Steelcase is a publicly traded furniture manufacturer headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It is the largest office furniture manufacturer in the world and operates from 80 global locations and employs 11,000 people worldwide.
The Steelcase Story
Steelcase was founded as the Metal Office Furniture Company in 1912 by Peter M. Wege in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Founders Peter M. Wege, Walter D. Idema and David D. Hunting built the business in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which was nicknamed “The Furniture City” because of its many wood furniture manufacturers.
Ironically despite its name, the Metal Office Furniture Company was dependant on this pool of skilled designers and wood workers to get it up and running.
Wege was a veteran of the sheet metal and fireproofing industry and had filed approximately 25 patents prior to starting the company. The 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. It was a revolutionary breakthrough for its time, for both being light and lifesaving.
This light weight was achieved through a patented process of bending flat steel at right angles to create thin, sturdy boxes without the additional weight of a supporting structure. In addition, because the Victor was metal rather than wicker, it was able to prevent fires at a time when smoking was common indoors, particularly in the workplace.
In 1915, the company expanded its range and began manufacturing and distributing steel desks. Its first large order being for the Custom House Tower, Boston’s first skyscraper. The name Steelcase originated as a result of an advertising campaign to promote metal office furniture over wood and was trademarked by the company in 1921. The company though waited over three decades before officially changing its name to Steelcase, Inc. in 1954.
In 1973, Steelcase Inc, delivered the largest single furniture shipment ever to the then-new Sears Tower in Chicago. The delivery included 43,565 pieces of furniture and furnished 44 floors and took over 200 lorry loads to deliver.
Steelcase Products Today
The company has come a long way from its ‘metal waste basket’ and integrated desk solution routes, and currently designs and produces furniture, furniture systems, architectural products, textiles, wall surfaces, and ergonomic and technology tools for workspaces, education, and health care, across a number of brands.