PLN, established in 1977 and based at Avondale, puts original thought and research into developing its furniture and growing its business. PLN’s global sales have grown more than 500 per cent since 2010 when it decided to take a R&D/innovation journey and add `social purpose’ to its work.
"We were never going to win the low-cost race and we decided to use furniture to improve people’s lives and business performance," says PLN chief executive Blair McKolskey.
"R&D is what we do – we study what people need and how we can solve it. With intelligent thinking and great design, we create high-value products that provide innovative solutions."
After reviewing workplace practices and spaces, PLN creates the right balance between promoting collaboration in modern, open plan offices and allowing essential quiet spaces (for phone calls and meetings).
Looking into the future
As open plan offices become noisier, PLN’s focus is on acoustic design, functionality, increasing productivity and future proofing clients’ investments. Included in the portfolio are Hush Lights and Focus Pods, which soften sounds and reduce reverberations and distractions. The soft walls of the work pods contain layers of nanofibre which produce superior sound absorption.
Following an introduction from Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED), the nanofibre is supplied by fellow Auckland innovator, Revolution Fibres. McKolskey says the nanofibre layers have created a significant improvement in acoustic performance, and his company is now working with Revolution Fibres to improve air filtration and the quality in the office.
PLN plans three to five years into the future. McKolskey says the open plan office strategy is under attack and "we want to find out if it is the plan or the execution that is wrong. Using sensors, data analysis and Internet of Things, we will map the environmental influences on the workplace – such as how often a person is at their desk and at what periods of the day."
McKolskey says the future is fluid. "One thing we do know about today’s workspaces is that they will not look the same in the future. Organisations change direction. People move to new spaces and take on new roles. Teams form and re-form. The spaces they occupy need to adapt to meet these needs."
"Workplace furniture needs to be designed with future flexibility - in this way office furniture becomes an investment rather than an expense. The smart workspace will be able to accommodate these changes with the minimum amount of time, cost and disruption – adding to employee comfort and satisfaction."
Workplace furniture needs to be designed with future flexibility - in this way office furniture becomes an investment rather than an expense.”
Portfolio of smart products
In the United States alone, it’s estimated that poor workspace design costs businesses $300 billion in lost productivity each year.
PLN’s portfolio of products ranges from modular office furniture, collaborative soft seating, work pods, acoustic lighting and screens to phone booths, presentation boards, laptop/coffee/side tables, rugs and residential sofas.
PLN has developed the Colosseum modular furniture system which seats up to 18 people and incorporates acoustic lighting, laptop tables and mobile whiteboards. Colosseum is furniture designed as architecture in the open plan office, increasing visual and auditory privacy without the need for office walls. The modular pieces can be moved in a variety of configurations to suit the presentation, meeting or social gathering.
Employing 30 people, PLN exports to 15 countries including China, India and United Sates, and its research-led products are found in Google, Apple, Hewlett Packard, Citibank, HSBC and Disney offices. The Hush acoustic light is a big seller in the United States.
PLN’s export earnings now make up 40 per cent of total revenue. In New Zealand its customers are mainly interior designers, architects and corporates such as Air New Zealand, PwC and ASB Bank.