Want to learn to love your workplace? And without the use of medication? German office-furniture brand Palmberg, with its flexible system of space-shaping products, has the solution.

If not leisure time, work could be the new pleasure time, thanks to Palmberg, whose mission is to place workers centre-stage in the office landscape and make it work for them

The feel-good factor: Palmberg | News

If not leisure time, work could be the new pleasure time, thanks to Palmberg, whose mission is to place workers centre-stage in the office landscape and make it work for them

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Think soaring temperatures and pristine white beaches and Northern Germany isn't necessarily the first place that comes to mind. Malaga, yes. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, not so much. Having spent the best part of a year in my callow youth living in East Friesia, I know just how wet (and herring-filled) this part of the world can be.

And yet mercury-busting heat was my companion as I headed north to Schönberg – an hour or so outside Hamburg – to visit Palmberg, the long-established, Made-in-Germany office brand. I'll level with you: while I was excited by the idea of deep-diving into the manufacturer’s enviable production know-how, the flesh was weak. The thought of diving into the cooling waters of the nearby Baltic Sea was somewhat distracting.

Palmberg lends workspaces greater expression and greater flexibility with its dynamic collection of furniture products, many of them acoustically active

The feel-good factor: Palmberg | News

Palmberg lends workspaces greater expression and greater flexibility with its dynamic collection of furniture products, many of them acoustically active

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This all changed on arrival. For a producer that’s in the business of bringing people together as much as it is making products, the warmest (no pun) of receptions from the Palmberg team should have come as no surprise. With its workforce of over 540, most of its employees drawn from the local area, connecting with others, forging meaningful, lasting relationships, is central to Palmberg’s stock-in-trade. ‘We have a woman who used to work in our canteen for over 45 years,’ says my host, marketing chief Christoffer Süss. ‘She retired, but insists on coming back to help out.’

Palmberg’s workforce of over 540 crosses the gamut of specialist skills. Shown here, Lukas Hafemeister, final table assembly, and Mathias Vogt, special construction

The feel-good factor: Palmberg | News

Palmberg’s workforce of over 540 crosses the gamut of specialist skills. Shown here, Lukas Hafemeister, final table assembly, and Mathias Vogt, special construction

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Come together

Such a positive attitude to work is precisely what the company seeks to enable with its considered system of high-quality, flexible office furniture that places people centre-stage. One of the leading providers in the German-speaking world of total workplace solutions, its increasingly design-led products (big on colour, big on haptic texture) allow users the ability to create a dynamic, micro-architectural landscape within their workspace, with an emphasis on agile, efficient working and – above all – on feeling good. ‘Ich freue mich aufs Büro’ runs the brand’s strapline. In other words, ‘I’m looking forward to going to the office.’

The latest, automated production technology meets quality handwork at Palmberg’s factories. Shown here: Frank Schulz, final container assembly, and Liane Orlowski, acoustic component production

The feel-good factor: Palmberg | News

The latest, automated production technology meets quality handwork at Palmberg’s factories. Shown here: Frank Schulz, final container assembly, and Liane Orlowski, acoustic component production

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It may all sound a touch Pollyanna-ish, but the fact of the matter is that we like to spend time in environments in which we can make our personal mark and which work for us. ‘We want to give workers the environment they need. And deserve,’ says Süss. ‘We believe that every employee should be valued enough to have their own desk. What’s more, it’s what we, as humans, like. Us Germans are particularly famous for that with our towels on sunbeds!’


‘We want to give workers the environment they need. And deserve’


But how does that work when office space, particularly in city centres, is at a premium? By applying creative thinking to product development. Palmberg’s latest additions to its portfolio include such moveable (as well as sculptural and playful) elements as its privacy-lending, acoustically active DISC (imagine a giant CD and you’re not far off), and small storage-unit-cum-upholstered-hot-seat FIFFI, replete with leather lead. Imagine taking the dog for a walk.

