TO BOLDLY go where no manufacturing company has gone before may seem like a play on words from a television space adventure – but in Workspace’s case it is based on fact.
Workspace Commercial Furniture is breaking into new space every time it explores a new layout to suit a particular business. From new front desks to new frontiers, Workspace is flying the flag for innovative Australian manufacturing.
Workspace teams not only have to design in functionality to suit the business operation itself, helping it to achieve new efficiencies, but must incorporate current and future technologies, materials that look and perform well for the work space’s design life and, perhaps most important of all, the space should be comfortable and effective for people spending long periods of time there.
Sometimes, a work space might need to be created in a way that leaves a ‘brand impression’ for people who are only there for a short time – and Workspace has successfully risen to challenges like that many times.
Workspace managing director and CEO, Tom Clark has been with the organisation for five years, gravitating to his current role in 2017 after first serving as general manager for sales and marketing.
Two key aspects attracted Mr Clark to the business, “the heritage of the business and its commitment to Australian manufacturing and employment”.
“Continued growth has been a focus for the business for the past five years,” Mr Clark said. “Importantly growth has been underpinned by continued investment in capital and technology. Increased productive capacity and also upgraded planning technology have driven significant change.
“2019 to this point has been highly consolidation focused. As we enter the second half of the year, there will be a clear focus on growth and diversification of product and service,” he said. “Importantly we need to ensure adherence to core capabilities with expanded client facing solutions and service.”
Workspace, formerly known as TH Brown, was founded in 1911 and spent its first 70 years of trade as a manufacturer of domestic furniture.
“The TH Brown name was carried on by members of the Brown family, until management changes throughout the 1970s and 1980s,” Mr Clark said.
“Since the 1980s, the business has morphed both in product and service offering and, of course, transitioning into Workspace Commercial Furniture. Underpinned by a continued strong commitment to Australian manufacturing to ensure value, solutions and choice to our clients and our clients’ clients.”
Workspace is a business that is energised and excited by its projects.
Perhaps Workspace’s most rewarding moments come from seeing the successful finalisation of each and every project – for the company’s teams are continually pushing the boundaries to find new levels of excellence.
“While continued sales growth is important, we count success as being the positive reactions of our clients at the conclusion of their projects – and we completed some exciting major projects over the past year,” Mr Clark said.
“And when we say completion of some major projects, we mean not just in volume, but also in product design and solutions delivery.
“Ultimately, reward is the finalisation of every project, per our vision – we exist to allow everyone, in every workplace, the opportunity to enjoy our products’ delivery and this is our purpose and reward.”
Like all innovators – and especially on the besieged Australian manufacturing scene – Workspace must continually challenge itself and test new methods and systems. It must research, test and risk temporary failure in order to find sustainable success. Workspace must boldly go …
“There are lessons each and every day,” Mr Clark said. “Design, commercial construction and procurement evolve at a rapid rate. Critically Workspace needs to stay abreast of these processes, whilst also maintaining a high level of quality product and market leading service.
“Sustainability – in the environmental sense – has been a core for Workspace since our first ISO9001 and ISO14001 certification in 1991,” Mr Clark said. “Continuous improvement ensures that value is added for take back and recycling programs. Recent re-certification of ISO14001:2015 ensures Workspace continues to set the standard.”
In the spirit of innovation, Workspace moved into a new area of manufacturing in 2018 with the creation of its own-design office chair system: Max.
“At Workspace we are constantly reviewing, redesigning and updating existing product ranges,” Mr Clark said. “In March, Workspace was pleased to officially launch Max, a chair solution comprised of in house design and international partnering to ensure Australian production and assembly.”
Innovation also just got a little easier this year, with the implementation of new design system technology.
“The effort of the entre Planning Team to implement the new planning system technology in early 2019, deserves recognition,” Mr Clark said. “A collective team effort to ensure training, new system implementation was conducted whilst maintaining work outputs.
“The company has invested in significant increases in CAD/CAM systems for estimating and manufacturing have been linked to capital investment in production machinery. In addition, investment in our in-house transport fleet has been critical.
“Workspace continues to invest in our teams … production via our annual apprenticeship program (of six annually), while sales and planning teams have continued to grow in resources and expertise.”
Workspace is doing all it can to progress in the challenging manufacturing space that is beset by cheap imports and copied designs.
“The market place is always challenged by imports,” Mr Clark said. “That said, our largest challenge is to ensure the market is aware and understanding of our value proposition. Investment in marketing and branding is core.”
But there are lessons for authorities to learn from companies like Workspace that champion Australian manufacturing and design.
“It’s important that governments and affiliate procurement in our field truly consider local employment and manufacturing,” Mr Clark said. “A deeper understanding of ‘real manufacturing’ as opposed to import and outsourcing are important to drive improved quality, service and underpin local employment.”
Workspace in the meantime will keep developing and going against the flow of international products into the country. They will keep doing what they do best, which Mr Clark identifies as ‘Growth, Change and Customer Centricity’.
“Our aim is to bring a multi-faceted approach to the business to gain growth, diversification and closer core client focus,” he said.
And continue to lead Australian furniture manufacturing into the future.
Workspace Commercial Furniture
Brands: Workspace, Forma 5, Cerantola.
Workspace operates across all commercial workplace environments. It is a beacon for innovative Australian manufacturing in a highly competitive sector that is constantly battling cheaper imports. Workspace has 155 employees and has national operations and is headquartered in South Australia.
The Workspace leadership team is Director of Manufacturing and Chairman of the Board, Trevor Gould; Director and NSW State Manager, Peter Byrnes; and Managing Director and CEO, Tom Clark.
Recent awards: Design Institute of Australia Hall of Fame 2018. Federal and State Government preferred supply panels.
Workspace is an Alumni Member of South Australian Leaders.