Toronto is beautiful in the fall.
During the late days of summer and the early fall, Toronto is beautiful. Recently, a few Marathon Building Environments team members had the opportunity to travel to Toronto and visit one of the main vendors, Global (aka The Global Furniture Group). The Global Furniture Group’s origins date back to 1966, when it was founded with the basic objective of manufacturing well-made office furniture at affordable prices. That mission continues today through a network of vertically integrated suppliers, manufacturers, marketers and distributors. Global offers a very broad range of office products and services designed to meet the needs of today’s changing workplace. Their diverse workforce is made up of employees who come from many countries, and who take pride in making quality products that are sold throughout the world. While at Global, we visited their World Headquarters, their fabric sewing facility, their seating facility and test lab, their Recycling building (which is incredible) and all of their showrooms within the Headquarters, we even got to go to a Toronto Blue jays baseball game!.
Our Tour Guides, led by Tom Jones (St. Louis/Columbia Sales Rep) and Jill Alberico (Toronto Training Manager) were outstanding!
Below are pictures and a brief synopsis of each department we visited. Each section is written by a different Marathon Team Members and their own perspective of that Department.
- Cut and Sew facility – Samantha Boman – Marathon Designer
- Seating Facility – Jessica Chester – Marathon Designer
- Furniture Testing Lab – Rachel Molnar – Marathon Designer
- Filing Facility – Jeremy Henry – Marathon Furniture Sales
- The Recycling Center – Sean Zullo – Marathon Furniture Sales
- Healthcare Furniture – Samantha Boman – Marathon Designer
Cut & Sew Facility:
We started our tour at Global Headquarters in Toronto in their Cut and Sew factory. This is where all of the graded in and COM (customer’s own material) fabrics are brought to be cut and sewn for upholstered pieces. A number of technological advances were used to streamline the manufacturing PROcess (pronounced like a true Canadian), including computerized shears which calculated how to get the most use out of a single piece of fabric. Once fabric was cut, it traveled throughout the factory on an assembly line until it reached the best seamstress for that particular order. During this stage in production is when, finite details such as sealed seams, would be implemented. These details would later ensure product success for their intended environment. For instance, sealed seams includes the sealing of the back of a seam with a specially designed tape to reduce the likelihood of seams opening. This also provides additional protection against moisture seepage and prevents insects from entering the product through the stich holes and seams, which is essential in the healthcare sphere.
“Being a designer, I was infatuated with the amount and variety of fabric being stored and prepared at this facility. I loved watching how quickly and efficiently every seamstress was able to complete a task. The number of sewing machines in operation was truly amazing. Not to mention the smell of the leather room. (Holy cow!) Not only was it cool to see how the machines determined how to get the most out of each piece of fabric, but all of the scrap fabric was saved and then recycled as well!” – Samantha Boman, Interior Designer & Account Manager
With its history being rooted in the belief that an office chair should be accessible to the masses, and a reputation for being the “cheap and cheerful chair company” a visit to the Global Seating Factory seemed in order. The tour began much as could be expected, with the production line of chair backs, injected molded through huge machines and sent on down the line to receive foam and fabric. Chair frame parts, hanging from above, and moving on a conveyor from station to station, receiving all essential parts as it progressed. Our first respite was within the hall of fabrics, COM’s all on one side, and standard program offering on the other. An interest grabber for the designer’s heart for sure! Here we learned all about the storage and receipt of fabrics, order lead times, and about how MOM’s are the most important! Moving through the factory, the dedication of each worker was truly humbling, not a chair moves through the production line without a personal touch by at least a dozen workers, each taking pride in their small contribution. Hand scraping the edges of over flow of poly chair backs, even taking a hard line in the back handle hold to ensure every edge that a customer touches is smooth. Or inlaying a metal connection within a plastic chair back so that when the frame is connected the result is an extremely strong, metal to metal connection, ensuring that the chair out-performs its required duty. We dipped our hands into huge boxes full of $30,000 worth of small raw poly material, and dug through giant boxes of leather remnants. There are so many steps that provide the details we as designers and consumers have come to expect from a chair. And so many different styles of chairs: Lounge, Task, Side, Conference, Collaborative, Stools, stacking, not stacking, upholstered, plastic back…….chairs, each ordered to our exact specifications. And we receive them all, in perfect condition, wrapped snugly in a plastic wrapped box, just as if they had always been that way.
