Since 1892, Freedman Seating (Freedman) has been engineering and manufacturing seats and seating-related products for a variety of commercial applications. Handed down over four generations, the family-run business has gone on to become North America’s leading supplier of transportation and safety seating solutions.
The company has securely fastened itself to descriptors and tenets such as quality, innovation, and safety. Above all else, Freedman is recognized as a leader in the industry for developing technically advanced and protective seating products, which are delivered on time and with high-end customer service and aftersales support. Products include bus, rail, marine, and delivery truck seating, as well as those for specialty and commercial vehicles.
Investing in innovation
Freedman manufactures its products in a state-of-the-art 400,000-square-foot facility in Chicago, Illinois, where the business is also headquartered. “We are vertically integrated and carry out all of our own metal fabrication, cutting and sewing, upholstery, and assembly under one roof,” begins Christy Nunes, COO at Freedman, who recently sat down with Manufacturing Today to get us up to speed with the latest developments at the company.
“We have invested heavily in metals fabrication with both flat and tube lasers, tube bending equipment, press brakes, and robotic welding, which allows us to control our own destiny as far as product quality and lead times are concerned.”
Freedman also has a sister company, Freedman Mobility Seating, based in Rochester, Indiana, which creates luxury seating products for the executive shuttle and limo bus market. The facility is primarily focused on the cut, sew, and assembly of its Eleganza luxury product line.
Distributing its market-leading goods to major Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), over 250 bus distributors, the federal government, plus multiple states and municipalities, Freedman has – to say the least – carved out a name for itself within the transportation sector, and employees are recognized as experts in their field.
As Christy goes on to explain, however, that reputation was not built in a day. “We have been anticipating the needs of our customers for decades,” she asserts. “As such, we are known for providing a safe and effective range of products that exceed customer expectations in terms of quality, service, and cost. We have been the leading manufacturer of transportation seating solutions for an incredibly long time. We draw from years (and years) of expertise, along with ongoing feedback from our close customer and vendor relationships, to stay ahead of the curve and, consequently, produce new solutions that reflect what our clients need.”
“Above all else is safety,” Christy adds. “In our line of work, that must always come first. Fortunately, we have been an innovator in terms of safety for decades. In fact, we have a separate division called Freedman Test Lab, which is A2LA-accredited and provides Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) testing for our products and installation processes.”
Having access to its own independent, on-site test facility allows Freedman to confirm that its products exceed all federal safety standards and run fatigue testing to confirm the long-term durability of its seating. “When you buy a Freedman seat, you can be assured you are getting the safest, most durable product of its kind on the market,” states Christy. “FMVSS testing, moreover, confirms that the installation of our products meets all applicable safety standards. This level of commitment to safety not only sets us apart from our competitors, but also helps to drive the industry forward in terms of better, safer practices.”
Though Christy admits the last few years have been challenging on all fronts – rapidly rising material costs, elongated lead times, the scarcity of skilled labor – Freedman has kept up production, bringing out new products to positively disrupt the transportation and seating market.
“Our newest innovation is the SeatLink system, which is an occupant detection tracking system that displays, tracks, and stores the occupancy and seat belt status of passengers in a vehicle,” she says. “From a small screen at the front of the bus, the driver can see which seats are occupied and who is properly wearing their seat belt, leading to safer travel standards for companies that have the system fitted.”
A closer community
Outside of its manufacturing operations, Freedman has also garnered positive industry attention for its company culture. For example, the Illinois Workforce Partnership recently presented the family-owned firm with its annual Business Leadership award, recognizing the company’s efforts in the area of workforce and economic development.
Christy comments: “We are committed to building our community by providing career opportunities in manufacturing, and partnering with local organizations, including Jane Addams Resource Corporation, Manufacturing Connect, and the Safer Foundation, that reflect our commitment to creating an inspired and highly skilled workforce.
“In doing so, we will be better able to meet the needs of modern American manufacturing,” she concludes. “As we gear up for the new year, we look forward to growing our market share in RV seating, passenger rail cars, and the ferry boat industry. As the electric vehicle market grows, moreover, we will be proud to partner with companies leading the industry in the development of electric vans, buses, and delivery trucks. Our 3PT Seat line, for instance, is currently being installed in Ford E-Transit passenger conversion vans, and we will continue to develop future-proof products that align with the needs of a rapidly evolving vehicle market.”