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OFS Factory Tour
March 4, 2015
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A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Evansville, Indiana for a furniture factory tour. It was interesting to learn about how the company operates and how they have been successful over the years.
OFS Brands is a family owned company that specializes in commercial furniture, but that wasn’t always the case; their story conveys the fact that they are a company of diversity, innovation, and determination. Generations ago, the family made their start in the wagon industry; as the automobile became increasingly popular, wagons, as we all know, became obsolete. Determined not to give up, they thrust themselves into several different industries: they patented the dovetail joinery machine; created the first electronic wooden scoreboard; and ventured into the world of venetian blinds. Then the company became rooted in the furniture industry – first, by making residential furniture, the later, diving in to the commercial market.
Day One of my trip, we visited the company’s forest lands, knows as Cool Springs, where they actually plant and harvest the trees they use for manufacturing; I even had the honor of planting a tree. Their farm is just one example of the commitment to sustainability OFS made long ago. Over the years, the farm has expanded to include amenities for company employees and other educational groups to have a place to come and enjoy nature. Their expansion includes the first ever L.E.E.D. Certified barn – further evidence of the family’s strong passion for the environment. The day’s activities at Cool Springs we not only educational, but also included a bit of an adventure that involved me driving an ATV and shooting skeet!
Day Two of the trip included factory tours to see how the furniture is made. I was intrigued by the process of veneering. A tree is selected by its width, if it has knots, how straight it is, and other characteristics that affect the appearance of the end product. The tree is cut into sections, soaked in water, and then sliced thin to create the veneers. The thin sections are then dried and hand sorted. Pieces that will not produce a good yield are taken out and used elsewhere. The company is very diligent about having no waste; everything is used for something whether it is for product or for helping to heat the building.
During the tour, I was amazed at the amount of hands that touched one piece of furniture. The craftsmanship was astonishing, and it was nice to see that it was created from live people working, building, gluing, sanding, staining, upholstering – not just machines. Some machines are used, of course, many of them for heavy lifting and tasks that make the employee’s job easier.
We also visited the testing facility. The process is so precise, yet so simple – sandbags, weights, pulleys. I appreciated seeing the process and knowing they are a company that will stand by their product.
Our final tour led us to the corporate office where we were able to see their products and meet some of the designers. It was inspiring to see people so enthralled with their work and so happy to be a part of OFS. Their enthusiasm was infectious; it was evident that the company values their employees and it shows in the products they create.
I am always grateful when I am given the opportunity to visit companies like this; it is always a great educational experience to see products in a more up-close and personal way.
Sarah Goss, ASID
Sarah joined Allison Architects in 2006 as the director of the firm's interior design department. In addition to space planning and tenant finish-out, her capabilities include early coordination with architectural design and materials, furniture selection, and installation observation. Her responsive service and dedication to excellence have been consistently recognized by the American Society of Interior Designers through numerous design awards for many of her projects.
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