 44th St. SE in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In 1989, Steelcase opened the pyramid-shaped Steelcase Inc. Corporate Development Center. The center contained ten research laboratories and workspaces meant to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration on product development. Steelcase vacated the Pyramid in 2010, and as of 2015 is it still empty. In 1996, Steelcase became the majority stakeholder in design firm IDEO and the firm's CEO, David M. Kelley, became Steelcase's vice president of technical discovery and innovation. Steelcase sold its shares back to IDEO's managers starting in 2007.
In 1996, Steelcase was found at fault in a patent infringement suit brought against them by Haworth, Inc., another furniture company. Steelcase was ordered to pay $211.5 million in damages and interest, thus ending a 17-year dispute with Haworth.
Steelcase became a publicly traded company in 1998 under the symbol SCS. During the 2000s, Steelcase reorganized its workforce and began integrating modern technologies in its products. In 2000, the company opened Steelcase University, a center for ongoing employee development and learning. Steelcase's wood furniture plant in Caledonia, MI earned LEED certification in 2001, becoming the first plant to receive the certification. In 2002, Steelcase partnered with IBM to create BlueSpace, a "smart office" prototype designed using new office technologies. In 2010, Steelcase and IDEO launched new models for higher education classrooms called LearnLabs.
Steelcase is a publicly traded furniture manufacturer headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is the largest office furniture manufacturer in the world. The company has approximately 80 locations and 11,000 employees worldwide. Its locations include Global Business Centers in Mexico, Malaysia, and Romania that provide support to local Steelcase dealerships and offices; showrooms called WorkLife Centers across the United States, Europe, and Asia, and in Toronto, Mexico City, Sydney, Melbourne, and Dubai; and manufacturing facilities in North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia.
The company designs and produces furniture, furniture systems, architectural products, textiles, wall surfaces, and ergonomic and technology tools for workspaces, education, and health care. Its products are sold online and through approximately 800 dealer locations. The company also offers workplace consulting services.
James Keane has served as CEO and president of the company since March 2014. The company's revenue equaled US$3 billion in 2014, an increase from $2.9 billion in 2013. Steelcase ranked 753 on the Fortune 1000 list in 2014.
The three main brands of Steelcase Inc. are Steelcase, Coalesse, and turnstone. The company also has several other brands and subsidiaries, including Designtex, PolyVision, and Steelcase Health and Education.
Steelcase acquired Designtex in 1988. Designtex offers interior textiles and upholstery. The company established its office accessories brand, Details, in 1990. In 1993, the company launched Turnstone, a line of furniture designed for small businesses and home offices. PolyVision was acquired in 2001 and makes light-weight ceramic steel surfaces used for writing, projection, architecture, and interiors. In 2006, Nurture was founded to create products for the health care industry, including furniture and interiors for waiting rooms, offices, and clinics. The brand became Steelcase Health in 2014. Steelcase merged three of its subsidiaries, Brayton International, Metro Furniture and Vecta to form Coalesse in 2008. Coalesse products are meant for what the company calls "live/work” spaces, a result of the frequent overlap of home and office in modern working habits.
In 1985, Steelcase purchased the Meyer May House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and restored it, opening it to the public in 1987. A corporate art program has resulted in a collection including pieces by Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol and Dale Chihuly.
The company employs a research group called WorkSpace Futures to study workplace trends. In 2010, Steelcase underwent a three-year project to update its Grand Rapids headquarters to promote employee productivity and employee well-being, including redesigning a cafeteria into an all-purpose work environment that provides food service and space for meetings, socializing, and independent work.
Steelcase's sustainability efforts have included reducing packaging, using regional facilities to reduce shipping distance, cutting greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption, and a goal to reduce its environmental footprint by 25 percent by 2020. As of 2012, Steelcase had reduced its waste by 80 percent, greenhouse gas emissions by 37 percent and water consumption by 54 percent since 2006. According to the company's WorkFutures group, the company also analyzes its supply chain and materials chemistry to determine product sustainability. As of 2014, the company leads its industry in Cradle to Cradle-certified products. In 2016, Steelcase employees volunteered 38,913 hours and the Steelcase Foundation donated more than US$5.7 million.
Steelcase's most noteworthy products include "The Victor" wastebasket, a patented steel fireproof container released in 1914. The Victor became a top seller for the recently founded company and was eventually expanded into a line of products. The company released Multiple 15 desks in 1946, which introduced standardized desk sizing and became a universal industry standard. Series 9000 was released in 1973 and became Steelcase's most popular line of office systems. The Leap chair, introduced in 1999, sold 5,000 units a week during its first year and became the company's most popular release. The ergonomic office chair was designed with eight adjustable areas for users to control, including chair height, armrest positioning, lumbar support, seat depth, and back positioning. The chair was developed over four years, cost $35 million to design, and resulted in 11 academic studies and 23 patents. The company released the Gesture chair in 2013, which is designed to support the way workers naturally sit.
Steelcase was named among Fortune's most admired Home Equipment and Furnishings companies in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. The company won the Editors' Choice award at the 2014 NeoCon product competition for "Quiet Spaces," a series of workspaces designed for introverts and a collaboration with Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. In addition, Steelcase's SOTO II Worktools won a Silver Award in the Office Accessories category.