JO-RO Manufacturing makes the case for furniture that fits
When JO-RO Manufacturing Co. Ltd. opened in Airdrie 20 years ago, adjustable office furniture was a relative novelty, but the family-run company was ahead of the curve.
“The pushback was always, ‘I have a keyboard tray, I have an adjustable chair, what more do I need?’” recalls general manager Johnny Mattar, who was involved in the creation of the company that today sees its products shipped to clients as diverse as the Northwest Territories and Key West, Fla. “Education was the biggest challenge … that even though you and I might both be six feet tall, our proportions are different.”
Mattar presses a switch on his desk, raising it up nearly 52 inches using JO-RO’s FlexDesk mechanism. If he wants to, he can stand and work, or he can just raise the desk to be more comfortable for his chair height. The metal arms used to raise and lower the desk are usually hidden away in the legs, invisible until a button is pushed.
JO-RO’s plant on East Lake Green N.E. manufactures the mechanisms used to raise and lower desks, chairs, tables – even cabinets and shelves.
“Our background is we are a family of engineers with knowledge in general construction and manufacturing,” says Mattar.
We looked at the marketplace and, at the time, ergonomics was the buzzword. So we were able to produce a niche product that was not necessarily readily available in the marketplace [when we started].
“Adjustable tables were even less readily available – you had to look at the European market to get any product, so we took a leap of faith. We manufacture all the mechanism components, and anything involving woodwork we source out or we sell the mechanisms to other manufacturers who add their own unique designs to it.”
JO-RO has since expanded into other segments of the adjustable furnishings market, such as the Pro-LIFT line for use with digital boards and projection screens in classrooms and boardrooms.
“A challenge was thrown at us by one of our furniture clients,” Mattar explains, adding the client was looking for something to use with whiteboard and projection systems at a trade show, and, through this challenge, JO-RO saw an opportunity to create a line of lift mechanisms for use in schools and offices.
“Our newest segment is accessibility in homes for barrier-free living,” Mattar says. “The premise is to develop something compact and easy to use. So you buy an adjustable mechanism from us and add your own cabinets, or you can adjust a countertop for wheelchair access,” he says. “As we age it just gets harder to reach higher up the cabinets.”
Mattar demonstrates one of the ReachTec systems installed on a kitchen cabinet that, with the push of a button – either on the side of the cabinet or on a remote control – raises and lowers. A safety mechanism prevents the cabinet from lowering onto an object beneath. The system can be used for storing things out of the way or for lowering for easier access.
Mattar’s staff of 10 work out of an approximately 9,000-square-foot facility across the street from JO-RO’s original location, which had been outgrown within a couple years of going into business.
Drawing employees from both Calgary and Airdrie, Mattar says he enjoys coming up with solutions to challenges that present themselves. “There’s a new challenge every day and you don’t get stale in terms of doing the same repetitive things to provide solutions,” he says. “It keeps us engaged. And our interaction with our customer base … at the end of the day, they drive our innovation.”