Uli Gwinner, President, Steelcase Asia Pacific, is responsible for overseeing alloperations in the Asia Pacific region including Japan, Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore, as well as emerging markets in India and Greater China. A member of the Steelcase Inc. senior leadership team overseeing key aspects of the company’s global strategy, Uli reports directly to president and CEO James P. Hackett. Previously, Uli served as president of Steelcase REMEA in charge of business operations in Eastern and Central Europe, Middle East, Africa and Italy. Uli joined Steelcase Werndl AG from 2000 to 2007 and is responsible for leading the post merger integration between Werndl AG and Steelcase Inc., and on the development of its export markets. Before joining Steelcase in 2000, Uli was senior project manager and consultant at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants in Munich. He also served in the German Army Service as a mountain ranger and is a certified ski instructor. He enjoys swimming, cycling and waterskiing at a competitive level. Born in Munich, Uli graduated from Munich’s Ludwigs-Maximilians-Universitat with a Bachelor of Economics. He also has a Master’s in Economics from Universitat Augsburg.
Steelcase, for 100 years, has helped create great experiences for the world’s leading organizations — wherever work happens. Steelcase offer a comprehensive portfolio of furnishings, products and services designed to unlock human promise and to further social, economic, and environmental sustainability. We are globally accessible through a network of channels, including over 650 dealers. Steelcase is a global, industry-leading, and publicly traded company with fiscal 2011 revenue of approximately $2.4 billion. Our workplace research is published through the Steelcase 360 Magazine, 360.steelcase.com and 360 iPad app.
Replying to Anil Mascarenhas of IIFL, Uli Gwinner says, “Workplaces designed for an interconnected world offer the right blend of spaces and solutions to support the ways people work.”
Steelcase has been around for a century. So how are you celebrating what you call 100 dreams, 100 minds and 100 years?
For 100 years steelcase has conducted extensive research about the changing dynamics of the world, work, workers and the workplace. Steelcase launched its anniversary initiative- “100 Dreams, 100 Minds, 100 Years” as a dialog around the future and innovation necessary to support the changing world of work. It did this by asking children from around the world to envision how people will live and work in the future and to complete the sentence "One day..." with their own ideas expressed in artwork and stories. Highlights of these “100 Dreams” are captured in a beautiful documentary film titled "One Day" that is available online at www.100.steelcase.com, along with the children’s artwork. As Steelcase embarks on its next 100 years, we're celebrating our legacy by looking forward. Steelcase has always been about more than furniture. We have been about people and what people can do. As we turn 100 years old, we wanted to take this opportunity to look out into the future and see all things that make us optimistic.
The dreams of 100 children and ideas from 100 minds will influence the world and the workplace. They're a springboard to the century ahead.
We believe the principles of a brand have to become tightly integrated with the culture of the organization so that everyone in the company, not just the "customer-facing" employees, feel the brand and culture as one. When employees are aligned on what the brand stands for and the culture supports it, an organization is on its way to a stronger, richer culture and a more successful brand.
Steelcase has evolved from to a more design centric and future oriented company Take us back on how the company has evolved especially in the last few decades. When did it make an entry into India?
Founded as the Metal Office Furniture Company on March 16, 1912, the company’s legacy of innovation began with its first product -- the fireproof metal waste basket -- a leap forward in safety and productivity for its time when, a century ago, cigar and pipe smokers risked workers lives because of fires caused from ashes dumped in wicker wastebaskets. Today, Steelcase continues its focus on innovation with global product solutions for business, health care and education, all based on research and insights about the changing nature of work, what workers need today and how the workplace can help organizations compete in a complex, interconnected world.
How is the Indian market catered to? Do you have your own research and design in India? What is the size of the market you cater to in India?
We are targeting to MNCs and Local India firms. Yes Steelcase design based on user-centered insight approach when we design the products, that includes understand, observe, synthesize, realize, prototype and measure. In recent years we do the Gen Y and workplace research in India before we design the products for Asia Pacific region.
Brief us on your financials.
We are a company with approximately 2.75 million billion in the fiscal year of 2012, India is still one of fast growing market for Steelcase,
What is your marketing strategy? Who is your target audience and how do you reach out to them?
We use different touch points to reach our customers through public relations, website, social media customer events, newsletters and electronic media are different touch points.
Based on Steelcase research what is the future of work going to look like?
The time has come for workplace to support wellbeing. Just when creativity and innovation are more critical to business survival than ever, knowledge workers are plagued by stress, fatigue, ailments, illness, and burnout that impede their productivity, engagement, and basic day-to-day sanity.
Globalization is stretching the workday across time zones into both nighttime and sunrise, and routine business travel is often globetrotting in coach class with just one carry-on. The need for more collaboration makes it easier to get things done together, but can often squeeze time for focused work. Understanding wellbeing has kept philosophers busy for centuries and has evolved significantly over time. In recent decades, wellbeing has moved into the realm of science. Steelcase research agrees that user wellbeing is an important performance requirement for workplace furnishings.
