Humans are built to move throughout the day, performing various tasks at various loads. We are not designed to sit still or be stagnant. Therefore, being stuck all day at office workstations is detrimental to our wellbeing, while movement and variation are therefore essential for staying healthy, productive and to prevent chronic back pain. This forms the basis for the innovative office chairs provided by the Nordic company Scandinavian Business Seating, SB Seating in short.
They develop and produce Scandinavian office chairs for private and public office environments, chairs that are designed with people and their needs in focus. Hence, the chairs are designed to make sure you won’t have to sit in any unhealthy way.
SB Seating’s products are deeply rooted in the Scandinavian design tradition and share the same values and a common identity. These also contribute to work performance improvements, based on its four brand’s common core values. Those are: the most environmentally sound products in the business, a balance between good ergonomics and aesthetics, human-centred functional design, and the right quality at the right price.
“We have been pioneering most of the markets in Scandinavia when it comes to office furniture. And as we spend 5 per cent of our turnover on R&D, we are continuously improving our products.”
With presence in Singapore, their Regional Sales Manager, Southeast Asia Henrik Meltesen, explains their differentiation and solutions further and how they are making inroads in Asia and also winning new multinational clients from this office. Henrik has been with Scandinavian Business Seating Asia for the past four years, and prior to that he was in the construction business in Thailand.
SB Seating’s brands represent strong entrepreneurial companies with long tradition and experience in the development, production and sale of office chairs. HÅG has existed since 1943, RBM since 1975 and RH since 1977.
In addition to being a market leader in office chairs they have secured by far the largest market shares in the European market.
“The brands complement each other. We do everything you need within a business setup such as canteen and meeting rooms and whether you are tall or short,” tells Henrik.
“Everything must follow our four cornerstones.”
Environment: their products are tested in accordance with a number of international quality standards for functionality, dimensions, finish and durability – where they always excel. The group is also resolved to pioneer a sustainable development, with design and manufacturing according to five basic life cycle principles.
Quality: Their goal is to deliver perfect products and constantly strive to offer their customers work chairs and office chairs with a quality above their expectations. “It must last for a longer period time; and that complements the environmental side; we’re the greenest office furniture manufacturer worldwide.”
Visual Design: Form follows function, which is their key philosophy – because they always focus on the people using the products and adapt them to fit the human body.
Ergonomics: Every person needs movement, support and variation to perform well.
The chairs of one of their brands, HÅG, aim to change the concept of sitting, by enabling balanced sitting that keeps you moving. They follow the movement of one’s body without one even having to think about it, and encourage movement throughout the day.
“We can definitely improve the life quality of the people that uses the Capisco chair from HÅG. We work a lot together with chiropractors and physiotherapists and the people who look after health and safety in a company. For example they may tell that they have an employee with a bad back. They send him or her to us to find the right chair or solution or we are already working with the company and next time when they change furniture they’ll offer us to come along.”
For instance SB Seating recently spent a year, doing chair trials and figuring out whether the Capisco chair was the right thing for a major client in Singapore.
“They bought height-adjustable tables and were not maximising their use. Employees could either work standing or sit in their regular office chairs. After the trial of the Capisco chairs, the employees learned that they could have a variation in sitting. It was no longer just standing or sitting at a low height. Instead they could sit up high and maintain a strong core position, which is only achievable with the Capisco chair”.
With this kind of chair SB Seating has gained a lot of traction in Singapore.
“People know us for the ergonomics, and now we’re becoming known for our visual design too. And customers can know from the delivered projects that the quality is very high. So we’re getting all the four cornerstones recognised within the market as we align ourselves with businesses. But we always start with the functionality part, because that’s the most essential element of the chair. As for the rest, people realise later on during daily use of our products.”
The cornerstones relate to the wellbeing of the workers and when long-lasting the product is good for the environment as well.
“As our products have ten-year warranty, with an expected lifespan of 15-20 years, we are not too worried about the price; it’s more the functionality that we focus on. If you have a good ergonomic chair in your office your productivity level can go up something between 5 – 15 per cent. The fact that if the people who are the key business drivers in the business are provided with good ergonomic chairs it shows on the top and bottom line. So the break event point should really be within a few years.”
Setting up in Singapore was initially to support the existing accounts from back home, which includes many Scandinavian firms such as DNV, Maersk, Statoil and Telenor.
There are also Nordic firms and people who have been out here a long time who are not yet aware of their products.
“We see a slight challenge in terms of cost in the market as well. There are some businesses that do come out here because Asia is cheaper to operate in. Their budget may allow only a cheaper chair locally, so that sometimes puts a stopper to even the Scandinavian companies. Luckily most say that they want comply also here with everything they do back home and want to be unified in how they appear globally.”
Part of the efforts is to educate the market. When visiting workplaces SB Seating come across a lot of issues, which are the same regardless of geographic place.
“The only difference is that in Northern Europe, in particular, we are more advanced in regulations towards the workers, whereas that is at very early stages out here,” says Henrik.
The Singapore office also plays another significant role for SB Seating in making inroads internationally.
“From Scandinavia you might not get that kind of opportunity and Asia is still the place where most things go on.”