Haworth (company)

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Haworth Inc.
Industry Office furniture
  • Modern Products
  • Modern Partitions
Founded Holland, Michigan, United States (1948 (1948))
Founder Gerrard Wendell "G. W." Haworth
Headquarters Holland, Michigan, United States
Number of locations
Area served
Key people
Matthew R. Haworth (Chairman), Franco Bianchi (President & CEO)
  • Reside Desking
  • Improv chair
  • Lim lighting
  • Power Base
  • TecCrete
Revenue US$ 2.04 Billion (2018)
Number of employees
7,500 (2018)
  • North America
  • Europe
  • Asia/Pacific
Website haworth.com
Footnotes / references

Haworth Inc. designs and manufactures adaptable workspaces, including movable walls, systems furniture, seating, storage and wood casegoods. Founded in 1948 by G. W. Haworth, Haworth is a privately held, family-owned corporation headquartered in Holland, Michigan, United States. Haworth serves markets in more than 120 countries through a global network of 650 dealers.[2] In 2017, Haworth's worldwide sales were US$2.04 billion.[3] Haworth employs nearly 7,500 people worldwide[4] in 20 wholly owned factories and 55 sales offices.


1940s-70s: Hobby to Business:

During the 1940s, while teaching Industrial Arts at Holland High School, G.W. Haworth started a woodworking shop as a hobby in his garage. He hoped to make extra income for his children's future college education by making special-order wood products to sell.[5] As his reputation and orders grew, he expanded to a 4,800-square-foot plant in Holland, Michigan, and decided to turn his sideline into a full-time business. Unable to secure a bank loan, he borrowed $10,000 from his parents' life savings to launch his company, Modern Products, in 1948.[6] “The money that started the business was earned the hard way,” Chairman Emeritus Dick Haworth said. “Grandpa went from farm to farm selling Watkins cosmetics and spices; that’s where the money came from. I’m particularly proud of that. It’s a great foundation for a business.”[7] A big contract changed the course of the business in the 1950s. In 1951, a freelance salesman pitched G.W. a sketch of some proposed bank-type partitions for the United Auto Workers headquarters in Detroit. The company won the contract to manufacture the floor-to-ceiling movable walls. [8]In 1954, the focus of Modern Products shifted toward office environments, in response to the development of modular office partitions. To reflect this new focus, the company changed its name to Modern Partitions[1] By 1956, the business had annual revenues of $472,000 and a workforce of 50 employees, whom G.W. called “members.” In 1961, G.W.’s teenage son, Dick Haworth, began working at the family business, sweeping floors and operating plant machinery. By 1964, he was an assistant sales manager, and within two years he was promoted to vice president for research and development. When he left in 1966 to serve in the U.S. Army, the company had 90 employees and annual sales of $2 million. When Dick returned from his military service in 1969, he assumed responsibility for manufacturing and new product development. His goal was to produce a new type of office furniture — the office module system.[9] “My father ended up going to a hardware store, getting a lot of bits and pieces and dumping them on a table — and inventing the prewired partition. Right as he developed it, the personal computer came to the office, and we boomed!” said Chairman Matthew Haworth, Dick's son.[10] In 1971, Dick introduced the Modern Office Modules (MOM) system and significantly altered the company's direction.[11] Sales grew to $6 million the following year. In 1976, Dick, then 33, took over for his dad as president and CEO. G.W.’s role shifted to board chairman. Under Dick's leadership, the company's name changed to Haworth. He grew the company by 400 percent over the next 20 years. The company focused exclusively on contract office furniture and sold its partition and movable-wall business to Trendway. Dick patented the first cubicle wall panels with internal wiring.[12] The prewired panels and patents were the most innovative workplace products since open-plan offices systems. The top-selling panels, called Uni-Group, could be easily snapped together and eliminated the client's need to pay electricians to wire office spaces. In 1977, Haworth International Inc. was formed to set up foreign licenses for the manufacture and marketing of office interior systems. A year later, Haworth opened a national showroom in Chicago's Merchandise Mart.[13]

1980-2000: Rapid Rise and Expansion:

