This category primarily encompasses establishments engaged in manufacturing furniture for public use in schools, theaters, assembly halls, churches, and libraries. Examples of such furniture include bleacher and stadium seating, church pews, library chairs and tables, and blackboards. The public building and related furniture category also includes seating for public conveyances such as automobiles, aircraft, and passenger trains. This category does not include manufacturers of stone furniture, which are classified under SIC 3281: Cut Stone and Stone Products, nor does it include those that manufacture concrete furniture, which can be found under SIC 3272: Concrete Products, Except Block and Brick.
Institutional Furniture Manufacturing
The companies that comprise the category of public building and related furniture in the United States differ greatly in structure, marketing strategy, and fiscal health, due to the variegated nature of the classification. Nearly half are smaller firms with fewer than 100 employees on the payroll, while roughly 10 percent are corporate subsidiaries. The majority of companies in the industry are "single establishment companies," which are not part of a larger parent corporation.
The variety of products manufactured by the public building and related furniture industry defies a general description of industry outlook. A smaller and less profitable segment of the industry involved the manufacture of church furniture, while providers of automobile seats to car manufacturers are typically more visible and fiscally sound. Early in the twentieth century, much of the public seating furniture was made of wood. However, the incorporation of new technologies such as plastic radically altered manufacturing processes in this category. Many companies were compelled to remarket their products to meet changing demands and a tougher economic situation. Increasingly stringent government regulations in regard to consumer safety and access for the disabled also force periodic changes in the industry.
Most companies in the public building and related furniture industry were comprised of divisions responsible for different steps of the manufacturing process, including research and development, executive decision making, manufacturing, marketing strategy, and customer support. Many of the products manufactured in the industry were marketed to other companies or institutions, rather than the general public. Automobile seats, for example, were sold to firms specializing in seat frames and exteriors, which, in turn, sold the completed seating units to automobile manufacturers. Manufacturers commonly advertised in trade journals, such as Automotive News, Library Journal, and other publications aimed at executives, buyers, and other upper-level personnel.
During the economic recession of the early 1990s, many public building and related furniture manufacturers focused on customer satisfaction and product reliability as part of their plan to survive in the industry. This represented a particular challenge, as many public building and related furniture manufacturers marketed their products to other companies, rather than the ultimate consumer, making it difficult to gauge product satisfaction.
Many of the firms engaged in manufacturing public building and related furniture date back to the late nineteenth century. During this period, the Industrial Revolution and the urbanization of America played a key role in the development and growth of the industry, as a variety of new demands for public-use furniture developed. For example, when educational reform in the United States led to the replacement of the one-room schoolhouse with large school buildings in...