Datesweiser of Buffalo, NY, offers a new line of award-winning modular systems that are guaranteed to fit most any office’s style.
Corporate America is an ever-changing entity.
Owners are continually looking for better ways to do business, ideas to provide customers with good quality and value, and, as of late, they are looking for ways to break employees out of the confining spaces of the office “cubicle” to provide them with a more flexible, inspiring work environment.
In response to this need, Datesweiser, a $15-million-dollar company in Buffalo, NY, has developed the award-winning, technologically innovative XO line of modular office furniture to revolutionize the way America works.
The XO desking system line, introduced at NeoCon 2000, won an award for Best in NeoCon Gold. An extension to this line, conference tables, ganging tables, credenzas and free-standing desk systems, was added in 2001 and also won Best in NeoCon Gold.
Co-Owner and President Allan Weiser says the XO line was created in response to a growing demand from clients who were looking to get away from having their employees working inside the traditional “cubicle.” The simple elegance of the “case goods system targets a niche that we had been providing high-end custom solutions for,” he adds.
“We have done miles and miles of secretarial stations for law firms and other corporate headquarters. This modular system was developed as an alternative to custom furniture,” Weiser says.
The XO furniture line breaks out of traditional office cubicle boundaries by offering its end-user custom solutions that are “striking improvisations on a timeless theme,” according to the company.
Datesweiser’s XO line includes modular office stations, desks, dividing walls and technology-integrated conference tables, a forte of the company. An executive desk in this line can cost as little as $2,500 or as much as $15,000, whereas a custom executive desk can cost $28,000 or more depending on the detail.
“The XO Conference Table Collection offers a unique, flexible solution to power and data access,” says Weiser. The XO furniture line is marketed through dealer showrooms and makes up about 75 percent of the company’s business along with custom office furniture for executives. The remaining 25 percent of the company’s projects are high-end, museum-quality custom office furniture.
Knowing the Furniture Business — Inside and Out
The system shares aluminum frame work, and has 2-inch-square aluminum extrusions with set-off pins that support the work surfaces. The cases are not glued together. Instead, keyholes in the backs of vertical panels allow them to hang from the frame, which supports the horizontal surfaces. This gives the furniture the ability to keep changing because stations are not set in place.
Because of the intricacy of modular systems, the interchangeable parts of the kit require the utmost accuracy to ensure a proper fit. Co-Owner and Vice President Jim Dates says he learned early on about the importance of having high-tolerances in order to output a good quality product. “My father was a machinist. Everything he worked with was always measured within 1/1,000th of an inch, so I learned the importance of accuracy from him,” he says.
To achieve this necessary accuracy, the company has invested in state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment. It recently purchased an Italpresse veneer press to keep up with the large volume of veneering and laminating from the XO line.
The company also has other precision machinery that is integral to producing the XO line smoothly, such as two Weeke Optimat BP145 machining centers from Stiles Machinery, a Brandt Optimat KD94 edgebander, two Altendorf F45 and an F90 sliding table saws, an SCMI table saw, a Schelling panel saw, a Mayer beam saw, a Komo VR512 CNC router, a DMC Topsand widebelt sander and a Ligamatech Optimat MPP10 case clamp. AutoCAD 2002 and Accu Render for 3-D renderings are also used.
The plant operates using manufacturing cells for cutting, edgebanding, veneering, machining, sanding, assembling and shipping. Each cell has a lead person and employees are cross-trained from cell to cell to ensure that all areas of the plant are covered.
The company is in the process of instituting a time tracking system that will utilize bar codes to track the progress of jobs. At any given time, Dates says that the plant has a couple of hundred jobs in various stages of production.
“If we didn’t have the machinery or the technology that is available out there, we would not exist today. We would be a much smaller boutique-type wood shop,” says Weiser. “We are able to train our craftspeople and give them the necessary computer skills to learn how to program and operate the machinery.”
Moving Ahead Slowly
“Even as the pricepoints get more compressed in this market, we have continually come up with ways to develop more operational efficiencies without giving up any of our quality,” Dates says.
Dates focuses on the development of technology in the manufacturing facility and on special projects, although he says he misses working hands-on in the shop because he loves wood, plain and simple. “I like the way it feels; I like the way it smells,” Dates says. He also oversees manufacturing operations in the 95,000-square-foot plant.
Weiser devotes his time to marketing the company’s XO line and custom products and services. He is also involved with new product development and other strategic company decisions.
Both men agree that they have a fine group of craftspeople working in the plant, which is important to the overall success of the company and the quality of its products. “If a person comes through the door with the want, the will and a good work ethic and he is mechanically inclined, then we will hire him on as an apprentice and teach him under the guidance of a senior craftsman. These are people who have been here 15 years or longer.
“We team the two up and within one to three years we end up with a skilled craftsperson. After that, it is a matter of accumulating the wisdom that they will gain from doing the job over the years,” says Dates.
The company plans to continue building on its XO line slowly, Weiser says. “We want to build on what we are good at. We are also adding innovative new products and are looking for ways to supplement our product development area.”
Building a Business During a Recession
Nestled between lakes Erie and Ontario, not far from Niagara Falls, is the long-standing city of Buffalo, NY, where Datesweiser’s state-of-the-art, high-end custom office furniture plant is located.
Friends first, the company’s two owners, Jim Dates and Allan Weiser, formed their business alliance in 1982. “The way we started out was I asked Jim, ‘If I bring you occasional jobs, would you pay me a menial hourly wage and teach me how to make furniture?’ and he agreed,” Weiser says.
“We started out in my father’s three-car garage,” Dates recalls. “I had agreed to team up with Allan because he had a lot of people [lined up] that were interested in having custom kitchens and that sort of thing made. Allan came to me with the business, and I had a factory, if you will, in my garage.”
In the early years the men worked diligently in Dates’ garage, all the while building a strong clientele base and a reputable name for themselves. Then, one day, they took on a project that was too big for the garage and they knew they had to move.
“We moved into the corner of a theater organ factory. That facility was 900 square feet,” Dates says, adding that the company has moved several times since, each time increasing the square footage of its shop.
Initially, the duo would accept the gamut of custom jobs, from kitchen cabinetry to custom bedroom furniture pieces, using either wood or plastic laminates. Eventually, the material focus shifted to wood, and the projects shifted to high-end office furniture, a niche market that Dates and Weiser decided to get into during the late ‘80s when the post-Reagan recession was just beginning.
Marketing efforts were first focused on Rochester, NY, since Buffalo is not a corporate headquarter town, so to speak. “We also canvassed the contract design community in Rochester with our residential portfolio, and our first job there was administrative offices for a senior citizen’s home. That’s when we had to hire our first employee to help us,” says Weiser. The company now employs 95 full-time people.
— Lisa Whitcomb
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