Sustainability not only when it comes to the business, but also to the environment: Palmberg reuses by-product particles from the sawing process to make new boards. Shown here: Steffen Bauer, acoustic component

The feel-good factor: Palmberg | News

Sustainability not only when it comes to the business, but also to the environment: Palmberg reuses by-product particles from the sawing process to make new boards. Shown here: Steffen Bauer, acoustic component

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Meanwhile, space-efficient, double-sided cabinets that function as dividers between desks also act as a metaphor for the Palmberg way: to foster a greater sense of community and interaction at work. ‘We want to help people perform the best they can by giving them the right kind of tools – like spaces for concentrated working, but also informal places for exchange – rather than yet another table system or the like.’

Big wheels keep on turning

May 2019 saw the opening of Palmberg’s second plant – currently dedicated to the company’s expanding collection of quality acoustic products – a few minutes’ drive from the main Schönberg factory. While the latter houses state-of-the-art automated production machinery, including robotics, and is able to handle over 10,000 sheets a day, be they particleboard, MDF or bonded panels, at the former skilled handwork still plays an important role. For example, Palmberg also specialises in real-wood veneer.

Man and machine: increased automation in production at Palmberg allows for large orders to be met, but never at the cost of quality and hand-finished detail

The feel-good factor: Palmberg | News

Man and machine: increased automation in production at Palmberg allows for large orders to be met, but never at the cost of quality and hand-finished detail

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Operating what Palmberg calls a ‘Flexfertigung’ model (or flex production), where every single element, bearing an individualised barcode, is tailor-made in terms of cutting, bonding and finishing, the nature of such a set-up means there’s never a slow-down in production, regardless of the client’s customisation requirements. At the same time, a special bespoke workshop handles commissions that are completely off-menu, such as reception-area desks. ‘We manufacture on demand,’ explains Süss. ‘There’s no warehousing involved.’ Orders head straight out of the factories via the company’s 40-strong fleet of trucks, which handle over 700 desks, 800 cabinets and 300 containers a day. Including during heatwaves.

Palmberg manufactures on-demand, utilising a flex-production model, meaning that every element is tailor-made, allowing custom orders to be fulfilled with no slow-down in manufacturing

The feel-good factor: Palmberg | News

Palmberg manufactures on-demand, utilising a flex-production model, meaning that every element is tailor-made, allowing custom orders to be fulfilled with no slow-down in manufacturing

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Never asleep on the job

Palmberg was established in the early 1920s and later acquired by the state during the Communist era, during which time it focused on the production of bedroom furniture. As the Iron Curtain opened, the company’s shrewd management saw an opportunity to respond to the sudden need for more quality office furniture in East Germany, and adapted its business accordingly – while, at the same time, growing its planning and after-sales services. This organisational ability to pivot is still evident at Palmberg, with its continued innovative response to the shifts in how we work and how we, as a consequence, fashion and refashion the spaces in which we work.


Palmberg responds to the shifts in how we work and how we, as a consequence, fashion and refashion the spaces in which we work


And these aren’t just idle words. Take a look at the offices at Palmberg HQ and you’ll see the company putting its money where its mouth is. Here, the team have used their home ground as a reference project, organising it as a variety of flexible spaces that embrace the dynamic, people-centric philosophy the brand propounds. Zones for individual retreat and phone calls are married with conference rooms, as well as smaller office spaces with high tables for impromptu confabs. At the heart is a kitchen area (Palmberg also produce office kitchens), with various seating configurations for staffers to get together.

At Palmberg HQ, the company has used its own offices as a reference project, creating a series of flexible spaces that embrace their people-centric philosophy. Shown here: Christina Witt, Niwar Jasim, order managers, and Max Bagunk, project planner

The feel-good factor: Palmberg | News

At Palmberg HQ, the company has used its own offices as a reference project, creating a series of flexible spaces that embrace their people-centric philosophy. Shown here: Christina Witt, Niwar Jasim, order managers, and Max Bagunk, project planner

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‘We’re growing healthily,’ says Süss. ‘A sustainable business working in the most environmentally sustainable way possible is our goal.’ Judging by the scale and technological prowess of what I saw in Schönberg, I can attest. And with such progressive steps as reusing by-product particles from the sawing process for the manufacture of new boards, as well as packing finished products in reusable blankets for transportation (instead of plastic and cardboard) – all underpinned by the brand’s fistful of certifications – there’s a demonstrable commitment here to reducing ecological impact.

Feeling good at work can sometimes be hard work. But it’s worth it.

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