Great insight from Metropolis("the magazine of architecture and design") on a little visible but highly lucrative segment:
Turnkey services—where in a construction company, distributor, or in this case, furniture manufacturer takes charge of, and responsibility for, projects from beginning to end—are not new in contract furniture. Florence Knoll created one of the first in-house planning units for commercial interiors in the 1950s.
But while the idea may have been born in the United States, Italian companies enjoy a virtual monopoly on such services in the luxury market. “Of course, these companies have written the history of design,” says Franco Bianchi, the Italian-born CEO and president of Haworth, Inc. “And they have considerable technical and material expertise. But they’re also effective in this segment of the market because they’re small enough to be flexible, yet solid enough to withstand the financial risks that turnkey projects entail.”...
No longer simply manufacturers or suppliers, venerable companies such as B&B Italia, Poliform, Poltrona Frau, and Promemoria, among others, assist architects and developers as cost analysts, value and product engineers, material sources, and project managers...
Psychology and business culture also play a part in discouraging American manufacturers from venturing into the turnkey market. “Design is more pervasive across Italian culture than it is in the U.S.,” says Brad Powell, the editor of the contract-furniture industry newsletter Officeinsight. “As a result, you see Italian manufacturers doing things that you might not expect a U.S. manufacturer to do. Here, the roles of the A&D community and the manufacturers are more prescriptive, with unwritten borders that both groups feel they need to respect.”
Read how they do it and more at Metropolis.com >>
Photo courtesy of W Hotels Worldwide and B&B Italia
It seems like the business model aims at taking control of the downstream part of the value chain, in a way similar to what other manufacturing companies have done, primarily in technology and computers, think IBM for example, but also in other industries. I can think of Technogym for example which actually manages equipment fleets and financing on behalf of gym chains.