During the next two decades, Haworth developed several industry firsts — from the first mobile office system to panel-to-panel cabling systems. Haworth also earned awards for its business and design practices, such as environmental sustainability, leadership, community service, and member job satisfaction. Under Dick's leadership, the company grew at twice the industry average.[14] By 1980, Haworth had 830 employees and annual sales of $67 million. A year later, the company moved to its headquarters to One Haworth Center in Holland. Showrooms were open or renovated in 18 North American cities and four international locations. In the early 1980s, when office seating was added to Haworth product offering being built at the Holland, Michigan Haworth Plant, the company continued its movement toward providing complete workspace solutions. By 1986, Haworth had become the third-largest office furniture manufacturer in the U.S., with sales topping $300 million and a workforce of 2,600 employees.[15] Along with the popular panels, products include office chairs, filing cabinets, and fabrics. Later in the 1980s, Haworth pursued an aggressive expansion in North America, Europe, and Asia. In 1988, Haworth became a global company, undertaking a strategic expansion.[16] The business acquired 15 companies in Europe and North America, then built in Asia to expand its sales and dealer network. The reported $30 million acquisition of West German seating manufacturer Comforto GmbH made Haworth a multinational corporation, with factories in Germany and Switzerland.[17] The first office to open outside the U.S. was in London. “As a company, we manufacture in the markets where we sell our products,” Chairman Emeritus Dick Haworth said. “Our plants in China aren’t there to supply the North American marketplace, because they supply the Asian market. It means we have high-quality jobs in all of the markets that we are involved in.” [18]The company grew dramatically in the 1990s with the acquisition office and business furniture makers around the globe such as Mueller Furniture Co., Kinetics, and Lunstead. Haworth almost quadrupled in size in the early 1990s, while the percentage of income spent on sales, administrative, and other expenses went down significantly. By 1990, Haworth had 4,240 employees and $600 million in sales.[19] The next year, it reorganized into four regions: North America, Europe, the Middle East/Africa, and the Asia Pacific & Central America/South America. In 1992, Dick's son, Matthew Haworth, formally joined the team as a dealer associate — the same year Haworth became the first furniture manufacturer to achieve ISO 9001 certification. Haworth reached $1 billion in annual revenue in 1994. In 1995, the company's Ideation Group formed, applying user-based research to breakthrough concepts and products such as Crossings, Irrigator, Flo, Eddy, Drift, and Wake. That same year, 30 percent of sales come from overseas. In 1996 competitor Steelcase was found at fault in a patent infringement suit brought by Haworth in 1985. Steelcase was ordered to pay $211.5 million in damages and interest.[20] In 1997, manufacturing expanded with production at its Shanghai plant. Over a 10-year period, the company acquired 25 companies in Europe, North America, and Asia. Dick Haworth developed a lengthy process of getting to know possible acquisition targets. He explained his system in an article he authored for the January/February 1995 Mergers & Acquisitions magazine, detailing how his firm sometimes worked for five or six years with companies it hoped to buy, moving cautiously toward formal acquisition talks. For Haworth, the long period of getting to know the target company paid off.

2000 to Present: A Global Focus: In 2000, Haworth passed the $2 billion mark in annual revenues. That same year, Haworth purchased SMED of Calgary.[21] In 2003, Haworth acquired Interface AR of Grand Rapids, Michigan.[22] The acquisitions of SMED and InterfaceAR further strengthened Haworth's workspace solutions by bringing raised-access floors and movable walls to market. In 2004, Haworth launched the Organic Workspace strategy to take a comprehensive view of entire floor plans and all types of spaces. The Chicago showroom, Haworth's LEED-CI Gold-certified building, became the showcase for these adaptable workspaces. [23] In 2006, the company's beloved founder, G.W. Haworth, died at age 95.[24] In 2008, Haworth's new corporate headquarters, a LEED-NC Gold-certified facility, opened as a living lab.[25] In 2009, Haworth became the first company in the industry to achieve zero waste to landfill in all U.S. manufacturing facilities.[26] That same year, Dick Haworth stepped aside and his son, Matthew, then 40, became chairman.[27] The company purchased Italian furniture group, Poltrona Frau, in 2014, gaining a majority stake in several iconic Italian design brands, including Cappellini, Cassina and Poltrona Frau.[28] In 2013, Bluescape was launched to support virtual work and visual collaboration.[29] “We recognized that our deep insight into the physical workplace could be translated into user experience in a virtual workspace,” Dick Haworth said.[30] The company purchased furniture company JANUS et Cie for an undisclosed amount in 2016. Through the acquisition, Haworth entered the important segment of outdoor furniture, attaining a global position due to the value of the brand and the size of the company.[31] In 2017, the company's headquarters was given a refresh by Patricia Urquiola and Haworth Collections, which partnered with Pablo Designs and GAN rugs, to improve and support collaborative environments.[32] In 2018, the company hosted the 70th anniversary celebration of Haworth's history of craft, innovation, 400 patents, and inspiring spaces around the world.[33] “Underpinning everything we do is the fact that we are a values-led organization,” Chairman Matthew Haworth said. “And things like design, knowledge, and learning are part of that. We believe that our strong principles and culture give us a competitive advantage.” [34]