Jessica Chester, Interior Designer & Account Manager
Global Furniture Testing Lab:
Why is testing necessary for commercial furniture?
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) identifies organizations qualified to create and maintain standard guidelines for the business sector, thereby ensuring the safety and health of consumers. Among the accredited establishments is the Business & Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA) that outlines safety and performance benchmarks for the commercial furniture industry. Representatives from a number of the most prominent manufacturers are directly involved with BIFMA as members of the board of directors, including Joel Feldberg, President and CEO of The Global Furniture Group. While these standards are voluntary, an ANSI/BIFMA certification indicates that the product has passed extensive testing for minimum safety, durability, and sustainability requirements.
The entire Global product line is tested to meet or exceed ANSI/BIFMA guidelines, along with other international rating systems. It was incredible to see how much thought, care, and ingenuity went into constructing the testing equipment. While the standards are outlined, how to go about having product tested is left to each testing facility. The manager of the lab was excited to share how he and his team developed different solutions for implementing the various types of testing required for each product. Each piece of testing equipment was designed and built at this facility, by the team alone.
“It was fascinating to see this lab’s solutions as well as see multiple types of testing in progress while visiting this facility. Knowing how much effort is put forth during testing as well as how closely Global abides by the voluntary guidelines, to ensure a safe and reliable product has only increased my confidence in the quality of Global manufacturing.”
Rachel Molnar, Interior Design Badass
Recently several members of the Marathon Building Environments team had the unique opportunity to tour the Global Furniture Group steel manufacturing plant. In this factory, they produce steel vertical files, lateral files, storage cabinets, bookcases and desks. In addition, they produce special request steel furniture for the office on an as needed basis. The chance to see how these were made was a marvel of modern manufacturing technique indeed! Being able to see how a multi ton roll of steel was rolled out, precision laser cut and molded into a piece of furniture was a sight to behold. Once the larger pieces were cut and folded into what could be discernible as a future finished product we were able to see how even the smallest pieces were uniformly cut and formed to create handles, drawer fronts and drawer slides that would each then be attached to the product. Once assembled the nearly completed products were placed on an overhead conveyor that would take them to a precision paint facility to finish it off in the desired color. At each point along the way, the items were checked for quality and proper fit. At one end of the factory was a raw material and at the other were a multitude of finished products ready for a lifetime of use.
Jeremy Henry, Account Executive – Furniture
The Global Recycling Center:
Long before it was fashionable, RT Plastics and Global Furniture partnered to help customers reduce their environmental impact – as well as their costs – through the sustainable manufacturing of high quality injection molded plastics from recycled materials. These materials consist of wood remnants, defective plastic products, blue box recycling (U.S based materials) and water bottle caps. The opportunity to see this step by step process initiated by a multi-national mass manufacturer increased our understanding and appreciation for products in which they produced. During our tour of the Global Furniture Group campus and manufacturing plants, it was made apparent the, “LAW,” was to keep the planet in mind. Global employees are encouraged to think about Land, Air, and Water sustainability during the manufacturing process. In today’s throwaway society, consumers continue to create deeply embedded carbon foot prints without a notion of, “how to reduce and sustainably impact the planet.”
“It was educational and cognitively stimulating to see such a large manufacturer have zero percent waste to landfill. For a company of over 4.000 employees, to be able to say that they have diverted eleven tons of waste going to landfill is truly awe inspiring.”
Sean Zullo, Account Executive – Furniture
In addition to producing office furniture, Global offers an extensive healthcare product line including furniture for waiting rooms, patient rooms, extended care, and senior living facilities. These products are often considered heavy duty areas, meaning they are designed for multiple shift environments (24 hours a day/7 days a week) and are weight tested up to 350 pounds or even 500 pounds depending. Multiple products in this line are constructed of 100% field replaceable parts so that facility maintenance teams can easily repair items without completely removing them from patient use. Global’s consistent consideration for the patient as well as the care giver can be understood in the design, engineering, and construction in the products developed for the healthcare market. They use features such as moisture barrier’s, bed bug resistance, sealed seams, contraband proof, and additional weight to ensure the safety of those individuals that would be using the products regularly.
“I found it really heartwarming that Global took such a care and interest in individuals that share all perspectives of the healthcare environment. Many times, those who are in these spaces are in a vulnerable state and it is extremely important that the furniture in these areas supports not only comfort for the patient, but ease of maintenance and use for the staff.”
Samantha Boman, Interior Designer & Account Manager