Established as the Metal Office Furniture Company, its very first patent was for a metal wastebasket, intended as a safety measure for office workers – in crowded cities where fires spread quickly, replacing wicker with steel was a lifesaving innovation.
Founders Peter M Wege, Walter D Idema and David D Hunting built the business in Grand Rapids, Michigan – a city then known as ‘The Furniture City’ because of its many wood furniture manufacturers.
By 1919, the company began to establish its dealer network, making desks, cabinets and other products available nationwide. Officially known as Steelcase Inc. from 1954, the company grew globally and executed the largest single shipment in the industry in 1973, providing over 400 truckloads of furniture for Chicago’s Sears Tower. Today, Steelcase is the number one furniture manufacturer globally, boasting brands such as Coalesse, Designtex and our very own Orangebox in its portfolio.
In 2017, Steelcase opened its new Learning + Innovation Centre in the heart of Munich, capping a multi-year planning effort and bringing together employees from across the region in an amazing 14,400 sq m space designed to promote learning and spark innovation.
As organisations recognise the importance of face-to-face interactions and shift back to centrally located business hubs, Steelcase opened this new facility to propel growth within its own organisation – and to give customers a first-hand look at how space can impact work.
This development comes at a time when leaders and organisations worldwide are focused on staying ahead in a disruptive economy. To stay competitive and effectively innovate, organisations must become more agile and speed up the flow of information and cycles of learning to take risks and make better, faster decisions.
‘Creative work and innovation happens when trust is built. So, we designed a place where people could come together from all over Europe to build relationships, learn, fail and grow together,’ says Jim Keane, President and CEO of Steelcase. ‘We believe this is central to innovation, but it’s not just for us – it’s for our customers too. It gives them a place to experience real work as it’s happening and to see how space can support and accelerate business results.’
The centre brings together over 230 employees representing 25 different nationalities from groups previously dispersed throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA). Munich’s geographic centrality, superb infrastructure, transportation capabilities and thriving design scene contributed to the site selection, enabling Steelcase to create a primary space connecting people in pursuit of learning and innovation.