Tenant at 100 Grandville expanding locally and globally
Configura still growing
Published: May 29, 2012 (Grand Rapids Business Journal)
Configura, the Swedish software company that set up shop in Grand Rapids six years ago because of the office furniture industry base here, has expanded that local facility and opened a new office in Malaysia to serve Asian companies.
The new office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, will serve Configura client companies that are already in Asia or plan to be, and new Asian customers.
Configura CEO Johan Lyreborn said by having software programmers, training and support staff at work in the home office in Linköping, Sweden, plus in Grand Rapids and Kuala Lumpur, “we can work all tasks around the clock.”
The privately held company got its start developing business software for European office furniture and cabinet manufacturers. Today it is one of the leading software developers of its type in Europe. Started in 1990, the company develops software for four industries that configure products — hence the name Configura. Those markets are kitchen and bathroom, industrial machinery and equipment, material handling products and contract office furniture.
Configura’s CET Designer is design/specification software that allows an office furniture dealership to complete every step of a sales proposal in one program, including final pricing.
Contract office furniture sales are complicated because an interior designer usually has to be involved from the start, and a new office layout often combines different products from different manufacturers, making the price calculation difficult.
Peter Brandinger, the head of Configura Inc.’s U.S. headquarters at 100 Grandville Ave. SW in Grand Rapids, once explained to the Business Journal the office furniture ordering process is very expensive and time-consuming because “the customer wants to know how much it’s going to cost — and what it looks like.”
CET Designer is described by Configura as “intelligent” in that it automatically factors in rules for each product required, determining whether or not a given combination of different products will work. Configura calls it “parametric graphical configuration.”
A company that buys a license to use CET Designer also receives additional software development, programming and support, as an extension of the software. The client company’s authorized dealerships can sign on for access to the software by its design and sales staffs.
In 2005, Haworth became a client. Steelcase and Teknion signed on three years ago. More recently Configura signed KI (Krueger International) based in Green Bay, Wis. KI makes furniture and movable wall panels for education, health care, government and corporate markets.
Brandinger said in April Configura has about 20 employees in Grand Rapids. In early 2008, before the recession, the employee roster was at 18, but that number went down as the economy tanked. Brandinger said hiring here picked up in 2010 for the support staff and programmers.
Configura’s worldwide sales revenue in 2011 was about $9.5 million, according to Lyreborn.
Office furniture production in the U.S. is predicted by BIFMA International to be flat this year, but that is just one of the markets Configura serves.
“We are in a positive trend, but it might not mean the industry is going in the same direction,” noted Lyreborn.
The Grandville Avenue office just completed an expansion into adjacent space.
“We saw this as a good opportunity for us to create a little bit more spacious environment for our employees,” said Brandinger. He said the local office has not had a real break area or collaborative space, which he described as “quite popular these days in most cutting edge technology companies. We have a staff of very creative people.”
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