“AIS Furniture isn’t driven to be the first. It strives to be the best.”
“The fast-growing manufacturer of laminate casework, panel systems and other office furnishings is content to let its bigger competitors invest tall dollars in speculative product development. It prefers to wait and see which workplace trends actually gain traction and then pounce on the opportunity by designing products that it can quickly bring to market.”
“‘It’s hard to predict the future, and to a certain extent, we choose not to,’ said Bill Stewich, executive vice president of design and product development for AIS. ‘Instead, we try to be as efficient as possible with our product design development to bring a product to market within a year. Everyone in our engineering department is proficient at creating 3D models. We go right from models to machines so we don’t have a lag in the middle doing engineering drawings and that kind of thing.’
“Stewich pointed to Calibrate Community, an open-plan laminate desk system introduced at NeoCon 2018, as the most recent example of the company’ s fast-track product development capability.“
“Embracing new technology and instilling a culture of lean manufacturing and continuous improvement to manufacture modularly designed laminate case goods allows AIS to achieve three-week turnarounds.”
PREPARING TO LAUNCH
“AIS plans to officially roll out its new Calibrate Community line in early 2019, which coincides with the company’s 30th anniversary. It will be available in the company’s palette of approximately 20 TFL woodgrains and colors. The products feature quarter-turn fastener construction using assembly fittings from Hafele and Hettich. ‘We chose to use quarter-turn fittings because they provide a tremendous amount of flexibility and quite frankly are stronger than glue and dowels,’ Stewich said.”
“Stewich said that while AIS uses HPL from Wilsonart and Panolam in many of its products, its standards are set by 3/4- and 1-inch TFL panels mainly supplied by Panolam and Tafisa. This includes worksurfaces, once the exclusive domain of HPL.
“‘TFL has come a long way over the last five years in terms of quality, durability and the variety of colors that are offered,’ Stewich noted. ‘At least half of the worksurfaces we sell are TFL, but we can only afford to stock our most popular designs. HPL allows us to expand our color palette because there are hundreds and hundreds of colors that you can get in four days from a number of suppliers. Of course, we also work with a lot of designers who require HPL in their specs.’”
“AIS offers TFL in six different textures. ‘The resolution of the patterns like quarter cut or cathedral is so great that you honestly cannot tell the difference between it and wood veneer other than the price. It’s really fantastic.’”
“AIS built its business on making panel systems, and they remain a big part of its business, Stewich said. The company also offers metal storage systems that it outsources. ‘We still offer a very solid line of metal products that we stretch as much as possible into the various markets that we play in, but we are certainly doing much more development these days in laminate caseworks than we are for metal.’”
Christianson, R. (2018, Q4). AIS Furniture Goes All-in for Laminate: Commercial Office Furniture Manufacturer Bets on Growth by Investing in a New Factory, Panel Processing Technology. Surface & Panel Magazine, 56-58, 60.