Sweden native Peter Brandinger met Configura
CEO Johan Lyreborn water skiing, a sport that Brandinger regards as a passion of his. At the time, Brandinger was working for an Apple dealer, but had it in his mind that one day, he and Lyreborn would work together. He began working for Configura in the early 2000s, but it was in 2005 that Brandinger and his wife packed up and set off for the United States to establish an American office for the company.
First settling on E. Paris and now located downtown at 100 Grandville Ave. SW, the Grand Rapids branch of this furniture design software company recently celebrated its five-year anniversary with Brandinger at the helm.
Configura began as the solution to a problem in 1990. When it comes to commercial selling furniture, there are numerous ways a piece can be assembled depending on client needs. Slight variations of components -- such as a cubicle panel or work surface -- change the entire model, requiring changes be made to all other parts, meaning its easy to make mistakes in design. Expensive mistakes. Additionally, dealers were charged with knowing a product line inside and out, often referencing gigantic spec guides where each individual component had its own number.
Sune Rydqvist, whose career in interior fittings and construction industries exposed him to these problems, formed Configura with his son, Göran Rydqvist and friend Lyreborn, both graduated with Master of Engineering degrees in Computer Technology from the Linköping Institute of Technology.
Working much differently than AutoCAD, Configura's CET Designer is an all-inclusive software program for designing, specifying, ordering and creating photo renderings and animations, as well as providing installation documents for a range of furniture products. It is usable for many people in the entire process of manufacturing and selling furniture, including design, sales, marketing and customer service staff at A&D firms and in-house design as well as furniture dealerships.
CET Designer helps designers think creatively while moving away form thinking technically. Amy Edington, Training and Support Specialist and interior designer at Configura's Grand Rapids office, shows how quickly and easily she can create a work station and make modifications to the design. For instance, if Edington changes the height of a panel in her cubicle rendering, CET Designer will automatically fill in the brackets and other hardware required for stability, as well as adjust the change of height trim. Edington can easily change the material or color of a piece and these changes can be applied globally to an entire design with the click of a mouse. The program also automatically calculates the list price of the item, which can be manipulated later.
For each client, Configura creates a separate extension, exclusive to that company's product line. The company can import their own materials and rules, and CET will prevent the designer from doing anything that isn't allowed.
All of this cuts down on time and resources, and saves money by preventing mistakes or miscalculations, simplifying the process for everyone involved.
"When it comes to the sales process," Edington explains, "I might draw this typical 90 percent of the time. Instead of drawing (this same rendering) every time, I can save something as a favorite and create a library for myself of typicals, amending to each particular client. "
Edington can also make alternative designs, enabling a sales team to quickly offer multiple variations to a potential client.
New and being demoed this year at NeoCon
(June 13-15 in Chicago) is Photo Lab in CET Designer. Now, a designer can take a photo of a room, replicate the floors, walls and lighting in the space, and place designs inside the room, showing a hyper-realistic rendering of what a client's office would look like.
"When you do larger floor plans, you can show them a fly-through," Brandinger says. "You can sort of walk around in the space."
This puts a client who may be about to order several thousand dollars worth of product more comfortable before swiping their card.
With 8300 users worldwide and 1500 clients, Configura has made a definite impact on the furniture scene. They offer free conferences in Las Vegas as well as webinars, and work closely with companies who are beginning to utilize CET Designer in their design process.
Steven Eriksson is in charge of implementing CET Designer at Steelcase, even having regular meetings with competitors like Haworth who are also adopting Configura's software in the interest of guiding Configura to become what "we hope to be an industry standard software," he says.
"Our products are not only numerous, but complicated," he says. "When you go to design with one of our panel systems, we have over 14 different systems products. Trying to get any dealer-designer to understand two or three of those at the depth that it requires to design and specify is impossible. We kept coming back to Steelcase needing a design and specification software so we could help our dealer-designers be more effective, efficient and make less errors."
A rules-driven graphic software like CET Designer helps reduce mistakes, thus reducing the budget dealers have to hold open for mistakes made when trying to manage the complexities of design.
"The visual nature of the tool where you literally click and drop furniture objects (into the work space) gives you a much more visual sense of what you're doing," Eriksson says, "so you can do good design quicker."
While CET Designer still requires designers have a knowledge of product and design, visually manipulating billable materials and playing within a set of rules as specified by the client company makes a world of difference by reducing errors, increasing efficiency and reducing cost.
Configura is one of many West Michigan companies heading down to Chicago, IL next week to represent the Furniture City at NeoCon World Trade Fair. Other exhibitors include Steelcase, Haworth, Sparkeology, Inc., and Vanerum-Stelter. We'll also be taking a trip to the event to see what our local companies are up to this year. J. Bennett Rylah is the Managing Editor of Rapid Growth Media.
Photographs by Brian Kelly
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Photos: Peter BrandingerAmy Edington