Issue 115 April 2015
Designing the future
Bene sees the office as a living space and its concepts, products and services turn this vision into reality
Occupying a modest space on the horizon, the headquarters of the Bene Group is shadowed only by the large green mass of earth behind it. Responsible for some of the biggest advancements in office furniture of the modern day, the business holds a position as a major European player with a sizeable number of subsidiaries.
In March 2015 Bene celebrated its 225th anniversary, extending from a history, which in 1790 saw Michael Bene establish a small carpentry workshop. As the workshop was extended more and more over the years, in 1951 interests switched from household products to industrial furniture production, and over the next nine years its specialism grew in the sector. “Since 1960 we have been solely producing office furniture and partitions, working with clients from early planning and design stages through to the installation of equipment in whole office buildings,” says Friedrich Hartner, technical director.
Working with a range of materials the business has been responsible for the development of several innovative designs and concepts, using its in-house designers, as well as collaborating with famous names, such as PearsonLloyd. “Together we work on a range of different products and ideas, from standard work stations and cabinets, through to management programmes, and technological concepts. Using a mixture of in-house, external, local and foreign designers, we have been able to develop an exciting scope within our portfolio.
“We have a full understanding of what direction the market place is heading, and through our designs we are able to influence the way our clients will work in the future,” points out Friedrich. Significant changes in its market over the last 50 years that have led to designs today that would be almost unrecognisable some decades ago, and this has been driven by the way that peoples working practices have changed. “The requirement for large tables has diminished, with the majority of people working from laptops or tablets, and therefore different working environments are required. One growing trend is developing areas where staff are able to concentrate on work, but also freely able to move into communication spaces, and that means that all the rooms are becoming more and more flexible,” he adds.
Collaborations with a whole range of suppliers, including organisations specialising in wall partition solutions has seen the company grow with a rich knowledge that is reflected by the wealth of successful projects that have been stimulated by its input. From adapting large rooms into smaller zones areas, and developing interactive software, each product or concept has a real and lasting impact. “Changes within media and technology have led to us working together with an Austrian software company on the development of an innovation board,” says Friedrich, referring to Bene’s ‘Nice Wall’, a concept with cutting edge hard and software solutions for co-creation. Its uses include workshops, brainstorming, project meeting, technical co-ordination and more. “The ‘Nice Wall’ is the connection between analogue and digital work methods and promotes efficient team work. Users can illustrate, plan, present, and send documents, work together in a big group, but also communicate remotely with colleagues across the world in a professional and interactive manner,” he adds.
The core of the ‘Nice Wall’ is a freely scalable, interactive wall that enables up to seven team members to work together at the same time. With the whole wall functioning as an interactive, creative space, seating and standing design areas further promote team interaction. “Popularity of this product has increased significantly, and we are selling to development and marketing departments across the world as customers drive more towards working together in a bigger room with a bigger constellation, working, writing and planning together,” points out Friedrich, continuing: “Our strength comes from the close working relationship that we share with our clients, and the time we spend studying organisations, addressing how they will work as a team, and what we can offer in the future that will make this practice more effective.
“Our aim is that people are happy within the spaces we design, and that they want to work. Our products are not just chairs or tables, but the complete area, the complete room, the complete floor. By working with people together, we think about work and social influences, and clients are becoming progressively more interested in this area.” The company’s largest contract to date is currently at installation phase in Abu Dhabi, in the centre of the Middle Eastern market, a sector which for Bene has been growing for over two decades. “We have been commissioned to fit out 54 storeys with dividing walls for the head office the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) we are installing a total of 30km of partitions in glass and 70,000 m² veneered panels. From our 42,000sqm facility we worked for more than half a year on the production, preparation and assembly before delivery to site,” he adds.
In the last ten years the business has become a strong player producing products at a level far above the standard quality, driven by a demand for excellence, which is at its peak in the Middle East. “With the market in mainland Europe proving unstable, we look to the future with positivity, seeking opportunities across the global market, promoting our expertise and building on successful projects in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Australia, and influencing our clients working practices for the better,” concludes Friedrich.
Products: Office furniture and partitions
Sites: HQ in Austria
Employees: More than 1000