Case Studies

National Office Services

Building Hybrid Office Furniture for a Changing National Market

In 1967 Robert Schneider founded National Office Services (NOS) as a small office furniture refurbishing company in Ohio. For more than four decades, the company has grown and evolved. Robert’s son, Greg Schneider, now operates the family business.

“I started as a kid,” Greg recalls. “When I was very young, I remember coming in a playing on the floor. When I was about 12, I started working during the summer with my father and my maternal grandfather, Al Thellman.”

Through renewing used furniture, the business built a niche remanufacturing Steelcase office systems and workstations. Years later, NOS took that concept to the next level, producing its flagship line, Gen2 Office Furniture.

“The core of our product is Steelcase,” Greg explains. “We started doing so many enhancements that we decided to start manufacturing under our own brand name. We consider our products hybrid office systems, blending Steelcase products with new furniture to create an entirely new workstation.”

NOS has established two main target markets. The company offers direct retail to end-users in northern Ohio. Outside of the region, the business sells furniture to office system dealers around the country. NOS employs approximately 90 people, including those skilled in manufacturing, sales and administrators who work together from a single, location in Cleveland, Ohio. The company’s property includes 250,000 square feet of offices, warehouse storage and manufacturing space.

Leading the Green Scene

Gen2 products are highly sustainable; although the company’s products came long before the green movement. For each workstation that NOS builds, the company is able to divert on average 300 pounds from landfills. Greg and his team consider the old Steelcase workstations to be raw material.

“About 40 years ago, there was no environmental manufacturing movement,” Greg explains. “My father built this business trying to make a dollar by taking the old and making it new. Offices buy office furniture and they may keep it for 20 years and dispose of it in a landfill. We take that material, rework it, remanufacture it, convert it and resell it. Financially, remanufacturing makes sense. Looking at the furniture we produce, you cannot even tell it has a used component. It looks brand new.”

NOS has attracted a number of large and unique clients with the Gen2 hybrid line. The company’s recent clients include AT&T, the Cleveland Clinic and even the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. “That was a really cool project,” Greg recounts. “I was there prior to our installation. We got to see the museum behind the scenes, where the scientists work in the laboratories. We have done some really cool work.”

Another large project for NOS comes complete with an amusing anecdote. Greg and his team helped revamp the offices for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. “They wanted their offices redesigned with tall walls made of our panels,” Greg explains. “Our standard panel is 80 inches high. Our designer who met with them is about 5 feet tall. Of course, when you stand an 80-inch panel next to a 5-foot tall person, it looks pretty big. Well we put the panels in with 80-inch tall panels and doors. They called us up when the season was about to start. They were worried that the doors were too short and the players would hit their heads. We remedied their concerns by installing 96-inch doors with our furniture. This was a truly custom project and we made the switch within about a week.”

A Changing Market

Unlike many manufacturers throughout the recent economic downturn, NOS experienced substantial growth over the last five years. “We have had to change strategy to accept that growth and expand rather than cut back,” Greg explains. “A few things contribute to that. Sustainability has been a big selling point. By offering this hybrid furniture, we can offer it at a better price than other manufacturers. Even though the economy is down, people still need office furniture. They don’t want to make as big of an investment so they look to us.”

Affordability and sustainability are attractive qualities of the Gen2 line, but the company’s performance is a factor, as well. Greg and his team perform major quality control, whether checking over furniture in the plant before packaging, or out on job sites. NOS installs all of its own furniture in the local market and prioritizes project management to ensure efficient and professional service.

Greg and his team also keep a close eye on furniture trends. “We are seeing a lot of interest in benching systems, which is basically office furniture that creates an open environment for collaboration,” he elaborates. “There is less cubicle and more open space. We find ourselves lowering panel heights or eliminating panels altogether and integrating more glass dividers to allow natural light to flood a work area.”

The crew is prepared to take on new, challenging design and installation projects in the coming years. Both Greg’s son, Michael Schneider, as well as his son-in-law, Glenn Miller, are involved with the business, too; this duo comprises the third generation of family involvement. For the coming decades, Greg and his team are focused on sustainable, steady growth. National Office Services will continue to build relationships with clients, supplying unique green solutions for a range of spaces and spatial needs.

Published on: July 9, 2014

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