Martela: Business reform converted traditional furniture manufacturer to service company

When the nature of work changes, furniture manufacturer Martela Corporation changes with it. Finland's largest office furniture manufacturer no longer makes offices with private or shared offices but has moved on to favour activity-based offices designed together with the client.

In 1945, managers invariably had their own rooms. Many sat behind a large, broad table, with drawers containing paper filing racks. This was furniture manufacturer Martela's first product, later to be accompanied by a fabric-upholstered, rotating chair with wheels.

"The goal of Matti S. Martela, who founded the company, was to manufacture and market office furniture that was durable, practical and looked good," says Ari-Matti Purhonen, Vice President, Customers and Workplace Services at Martela.

A lot has happened since the first products were launched.

"Nowadays we help our customers create work environments that can be modified according to need. Individual rooms and open-plan offices have given way to activity-based offices," says Mr Purhonen.

Business operations converted into a service

The digital revolution brought technology into offices. Interior design solutions were built around computers, but today we focus on people instead of machines.

"We are in the middle of a well-being revolution. The environment is built to serve a variety of ways of working and work steps," says Mr Purhonen.

Although office work has changed dramatically in the last century, the purpose of interior solutions has always been to support work and make it more efficient. This is a target that Martela is now trying to pursue more and more in cooperation with Tekes. Martela reforms its business operations in cooperation with Tekes, and developed new services.

"The utilisation rate of offices can nowadays be measured with great accuracy to find out where people prefer to work, and to find out what solutions simple do not work. Sensors can be placed in various parts of an office that calculate how much they are used, giving information on that specific location's utilisation in real time. With the help of these sensors, we get information for decision-making," says Mr Purhonen.

Martela's management and organisation has been developed, and the roles and operating models have been redefined. Today, the planning takes place in collaboration with the customer right from the beginning: first we look at the customer's needs, then profile the people working in the area and finally see how work is carried out. As a result, we can tailor the work environment exactly to the customer's needs.

"By utilising technology and data, we have turned the business more into a service," he concludes.

Martela aiming at Nordic thought leadership

Martela wants to be a thought leader in the Nordic office furniture market. Purhonen says that Nordic countries have similar values, organisational hierarchies and management models.
For this reason, exports are focused on this area.

"When the countries' working cultures are so close to each other, the furniture models work in all of the countries," he says.

Martela currently employs more than 500 people, and its turnover is almost 130 million euros.
The business reform was a major boost for the company's future.

"The change brought about the final decision fact that we should be investing in development. With support from Tekes, things started moving swiftly," says Mr Purhonen.

Further information

Ari-Matti Purhonen
Martela Group
Tel. +358 (0)50 543 1305

Text: Kaiku
Pictures: Martela

Miia Linnusmaa