Friant & Associates: Building Success on a Solid Frame of Innovation

Friant & Associates (Friant) is an office furniture designer and manufacturer that has been exceeding customer’s expectations for over 20 years. Utilizing a factory-direct process, the Oakland, Calif.-headquartered company has established itself as a provider of easy-to-install, aesthetically pleasing, affordably priced office environments that boost productivity. Friant assures cost efficiency and customer satisfaction by owning and implementing the entire production process from end to end.

The company manufactures and distributes a full array of panel systems, wood and laminate casegoods, reception units, conference tables, seating and accessories, storage and panel systems that can be custom-tailored to fit any office environment. Serving as a one-stop shop for its clients’ needs, Friant delivers products that are as durable as they are reconfigurable.

Visionary entrepreneur Paul Friant, the company’s namesake and founder, began the company in 1990 on the philosophy that quality furnishings should be accessible to everyone. Growing up in the office furniture industry in and around his father’s dealership, and drawing on this experience, Friant made the commitment to expand the company by offering quality furniture above all else, and by placing an emphasis on on-time deliveries. While the operation started as a small office furniture refurbishing and parts firm, based out of Paul’s own home, he quickly saw the market void for a streamlined manufacturing operation that offered customizable solid steel-framed systems, and he jumped to fill that niche.

Finding a receptive audience for its superior engineering and compatibility with other standard systems, Friant’s customer base and product lines have grown significantly over the years. The company now employs 200 people that work in one of three California locations (headquarters and the Friant wood shop are in Oakland and warehouses are located in Hayward and San Leandro), as well as a warehouse and showroom facility in Atlanta. In addition, the company is building its presence all over the world with showrooms in Dubai and Shanghai. Friant has the ability to distribute products all over the world.

In March 2013 Friant will have products on display at the largest furniture show in the world at the China International Furniture Fair (CIFF) in Guangzhou, China. However, what remains most important at Friant is assuring both long-term and new customers receive the quick production and delivery times and personal service that have become the Friant signature. “While presence overseas brings visibility to the global marketplace, Friant is still focused primarily on growing domestic sales,” explains Stephanie Ariel, vice president of marketing for Friant.

A One-stop Shop for Exceeding Customer Expectations

The company focuses on efficient manufacturing, performing every step of the process to keep overhead and production costs low. This allows Friant to pass the savings on to its valued customers. However, low cost does not equal low quality. All of Friant’s products are built with materials and techniques that uphold or set industry standards. “You’ll notice the difference with Friant products,” assures Paul Friant, who remains CEO and president of the company.

Friant’s focus on an efficiency model extends from its production time table to the timeframe in which it delivers its product; clients can get some of Friant’s most popular components and finishes in as little as five days. “Choosing from one of our standard programs [Quickship, XLT/Factory Direct] ensures you will receive both excellent service and product in the shortest timeline,” explains Friant.

Friant’s overall business model is fundamentally different. Operating with a core group of employees – many who’ve been with the company for over 10 years – aids in maintaining quality control throughout the production process, and Friant combines this deep industry experience with efficient operations to keep its products and price points accessible to a wide range of clients.

The company is able to keep costs low through four factors: streamlined operations, strong partnerships in the dealer channel, agility, and owning its facilities outright – eliminating costly “middlemen.” The factory uses the latest CNC machinery to develop its No. 1 selling product line, called System 2, as well as Interra, its newest panel line, which offers a design-forward look. Friant’s team has also developed a rapid prototyping tool that instantly models new products and refines current ones. Friant is always looking to improve its products, enhancing quality and cutting costs for its clients.

Cutting Costs Not Quality

Friant believes the office furniture market is comprised of two types of manufacturers: the design-driven well-known name brands and lower-end providers. On the one end of the spectrum are companies that offer quality, but which also charge a premium for their brand, and therefore, are not within the budget of most commercial projects. On the other end of the spectrum are clone manufacturers that can satisfy aesthetic considerations, but that downgrade quality. Friant exists as a bridge between these worlds, offering pleasing, resilient products without a premium.

The philosophy at Friant is that price should not be a barrier when outfitting an office with a stylish, custom look. The company brings a distinct vantage point to the contract furniture world, successfully combining both design appeal and high-quality products backed with lifetime warranties. These signature pieces include conference tables designed with discreet cabling conduits for plug-and-play multimedia needs, as well as Celesse, a one-of-kind seat designed for people who sit midway on their chair while they work.

“Considering our integration of quality, price point and fast shipping programs, Friant offers more overall value than any other furniture manufacturer,” shares Friant. “We’re the smartest choice for many end users looking for affordability without compromising design or quality.”

A great illustration of this value is demonstrated in a recent installation at the San Francisco Federal Credit Union (SFFCU). The project included three floors of the SFFCU’s main branch. The remodel addressed SFFCU’s modern space planning needs while giving a refreshed look and feel throughout, boosting employee morale and productivity. Friant utilized its newest panel system – Interra, a mix-and-match frame-and-tile system – along with reconfiguring System 2 workstations installed 10 years prior that were still in excellent condition. The project provided a completely new look for SFFCU – one that was more modern, streamlined and professional – and it even went as far as to significantly improve employee morale for the better, according to SFFCU’s executives.

“The project was a great success from start to finish,” says Friant. “We are able to save the SFFCU, a nonprofit group, about 50 percent of what they would have paid if they went with the competitors.”

Responsible Resources

Behind the scenes, Friant is always looking for ways to be greener and smarter with resources. Non-toxic, water-based finishes and adhesives are incorporated in the company’s low-emission production. The fabrics the company uses are made of a blend of recycled polyester fibers and are applied in a direction that maximizes yardage per roll, using up to 40-percent more fabric. The company wraps its pallets to minimize packing space and fuel costs for deliveries. LED sensory lights in Friant’s warehouse and factories save energy by working only when needed. All of these practices allow Friant products to contribute points to a project’s LEED certification.

Friant’s sustainable products are being integrated into innovative projects across the nation thanks to a network of trusted dealers that appreciate the flexibility of both the systems and their profit margins, allowing them to quickly and profitably penetrate target markets. “We’ve developed a program called Advantage that allows our most committed dealers to sell our two newest systems, Interra and Dash,” explains Friant. “We see this partnership program as key to our continued aggressive growth nationwide.”

The company looks forward to a bright future. “We will continue making quality furnishings accessible to everyone by marrying high design with low costs,” says Ariel, who confirms that Friant sees great potential both domestically and abroad. “You’ll also see us in more venues, from magazines to tradeshows; in fact, our plans for NeoCon 2013 [the country’s largest contract furnishings show] are well underway.”

Friant is steadily climbing to the top of the furniture systems industry thanks to its commitment to affordable yet high-quality products. Always innovating, Friant & Associates will continue to extend its market presence as a go-to product through exceeding customer expectations as it has for over two decades.