By night, Jasper is like any other small town, quiet and seemingly insignificant to outsiders. By day, this city of 15,000 residents becomes a bustling metropolis that nearly doubles with its workday population, some traveling 60-plus miles from as far as Evansville and Owensboro, Ky.
Along with Huntingburg and Ferdinand, Jasper sits in the heart of Dubois County, home to a bevy of large furniture corporations all promising opportunity and boasting international clientele to prove it.
Among those corporations — including Best Chair, OFS Brands, Jasper Chair Co., MasterBrand Cabinets, Mobel, Jasper Group Brands, DMI Office Furniture, Jofco, and Kimball International — National Office Furniture takes the crown as casegoods manufacturer of the year.
A mega furniture seller and electronic manufacturer, Kimball International started in 1950 as The Jasper Corp., and has since grown into an international company with businesses across the world and more than 13 manufacturing facilities in the U.S. The $1.2 billion publicly-traded company’s furniture segment has evolved into a family of brand names, including Kimball Office, Kimball Hospitality, and National Office Furniture. National started in 1980, when Kimball identified a need in the marketplace for stylishly affordable office furniture at faster lead times.
“Those founding fundamentals are still alive and well in our organization today,” says general manager Kevin McCoy. “We need speed in order to market and we need to be affordable with the products we put in the market place, but we’ve also brought other aspects into our business. We’ve brought much better design focus and incorporated quality, reliability, and sustainability into every single thing we do.”
Led by a knowledgeable parent company, National has grown significantly. The company encompasses four total manufacturing facilities located in Jasper, Santa Claus, Ind., Fordsville, Ky., and Danville, Ky., and seven showrooms across North America in Jasper, Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York City, Dallas, Orange County, Calif., and Toronto, Canada. Focused on efficiency, National has put great effort into making each of its facilities more environmentally sound. In the past five years, it has invested more than $8 million into its Santa Claus location, a 324,320-square-foot warehouse producing wood and laminate furniture. From new low-flow water fixtures and fittings in restrooms — which have reduced water usage by 34 percent — to new furniture products consisting of more than 82 percent recycled content, the facility has experienced quite the upgrade. A standard on all of National’s veneer casegoods and tables, IntegraClear, a water-based wood finish cured via ultraviolet light, offers exceptional clarity and durability in the company’s products.
Even the lighting throughout the building has been evaluated, says Rob Hamilton, program manager at the Santa Claus facility. Inside the plant’s sample shop room, all of the lights are uniform and consistent. “We have no more or no less than we need,” says Hamilton. By the end of the year, the entire facility is scheduled to receive all new general light fixtures with T8 Philips fluorescent bulbs, which will increase lamp life from 12,000 hours to 36,000 hours. The upgrade will ultimately save the plant $56,000 annually. This extra effort hasn’t gone without reward. In July, the Santa Claus facility was awarded LEED certification for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance Silver by the U.S. Green Building Council. The certification was National’s seventh LEED green building rating and marks the first LEED-certified office furniture manufacturing facility in Indiana.
The most aesthetically state of the art of the facilities is the showroom. Located across the street from National’s headquarters, inside the 35,500-square-foot Kimball International LEED-certified corporate showroom, is a 3,981-square-foot space dedicated only to National Office Furniture products. Set up as model offices, creative displays of furniture demonstrate the combination of functionality and artistic flare in each of the company’s brands. Although the company’s vertical market segments focus on the industries of health care, finance, education, and government, National’s products fit nearly any type of office environment. Jiminy, one of the company’s most versatile brands, offers mobile chairs with flexing mesh backs, arm depth adjustment, and nesting capability for easy storage. It coordinates well with WaveWorks Flip/Nest tables, which include one-touch release lever flips and mobile legs angled for nesting. Together, the brand partners create a productive setting for company training spaces, education environments, and meeting facilities.
When creating each of its product lines, National’s approach is usability for all. “One thing we take into consideration when designing a new product is its appeal to all generations,” says Kourtney Smith, National’s vice president of marketing. “We have an organization that is able to handle change well and be adaptable.” Further, every chair leg, table surface, and armrest is tested in an impressive testing center located inside Kimball’s corporate showroom. All furniture items must meet the rigid durability standards of the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association, the American National Standards Institute, and the International Safe Transit Association.
More than products, National’s focus is on the people. In 2009, the company introduced its Gift of Inspiration program, which annually gifts two $25,000 checks to health care and education environments. “The Gift of Inspiration was designed during the depths of the recession, when there were a lot of colleges, universities, and health care facilities struggling with funding,” says McCoy. “These are the areas we have sold into for years. They have been great growth engines for us, so we decided we wanted to give back to the environments that have supported us so well.” The gifts are awarded with no strings attached — no rules or guidelines to limit the use of the money. So far, National has presented checks to seven Gift of Inspiration winners, who are randomly chosen through a drawing. This year’s winner for health care was the Howard Phillips Center for Children & Families in Orlando, Fla., and Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, took home the gold for education.
Other social actions the company is involved with include local charity road races, Relay For Life, and Soles4Souls, a shoe charity that donates shoes to adults and children in need. National donated more than 1,100 pairs of shoes to the nonprofit in 2011. “A lot of companies in our industry focus on product. When you change that to people, it can really change your approach to the marketplace,” says McCoy. “It changes how you develop your products, how you do your processes and programs, and it can give you a different focus.”
When National was named Manufacturer of the Year for Casegoods by the Office Furniture Dealers Alliance in Sept., the company achieved the highest ratings from OFDA’s 2012 Dealer Choice Survey, which measures key performance metrics in training, product lines, service and support, sales and marketing, management, and technology. “Every time someone interacts with a customer we are creating an experience,” says McCoy. “We want that to be the most positive experience it can be. Ease of doing business is a big part of who we are.”
Check out National Office Furniture on Pinterest and Facebook, or visit www.nationalofficefurniture.com for more information on the company.