Company Overview

Haworth was founded by Gerrard W. Haworth, who began his career as a high school shop teacher at Holland High School after earning a degree in Industrial Arts at Western Michigan University in 1937 and a master’s degree in Educational Administration in 1940. In 1948, while still a shop teacher, he started a woodworking business in Holland, Michigan, to make extra money to send his children to college.[35] His oldest son, Dick Haworth, started working at his father’s company as a teenager when there were just 69 members. Under Dick's leadership, Haworth became a truly global company, expanding globally and becoming one of the three largest office furniture manufacturers in the world.[36] Haworth designs and sells furniture, furniture systems, architectural products, textiles, wall surfaces, and ergonomic and technology tools for workspaces, education, and health care. Haworth also offers workplace consulting services. Franco Bianchi has served as CEO and president of the company since 2005.[37] In 2009, Dick Haworth stepped aside and his son, Matthew, became chairman of the family-owned business.[38]


Haworth’s portfolio of brands includes Bluescape, Poltrona Frau, Cassina, Cappellini, Janus et Cie, Tuohy and Haworth Health Environments.[39]

Company culture

G.W. Haworth referred to his company's employees as members. The family-owned company honored that relationship in 2018 with special bonuses to workers totaling more than $5 million. "The bottom line is this is a thank you to our members in recognition of our 70th anniversary," said Matthew Haworth.[40] Haworth invested more than $40 million to reinvent its Holland, Michigan, headquarters in 2018 to create a more work-friendly environment. As part of the transformation, a three-story dramatic atrium that draws natural light deep into the building was added. The facility has become a model in energy-efficiency and sustainability, two important core values for Haworth.[41] Another example of Haworth's commitment to sustainability was the company becoming the first in the contract furniture industry to achieve zero waste to landfill in all U.S. manufacturing facilities in 2009.[42] Among the company’s many philanthropic initiatives was the donation of land valued at $12 million to Outdoor Discovery Center-Macatawa Greenway's Project Clarity, an effort to improve the water quality of Holland’s Lake Macatawa.[43] Research is a key focus for Haworth, which maintains research partnerships with several global partners, including Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in Germany, University of Michigan, Western Michigan University and London’s Royal College of Art. The company’s Human Performance Lab studies the impact of visual distractions on workplace performance. CEO Franco Bianchi says the company’s culture is about agility and entrepreneurship. “I like to say that I try to run the smallest big company that I can — we’re a very flat organization. There are other companies that have an organizational approach where every decision is made by headquarters. While we do some of that, typically we are more of a network organization than command and control.”[44]

Noteworthy products/projects

The Tulip Chair by noted Dutch designer Marcel Wanders is one of Haworth’s iconic designs. Over the years, Haworth has partnered with numerous designers, such as A.G. Fronzoni, Albert Holz and Andreas Struppler. One of the most significant is with Patricia Urquiola, a Spanish architect and designer, who has been a Haworth collaborator since 2013. Her Studio Urquiola designed Haworth’s Chicago showroom for NeoCon 2013, 2014 and 2015 and gave the company’s corporate headquarters a refresh in 2017. “Patricia has made the spaces more inviting,” said Raymond Kennedy, an industry veteran and Haworth’s director of North American marketing.[45] Spectrum Health, West Michigan's largest healthcare provider, tapped Haworth to furnish a new kind of doctor’s office, and Strive opened in downtown Grand Rapids in 2017. The health care office also functions as a learning lab for Spectrum to test new ideas and develop a deeper understanding of consumer needs.[46]


● The American Society of Interior Designers, Patron’s Prize for exemplifying the value of interior design, 2009

● NeoCon Showroom Award, presented by Contract Magazine and co-sponsored by McMorrow Report, Merchandise Mart Properties, IIDA and IFMA. Best Large Showroom for Haworth’s Perkins+Will designed showroom, 2008.

