“Our sector has a very big responsibility, as most people spend a large proportion of their life at work,” underlines Sales and Marketing Manager Kersten Fischhöfer.
Founded in 1939 by Heinrich Ahsmann, and today led by Dirk Aßmann, the third generation of the family, ASSMANN specializes in desks, meeting room furniture, cupboards and shelves, fittings for reception areas, lounge furniture and acoustic solutions. The company produces both stand-alone pieces of furniture, such as neutral cupboards, as well as complete office concepts. The latest trend is for tables which, powered by an electric motor, can be raised and lowered at the push of a button to create sit/stand desks, and enable users to find the optimum ergonomic working position. The company’s Canvaro range is an extensive range of ergonomic desks, which can be constructed and combined as required.
“There is huge hype around these desks at the moment,” notes Mr. Fischhöfer. “Other product trends we are seeing include the facility for the integration of technology, such as cable management, as well as office storage space for personal property such as helmets and bags. The informal meeting and conference area is also becoming increasingly important.” The current highlight of ASSMANN’s portfolio is its Applica range, which includes an integrated desktop docking system and other features, creating fully connected workstations.
Although ASSMANN is a renowned supplier of office furniture, the company is very much more than just a furniture manufacturer. The added value it provides is in its advisory and project service.
“These days, companies don’t just buy 20 desks or cupboards, they fit out an office in its entirety, and consultation and advice is very much at the forefront of this,” explains Mr. Fischhöfer. “This is becoming increasingly important; we get our customers to think about how they will work in the future. They must be clear about that before they start. Often our advice begins even before they have built their premises.”
ASSMANN works very closely with specialist retailers. “Retailers are multi-brand outlets,” continues Mr. Fischhöfer. “We only supply part of what is required to fit out an office. We bring the retailers in on a project at early stage, so that they can use their full range of products to round out the design of a new office concept. This is particularly effective in the mid-sized commercial and industrial sector. The specialist retailer can supply everything that is outside of our portfolio; we work with the client in the area of our core competence of tables, cupboards and meeting room furniture, and others take care of their area of expertise.”
Approximately 55% of ASSMANN’s turnover is generated through public sector contracts. For many years, this was the company’s main business. The contracts are won through a tender process, and are usually awarded for a four-year period.
“Over these four years, we have access to these clients, and can advise them in terms of their office furniture requirements,” the Sales and Marketing Manager points out. “We work closely with regional partners – usually specialist retailers – who can take over the advisory service. From a product perspective, each client gets a customized catalogue where the choice of furniture is restricted to their stated price range. This ensures a relatively streamlined process.”
During an industry crisis which began in 2003, ASSMANN chose to concentrate on its core values of good quality products and a reliable service, which ensured that the company survived the difficulties. In 2008, ASSMANN also decided to extend its service on a more structured basis to industrial and commercial companies and service providers, which now account for the remaining 45% of sales.
“This is a completely different way of working,” stresses Mr. Fischhöfer. “It involves a lot more project work, and solutions need to be more creative and versatile. In this sector, we tend to look for customers in locations where we have a strong local retailer to support our service. This approach has worked well over the past few years.”
ASSMANN’s export market accounts for 13% of its turnover. In the UK, a strong market but one which nevertheless still has huge potential, the company has established a subsidiary, complete with a showroom, in London. It has a further showroom in Amsterdam and a branch in Switzerland. Although these make up the primary export markets, others have emerged.
“We have grown our overseas market through our customers,” explains Mr. Fischhöfer. “These are often German companies which have, or are setting up, branches abroad. We work with them to fit out the offices, as always, working with local partners. We have, for example, fitted out a branch office for Gazprom in Siberia, and also premises for Russian vodka producer Standard Vodka. We work with a large supermarket chain with branches across Europe. We have fitted out offices from Cyprus to Finland, from Spain to Croatia. We have even completed projects in the Far East, the US and, more recently, Chile, all of which were branches for existing customers.”
“The market is very interesting,” stresses Mr. Fischhöfer. “The business world has changed over the years. In the past, an office was a corridor with rooms leading off it left and right. Today everything is open plan. Digitalization and the new generation of workers have also brought many changes, as have new working cultures, the focus on work-life balance, and the shortage of skilled staff. Firms have to offer an attractive workplace in order to compete; some companies have introduced fitness studios, kindergartens and hairdressers at their corporate premises. This trend is set to continue in the coming years, which is obviously good for us. We all have to accept that the traditional office is long gone, and it is crucial that companies anticipate further change when designing new working locations.”