For 23 years we’ve been building chairs to order. We’ve previously discussed this in our blog post, Custom Chairs = Expensive? For 23 years we’ve been a pretty well kept secret. I thought I would let you in on the secret, by clarifying what it is we do, exactly, and what we don’t do.
So first, we design and manufacture ergonomic and other seating products. We build for orders, not for stock. We’ve never picked a chair off the shelf and shipped it. That’s a very important distinction, as it provides you complete latitude in obtaining the proper fit and comfort.
It’s also important to let you know what we don’t do.
We don’t do Knocked-Down (KD), or Complete Knocked-Down (CKD). These are industry terms relating to how a chair is shipped to your local dealer from the manufacturer. Fully disassembled, in a box to reduce shipping costs. The chair is fully built, and upholstered, but seat pan, back, base, gas lift, arms and casters must be reassembled upon receiving. Your local dealer may do the assembly, or you may receive it in CKD, and must assemble yourself. If you buy online, this might be what you will receive.
A Mississauga, Ontario based manufacturer describes CKD nicely in their Information Bulletin #55; Complete Knocked-Down Shipping. This is part of their commitment to the environment, focusing on less packaging, increased shipping capacity, and less pollution. All very noble causes indeed.
Manufacturing today is more specialized than at any time in our history. Manufacturing of components are distributed across a wide variety of specialized facilities, with highly automated processes. Mechanisms are produced in metal stamping plants, who source steel in huge roles, and have massive automated presses to stamp and form the shape of the individual parts and pieces that make up a chair mechanism. Generally, there are multiple presses which are singularly purposed, due to the time and effort required to change over to produce an alternate part.
Arm pads, and other polyurethane components, such as bases and casters are produced in plastics plants, and is generally an injection molding process. Wikipedia describes this process starting with material for the part being fed into a heated barrel, mixed, and forced into a mold cavity where it cools and hardens to the configuration of the cavity. After a product is designed, usually by an industrial designer or an engineer, molds are made by a moldmaker (or toolmaker) from metal, usually either steel or aluminum, and precision-machined to form the features of the desired part. Injection molding is widely used for manufacturing a variety of parts, from the smallest component to entire body panels of cars. You may read more on this process here.
The world’s largest automakers outsource the vast majority of the actual component manufacturing. Does Sony make all of the components that go into manufacturing the hundreds of products designed and marketed globally? Um, no. Apple? No, yet they are considered manufacturers.
What We Do
So while we do bring in components we use in the construction of our chairs, they come from Canadian manufacturers. This is our commitment to our environment, and as importantly, this is our commitment to our economy. Absolutely none of our component products are sourced overseas.
Consider the environmental footprint of a process that ships raw material to China for specialized manufacturing in a land with few environmental laws. Remember the Summer Olympics, and the efforts to clean the air in Beijing prior to the start of the events? Then, consider those components must be shipped back to North America, or to another massive Chinese facility for finished manufacturing, before then being loaded on huge container ships, traveling thousands of miles, across vast oceans. These ships run on bunker fuel folks, and pollution knows no borders, and doesn’t need a passport.
Here’s a reality check for you. A container-ship of around 8,000 TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Unit) would consume about 225 tons of bunker fuel per day at 24 knots. That’s 450,000 lbs of bunker fuel per day, and at 2-3 weeks from China to British Columbia, that’s a whopping 9,450,000 lbs of bunker fuel per crossing. Hello! At 21 knots this consumption drops to about 150 tons per day. Obviously shipping lines would prefer consuming the least amount of fuel by adopting lower speeds, however this advantage must be considered with the resulting extended shipping times, and assigning more ships to maintain the same port call frequency.
I digress, our wood seat pans and backs are made from raw material sourced in Napadogan, NB and finished production in Ontario, but final shape and size is determined in our fitting process, and finalized in our production facility, in Nova Scotia. Our metal, and plastic components come from the manufacturing regions of Quebec and Ontario. We have our own thermoforming machine, and form the back of our most popular chair, the Whale Series products, right here. Our most popular arm, the Jelly Bean arm, is our design exclusively, and we produce all the components for these right here.
So yes, Chairs Limited does manufacture, and further, we do it right here, one at a time, for orders, and when necessary, to order.