Responding to the market
Horizon Furniture is a Canadian-owned manufacturer and distributor of ergonomic seating and computer accessory products designed and engineered to deliver comfort, safety, and increased productivity while meeting the needs of today’s active workplace.
Located in Kitchener, Ontario and founded in 1988, the company is a member of the Canadian Office Products Association and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. It caters to over 300 dealers, serving sectors like industrial, high-tech, aerospace, education, healthcare, government and law enforcement.
Its unique understanding of the modern workplace is how Horizon stands out from the competition. Office ergonomics—the relationship between the worker and the working environment—are changing as employees demand more of themselves in the modern, competitive workplace. By studying the relationship between the employees and the work environment, ergonomists, occupational therapists and kinesiologists strive to minimize the risk factors involved in daily work.
Horizon uses this research to develop seating and computer accessories that address and eliminate these risks. “Our whole product line is ergonomic,” explains Patrick Flanagan, Vice President. “It is all about the human factor and whether or not you go home at the end of the day feeling good and comfortable or, in the case of people who do not have ergonomic equipment, go home feeling hurt and sore.”
Along with the economic downturn came many effects to the business. On the negative side, there was a massively reduced market demand for which they then had to work extremely hard for an increased share. “Businesses put off purchases of new seating and ergonomic products, waiting for their balance sheets to turn around,” explains Flanagan.
At the same time, new business start-ups were virtually non-existent. In addition to that, a number of faithful dealers and long-term customers were forced to close their doors or were absorbed by competitors. The net result was that Horizon had to work twice as hard but for half the results.
On the positive side, the impact of the recession created a renewed focus on the business’ core competencies, which allowed them to revisit what they do best and look for new ways to deliver it. “We had the opportunity to re-evaluate our efficiencies in our production and operation and to try to find more innovative to save our dealers and their customers’ money and improve value and services,” says Flanagan.
Another positive was that Horizon had no choice but to search out new markets that were not currently being served and to create more focus on those particular markets. “In a nutshell, we came out the other side of the recession with a renewed focus, a stronger competitive position and, hopefully, a much stronger presence in the marketplace,” adds Flanagan.
As part of its renewed focus Horizon has moved to a new facility this month. The building was custom designed to meet present needs and allows for future growth and expansion, offering more than 40,000 square feet of production and warehouse space. The move has allowed Horizon to streamline and duplicate its production line, thus doubling its capacity without any additional capital costs. “In consolidating all of our operations, like our warehouse and raw materials, in such close proximity to our production facility, everything was brought together so we could be more efficient,” adds Flanagan.
As the recession has forced dealers to work harder for the end-user dollar, Horizon has designed new products to respond to the market, along with more innovative ways of delivering, packaging and transporting that product to stay competitive and to forge growth in a shrinking economy. “Through all this, we are still in a growth position, which I think is fairly unique in our industry, and certainly in the Canadian economy,” adds Flanagan.
As far as environmental initiatives, Horizon has branched into the manufacture of ergonomic furniture in bio-based foam, which uses oil from seeds that are not involved in the food chain. According to Flanagan, this brand new approach reduces up to 40 per cent of petrochemical-based oils in the end product.
“That is something that is new and neat and innovative,” he adds. “The bio-based foam has all the same, or better, qualities than the petrochemical-based foams.
“Disposable goods, which may be inexpensive and meet short-term needs will typically end up in landfills,” continues Flanagan. “That is part of our environmental policy: building quality products that have replaceable components to expand the product’s lifespan. Innovative packaging and shipping solutions have been designed to reduce freight costs and the collective carbon footprint.”
For 22 years, Horizon has focused on Canadian dealers and companies that need ergonomic solutions. Its goals for the future are to expand its market share and to continue to cement itself as the trusted supplier to its dealer base, passing on the message that they have a quality product and service to match.