a complementing and circular partnership

a complementing and circular partnership

Two Dutch design brands in a complementing and circular partnership

Old tabletops from the Gispen TM collection, returned to Gispen by a client, have now been processed into wardrobe furniture for a primary school in Hilversum. A good example of what the partnership between Gispen and Hermeta is all about. Sander Birkhoff, Operations & Supply Chain manager at Gispen and Emiel Mol, Interior Construction chief procurement officer at Hermeta, describe their partnership. “In a circular economy, all kinds of certainties are non-existent. Sometimes you simply need to go through with it and give it a try.”

Original Dutch quality design

Sander: “What Gispen and Hermeta have in common is that they are both typical Dutch design companies with great prominence in the entire Benelux. Where Gispen designs, produces and supplies full-service furnishings, it is Hermeta that supplies components they consist of. This includes wardrobe systems, but also custom-made furniture such as locker cabinets. They share our vision of thinking and working in terms of sustainability and innovation. This is where we have kept finding each other for many years! When you both operate at such a high level in the interior design sector, you run into each other. And what I like best is when collaborations arise from such encounters spontaneously. When one of us faces a challenge, the other will help to think of a solution. And before you know it, a beautiful product is created, such as the wardrobe furniture in this example.”

Circular stock creates opportunities

How does such a partnership come about? Emiel: “We were asked by Friso Bouwgroep to supply wardrobe furniture in two different forms: completely new or developed out of circular material. The client (a school) chose the latter option because of their environmental vision. In adopting a sustainable way of construction, they not only wanted to use sustainable materials, they truly wanted to reuse things. This is something we could really relate to. I then immediately thought of Gispen, knowing that they have return products and materials in stock, from which they manufacture new pieces of furniture themselves. There were tabletops there as well. A quick phone call to Sander was made and things were set in motion.”


Wardrobes that look and feel like new

To make a long story short: As a trial, Emiel had some used tabletops sent in. Sander: “It concerned solid-core tops finished in traditional colours such as cherry. An incredibly tough material, very durable, but for some clients they had lost their appeal after a decade or so. It’s great to be able to give such components a new lease of life through this project.” Emiel adds: “I showed the client four differently coloured tabletops, and they selected one. Undamaged tabletops, but you could still see the water stains from the coffee mugs! The manufacturers’ labels with details and cutting dimensions were still there as well, but clever assembly covers it all up. In the end, we used approximately 100 tabletops for the manufacturing of 15 wardrobes. They look and feel just like new, and have found a new home at the newly constructed building of the Sterrenschool in Hilversum. The coat hooks out of 75% recycled aluminium are Cradle To Cradle certified. Moreover, the manufacturing of the furniture has taken place entirely within the province of Gelderland – with all the accompanying logistical benefits and reduced CO2 emissions.”

Garderobekasten Sterrenschool Hilversum

Circular Economy: the world upside down

As beautiful as it sounds and, frankly, it actually is, the circular economy does pose some challenges. Sander: “It turns the world upside down a bit; but in a positive way! We do need to remember that we have been producing in a linear way for decades. Everything is centred around a linear economy. In a linear economy, we procure the materials we need according to certain specifications, which are then used to assemble products. In a circular chain, all certainties are non-existent. You don’t know in advance what kind of materials are returned, of what quality they are, or what clients expect when you speak of products that ‘feel and look like new’. This is something you must re-establish together.”

Innovation across the entire product chain

There are also challenges to face in terms of business administration. Sander: “How does one translate a circular mindset and work ethic into a financial model? And what about efficient logistics? Questions that need answering because, in the meantime, we still have to keep our linear economy going, which runs alongside it. I’m currently managing a linear as well as a circular supply chain. In other words, refurbishing furniture demands a great deal of innovative capacity. Fortunately, this is exactly what keeps us gong here at Gispen; having a creative and innovative mindset, which exists amongst ourselves as well as our clients and partners. We are innovating all aspects of the product chain and this is truly a joint effort.”


Showing audacity and vision

Emiel seconds this: “As suppliers we can and want to try new things, but you also need clients who are willing to join your endeavour, showing audacity and vision. It’s very easy to just buy everything off the shelf.” Sander adds: “And we are happy that our suppliers, such as Hermeta, have joined us. You must both be able to think outside the box and you can only realise this from a good working relationship. At the same time, this is a compliment to my Gispen colleagues, because this is truly a product of our company culture.” 


Read on