High-tech furniture goes global

IQ Commercial

An Auckland company based in Avondale company is changing the way companies from Henderson to Hong Kong and beyond think about their office furniture, and using world-leading technology to take on Europe’s best.

Finewood Upholstery has produced quality furniture for nearly 40 years, but its new subsidiary, IQ Commercial represents a total re-think of the craft and claims to operate at the intersection of research, design, manufacturing and investment industries.

The proprietary inclusion in its furniture of noise-reducing and health-promoting nanofibres which are less than a billionth of a metre wide has secured IQ Commercial global competitive advantage – and big export deals including fitting out the offices of a major Singapore bank and an Australian insurance company.

IQ and Finewood director Blair McKolskey used expertise developed in the Cayman Islands’ cut-throat finance industry to instigate IQ Commercial’s move away from the low-price commoditisation of New Zealand’s faltering furniture industry, and towards delivering increased productivity for clients.

“It seems a crazy concept to ask ‘How can this chair make you more money?’, but it is possible for a chair to do that because furniture impacts on staff productivity and reflects the underlying company culture. That is the investment case we pitch to customers.”

“IQ Commercial’s  design strategy is based on an understanding of the way people work, which comes from reviewing workplace productivity studies. Our furniture solutions help people to be more productive in modern open plan offices, meeting the right balance between promoting collaboration and allowing essential quiet spaces.”

ATEED research and development advisors  Grant Hemmings and Tom McLeod have helped the company gain crucial government R&D grants from Callaghan Innovation.

Collaboration is a cornerstone philosophy at IQ Commercial, and ATEED assisted the company to link with West Auckland company Revolution Fibres, an expert in nano technology.

“We know that we’re the first in New Zealand, and we believe one of the first in the world to be using nano fibre technology in furniture, so with Revolution Fibres’ help we’re right out there on the front edge of thinking,” says Blair McKolskey.

Innovative products the company has developed include small pods which can be placed in open plan areas and used by staff who want quiet space to focus.

The company’s latest move is to explore development of furniture which incorporates bioplastics made from wood dust. This potentially world-leading development is in collaboration with Crown research agency Scion.

IQ Commercial is also investigating potential anti-microbial and anti-bacterial benefits again in collaboration with Revolution Fibres , which could improve the wellbeing of workers who use the furniture.

“We share the Government and ATEED’s philosophy about what will lead to future economic growth in this country. We recognise that we need to be a high-value manufacturer which looks for export opportunities off the back of innovation and green growth stories,” says Blair McKolskey.

North America, Europe, China and India are all markets where opportunities are emerging for IQ Commercial, either directly or through licensing. Exports already make up to 35 per cent of revenue.

The Singapore deal sums up the company’s potential, says Blair McKolskey: “That bank has a budget for outfitting and we won the contract against premium European global brands such as Vitra and Bene. Pretty neat for a little upstart company from Avondale.”

 

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