Clearly, organizations that view their people as an asset can benefit by viewing their space as an asset too, making the workplace a less stressful and more desirable place to be.
The nature of work is changing dramatically, and investments in the workplace that support wellbeing for all generations of workers can be among the most strategic steps an organization can make to be fit and agile for what’s ahead. In an increasingly interconnected environment, organizations are facing complexity, global competition for customers and talent and the need to innovate rapidly.
Comment on some of the innovative products which you think have made a big difference.
Some of the innovative products that certainly have made a big difference is the media:scape and room wizard. The world is changing and the working style is changing as well. People are not just working in their individual desk, they will collaborate with people and generate ideas with local and oversea colleagues.
media:scape is the result of human-centered design methodology that included behavioral research and ethnographic video to understand the unmet needs of people collaborating at work. media:scape is a revolution which has been brought about by Steelcase in interactive and collaborative technology. media:scape creates dynamic settings for distributed teams to view each other and co-create content simultaneously.
RoomWizard is a web-based room scheduling system that solves the dilemma of connecting workers to meeting spaces. RoomWizard works with a variety of calendar systems including Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes. Meetings can be managed seamlessly via web, laptop or smart phone.
When workers find an open meeting space, they can reserve it instantly and get to work. RoomWizard even keeps track of space utilization with a database that measures and reports reservation patterns. The SnapWizard app from Steelcase captures the whiteboards notes, connects with RoomWizard and sends the content directly to meeting participants. It records room occupancy and reservation patterns and then generates reports that provides insights into space utilizations.
Do you see increased attention being given to ergonomics now in India?
Work culture has changed, people sometime spend 14 hours or more a day sitting at work and while commuting. Sitting in an office chair for hours together can lead to neck and lowback pains and aches because it is increased pressure on the back, shoulders and neck. To address this concern, In India, today there are several options in terms of ergonomic seating, when used properly can help one maximise back support and maintain good posture when seated. For optimal wellbeing, workers need to be able to move even when seated. A built-in web server allows users to find and reserve room from any network PC.
How much attention is paid to environment issues? What are some of the initiatives you undertake to address the same?
Steelcase is very concerned about environment protection. We believe it is important to understand the materials in our products. Therefore, we are examining the chemical makeup of our products -to 100 parts per million -against 19 human and environmental health criteria. If we find materials of concern, we work to eliminate them. It is easier to avoid environmental problems at the beginning than to fix them later. Good design and choosing the right materials can ensure a product will be desirable and have a long life. It also can ensure the product can be recycled at the end of its useful life. Steelcase helps businesses with end-of-use furniture strategies. With options ranging from refurbishing and resale, to charitable considerations or recycling, we’ve helped extend the useful life of thousands of furniture products and millions of tons of raw materials, dramatically reducing the amount of product waste dumped into landfills.
By measuring a product’s impact on the environment during all of its lifecycle phases – materials selection, production, transport, use and end-of-use – we’re able to target key areas to reduce our impact on the planet.
Video technology is fast emerging as an answer to the spiraling travel cost and as a measure to save time. However, the physical spaces for video conferencing haven't kept pace with the technology. What is your take on this?
As business collaboration becomes more virtual, the easier it is to get “up close and personal,” the better. It’s important that people can quickly become productive in virtual meetings by allowing all participants to contribute their ideas equally, quickly and seamlessly. Steelcase in order to meet these collaborative demands has introduced media:scape - An integrated technology and furniture solution designed to enhance collaboration through video conferencing. This collaborative solution designed by Steelcase will help enhance extremely essential non-verbal cues such as gestures, eye movements, overall body language, tone of voice, etc. which can’t come through in emails or conference calls while collaborations.
What are some of the concepts which are likely to be used in the future?
The world today is more interconnected and interdependent than ever before and it is having a profound impact on the way we work. People are working with teammates who are distributed all over the globe, and while new technologies free employees to work wherever they want, studies show that they are coming to the workplace to connect with people and technology; concepts that foster collaboration and interconnectivity.
In today’s interconnected world, collaboration is the way innovation is achieved. Organizations must ask themselves how the workplace can designed to enhance collaboration. Workplaces designed for an interconnected world offer the right blend of spaces and solutions to support the ways people work.
In today’s business climate, collaborative work is both face to face and distributed, so the tools and spaces people require are very different from what they’ve been in the past.
The workspace needs to support these three types of collaboration with the proper technology such as Steelcase’s media:scape which gives consideration to people, place and information. Today, more teams are connecting across campuses, time zones and continents. Distributed collaboration not only connects workers across the globe, it also supplements in person collaboration and helps cement relationships. Our basic need to connect with the people we work with is fed by technology for texting and phoning, whether we’re separated by thousands of miles or just a few feet of carpet.