● OFDA, Dealers’ Choice Award for Sales and Marketing, 2006

● Michigan Recycling Coalition’s Recycler of the Year Award, 2004

● Most Excellent Award, sponsored by Officeinsight, for Haworth’s television ads, 1997

● Michigan Quality Leadership Award, recognized by the state for manufacturing and service facilities that exemplify Total Quality Management (TQM) practices and philosophies, 1994

● University of Michigan School of Business Administration, Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award to G.W. Haworth, 1993


  1. ^ a b "Haworth Bio" (PDF). Archived from the original (pdf) on 2012-06-16.
  2. ^ https://www.grbj.com/articles/89877-furniture-maker-issuing-5m-in-bonuses
  3. ^ "Haworth 2017 sales surpass $2B". MLive.com. Retrieved 2018-08-26.
  4. ^ http://www.hollandsentinel.com/news/20180214/haworth-sales-over-2-billion-in-2017
  5. ^ International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 39. St. James Press, 2001
  6. ^ "Still just a family after 60 years" Holland Sentinel, 2008-11-10
  7. ^ 70 Years Haworth, Metropolis, 2018
  8. ^ 70 Years Haworth, Metropolis, 2018
  9. ^ "Lifetime Achievement Dick Haworth" Grand Rapids Business Journal, 2002-6-21
  10. ^ 70 Years Haworth, Metropolis, 2018
  11. ^ "So, who is Dick Haworth?"(video), Interior Design Magazine, 2015-9-14
  12. ^ Dukcevich, David (2000) "Richard Haworth Prefers Not To Take Stock", Forbes.com, September 29, 2000. Retrieved August 24, 2016
  13. ^ 70 Years Haworth, Metropolis, 2018
  14. ^ International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 39. St. James Press, 2001
  15. ^ 70 Years Haworth, Metropolis, 2018
  16. ^ ""Dick Haworth tells story of his family business" MLive.com 2010-11-3
  17. ^ "Office Furniture Maker Buys W. German Company" Los Angeles Times 1988-08-17
  18. ^ 70 Years Haworth, Metropolis, 2018
  19. ^ International Directory of Company Histories, Vol. 39. St. James Press, 2001
  20. ^ "$211.5 Million Award in Patent Lawsuit". The New York Times. 1996-12-31.
  21. ^ Haworth to Acquire SMED. Wood & Wood Products. 2000-02-01
  22. ^ SMED, Interface AR Take Haworth Name Floor Daily. 2004-09-20
  23. ^ Haworth Sustainability Report, 2006
  24. ^ "Remembering The Life Of G.W. Haworth, Founder Of Haworth, Inc." Facility Executive Magazine, 2006-10-25
  25. ^ "Haworth officials believe their new headquarters will inspire change in workplaces" MLive.com 2008-05-13
  26. ^ "Haworth zero-landfill goal becoming reality" Holland Sentinel 2009-12-28
  27. ^ "Haworth's third generation takes over as Dick Haworth steps aside" MLive.com 2009-04-22
  28. ^ "Haworth buys Poltrona Frau to create major global furniture brand". Dezeen. 6 February 2014. Retrieved 6 February 2014.
  29. ^ "NeoCon 2013: Haworth’s high-tech Bluescape creates infinite virtual workspace" MLive.com 2013-06-07
  30. ^ 70 Years Haworth, Metropolis, 2018
  31. ^ "Haworth Acquires JANUS et Cie". Metropolis. 11 April 2016. Retrieved 11 April 2016.
  32. ^ "See Patricia Urquiola’s Colorful Refresh of Haworth’s Michigan Headquarters" Metropolis 2018-03-28
  33. ^ "Haworth celebrates 70th anniversary with two-day event" Holland Sentinel 2018--5-11
  34. ^ 70 Years Haworth, Metropolis, 2018
  35. ^ "West Michigan Biography Series: G.W. Haworth", video
  36. ^ "Dick Haworth tells story of his family business" MLive.com 2010-11-03
  37. ^ "Franco Bianchi Speaks at Seidman College of Business" video
  38. ^ "Haworth's third generation takes over as Dick Haworth steps aside" MLive.com 2009-04-22
  39. ^ Haworth.com
  40. ^ "Haworth giving $5M in bonuses to employees" MLive.com 2018-01-31
  41. ^ "Haworth officials believe their new headquarters will inspire change in workplaces" MLive.com 2008-05-11
  42. ^ "Haworth to show off its zero-waste-to-landfill operations at upcoming sustainability workshop" MLive.com 2012-09-15
  43. ^ "Project Clarity leverages public, private support to improve Lake Macatawa watershed" MiBiz 2018-03-04
  44. ^ "CEOs Talk Workplace – Interview With Haworth’s Franco Bianchi" Workdesign Magazine 2018-09-27
  45. ^ "See Patricia Urquiola’s Colorful Refresh of Haworth’s Michigan Headquarters" Metropolis 2018-03-28
  46. ^ "Spectrum Health's new primary care office has a posh residential feel" MLive.com 2017-08-10
  • Funding Universe page about Haworth
  • Haworth at a Glance

External links

  • Official North American web site
  • Official European web site
  • Official Asia Pacific web site
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