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Industry & Trends

Flexsteel’s First Solid Wood Furniture Reflects Manufacturing Reset

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October 19, 2021 | Bill Esler

Dubuque, IA—At the High Point Market this month, Flexsteel announced Chevron, a new solid wood residential furniture line. The farmhouse style is contemporary and on trend.

But the significance goes way beyond that. Crafted in pine with V-shaped boards laminated together, Chevron marks Flexsteel’s first entry into the solid wood residential furniture arena. Prior to this, upholstered furniture has been its bailiwick.

Chevron’s dining set in solid pine, and marked by subtle, V-shaped pattern details, and comes with multiple chair styles (some covered in performance fabrics), a bench option, and thicker tabletops to play up rustic appeal.

Indeed, the company name is derived from the unitized Blue Steel Spring platform used in its sofas and chairs. The entry into solid wood coincides with an exit from some commercial furniture niches in office and hospitality markets. With the rise of work-at-home offices, Steelcase tapped this background in office furniture to design desks more suitable for home office work and schoolwork, which it also brought to High Point Market.

“We’ve found that a lot of the desks currently in the marketplace include storage underneath that precludes proper knee clearance,” says Tim Newlin, VP product management. “And, unlike commercial office furniture, you are either sitting too low or too high to type easily or to see your monitor without straining your neck and shoulders.”

In 2019, Flexsteel announced a comprehensive restructuring “to improve customer experience, increase organizational effectiveness, and gain manufacturing efficiencies,” as it said in a release at the time. It closed its Riverside, CA manufacturing facility the month before, and exited the commercial office and custom designed hospitality product lines.

These moves allowed Flexsteel to consolidate warehousing operations in Huntingburg, IN from three to two facilities. A reduction in workforce and the closure of the Harrison, AR manufacturing operation followed, with other factories picking up the load. Outsourcing and global supply chains were also reviewed, although the COVID-19 pandemic led many domestic furniture firms to revisit outsourcing after delivery dates lagged due to out-of-stock outsourced parts. At High Point, Flexsteel also touted the fact its motion furniture is in stock and ready for delivery.

Flexsteel sister company Homestyles produces a range of kitchen islands and storage.

At High Point Market, Flexsteel’s exhibit featured three multi-room homes and two studio apartments decorated to suit a series of buyer “personas”—active suburban families, empty nesters, first-time buyers, etc.— and each of the apartments feature products from across all categories that Flexsteel offers. Most notable are cabinetry and islands in the apartments’ kitchens from the company’s sister brand, Homestyles.

In its factory operations, Flexsteel has charted a path forward for its ongoing ERP implementation. Manufacturers in many industries found that ERPs were much harder to implement than expected, and in some cases reduced productivity until kinks were worked out.

After review, Flexsteel determined at the end of 2019 that its business information system was stable but “sub-optimized on a small portion of the business,” a mildly expressed sentiment. Flexsteel had to write down the ERP asset, noting, “Management determined that there was a final impairment of $2.6 million due to abandoned components. The remaining asset for the ERP system is approximately $4.9 million.”

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