70 Years of Haworth
How a family company grew from modest beginnings in a Michigan workshop to a global enterprise creating workplace and technology solutions.
Industrial arts teacher G.W. Haworth outgrows his home workshop, where he manufactures wooden toys, and construction begins on the ﬁrst, 4,480-square-foot plant in Holland, Michigan. The move to the new facility is followed by more orders.
Using a loan of $10,000 from his parents’ life savings, G.W. Founds Modern Products. He hopes to earn enough money to put his children through college.
The company’s ﬁrst wood products include a tie rack and a shoe display.
“The money that started the business was earned the hard way,” says Dick Haworth. “Grandpa went from farm to farm selling Watkins cosmetics and spices; that’s where the money came from. I’m particularly proud of that. It’s a great foundation for a business.”
A freelance salesman pitches G.W. a sketch of some proposed bank-type partitions for the United Auto Workers headquarters in Detroit in 1951. G.W.’s ﬁrst foray into ﬂoor to-ceiling movable walls, the X & L series, is realized. G.W. considers uses for the scrap material created by the manufacture of partitions, which leads to the production of planters and room dividers in 1955. 50 employees (or “members”) and $472,000 in sales; the company makes an addition to the plant. Modern Partitions, Inc., is formed.
A freelance salesman pitches G.W. a sketch of some proposed bank-type partitions for the United Auto Workers headquarters in Detroit in 1951. G.W.’s ﬁrst foray into ﬂoor to-ceiling movable walls, the X & L series, is realized.
G.W. considers uses for the scrap material created by the manufacture of partitions, which leads to the production of planters and room dividers in 1955.
50 employees (or “members”) and $472,000 in sales; the company makes an addition to the plant.
Modern Partitions, Inc., is formed.
G.W.’s teenage son Dick Haworth sweeps ﬂoors and operates plant machinery.
First national sales meeting is held in Holland, Michigan, for 55 manufacturers, representatives, and dealers.
Dick is an assistant sales manager, and within two years is promoted to vice president for research and development before leaving to serve in the U.S. Army.
Members and sales of nearly $2 million.
Dick returns from the army and assumes responsibility for manufacturing and new product development. His goal is to produce an ofﬁce module system.
“My father ended up going to a hardware store, getting a lot of bits and pieces and dumping them on a table — and inventing the prewired partition. Right as he developed it, the personal computer came to the ofﬁce, and we boomed!” says Matthew Haworth.
Dick introduces the Modern Ofﬁce Modules (MOM) system and signiﬁcantly alters the company’s direction, with sales of $6 million the following year.
Company name and logo change from Modern Partitions to Haworth.
G.W. retires as president to become full-time chairman of the board; Dick is appointed president and CEO. With Dick, 33, at the helm, the company increases in size by 400 percent over next 20 years.
MOM is renamed UniGroup. The company exclusively focuses on contract ofﬁce furniture and sells its partition and movable-wall business to Trendway.
Dick Haworth helps devise a way to prewire panels, and patents the most innovative workplace product since open-plan ofﬁce systems.
Haworth International, Inc., is formed to set up foreign licenses for the manufacture and marketing of ofﬁce interior systems.
National showroom opens in Chicago’s Merchandise Mart.
830 members and sales of $67 million.
Company moves to its current location at One Haworth Center. Showrooms open or are renovated in 18 North American cities and four international locations.
1981: New products include System Seating, electronically supported work surfaces and tables, and an adjustable keyboard pad (1982).
The company’s one millionth panel is produced on the steel line. 1986: The Power Base electrical system is introduced.
Wood case goods are launched.
DataThing introduces plug-and-play voice and data cabling to panels.
Haworth goes global, undertaking a strategic expansion. The business acquires 15 companies in Europe and North America, then builds in Asia to expand its sales and dealer network.
The company acquires German-based seating manufacturing, making Haworth a multinational corporation with factories in Germany and Switzerland.
First office is established outside the U.S. (in London).
“As a company, we manufacture in the markets where we sell our products,” says Dick Haworth. “Our plants in China aren’t there to supply the North American marketplace, because they supply the Asian markets. It means we have high-quality jobs in all of the markets that we are involved in.”
4,240 members and $600 million in sales.
The company reorganizes into regions: 1) North America, 2) Europe, 3) Middle East/Africa, 4) Asia Paciﬁ c & Central America/South America.
Matthew Haworth formally joins the team as a dealer associate.
First ofﬁce furniture manufacturer to achieve ISO 9001 certiﬁcation.
Ideation Group is formed, applying user-based research to breakthrough concepts and products such as Crossings, Irrigator, Flo, Eddy, Drift, and Wake.
30 percent of sales derives from overseas.
Manufacturing expands with production at the Shanghai plant; over ten years, the company acquires 25 companies in Europe, North America, and Asia.
“We recognized that our deep insight into the physical workplace could be translated into user experience in a virtual workspace,” says Dick Haworth.
14,790 members and $2 billion in sales.
Haworth acquires architectural interior companies to bring to market raised-access ﬂoors and movable walls.
Organic Workspace strategy launches to take a comprehensive view of entire ﬂoor plates and all types of spaces. The Chicago showroom, Haworth’s LEED-CI Gold certiﬁed building, becomes the showcase for these adaptable workspaces.
Beloved founder of the company G.W. Haworth passes away at the age of 95.
New corporate headquarters, an LEED-NC Gold–certiﬁed facility, opens as a living lab.
The American Society of Interior Designers awards Haworth its Patron’s Prize for exemplifying the value of interior design.
First company in the industry to achieve zero waste to landﬁll in all U.S. manufacturing facilities.
Dick Haworth steps aside. His son, Matthew, 40, becomes chairman of the privately held, family-owned corporation.
Curated selections from Haworth, Poltrona Frau, Cappellini, and Cassina are brought together as the Haworth Collection.
Haworth acquires the Poltrona Frau Group, including iconic Italian design brands Cappellini, Cassina, and Poltrona Frau.
Haworth acquires JANUS et Cie for premium contemporary outdoor and interior furniture.
The company’s headquarters are given a refresh by Patricia Urquiola.
Haworth Collection partners with Pablo Designs and GAN rugs to improve and support collaborative environments.
7,500 members, 650 dealers, and global sales reaching $2.04 billion.
70th anniversary celebration of Haworth’s history of craft, innovation, 400 patents, and inspiring spaces around the the world.
“Underpinning everything we do is the fact that we are a values-led organization. And things like design, knowledge, and learning are part of that,” says Matthew Haworth. “We believe that our strong principles and culture give us a competitive advantage.”