A Visit to Andreu World HQ

The outdoor furniture showroom in the garden of Andreu World .Headquarters. Photography courtesy of Andreu World.

I recently had the great good fortune of traveling to Valencia, Spain to visit the headquarters and manufacturing facilities of Andreu World. Valencia is a beautiful city on the east coast of Spain and the west coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

My wife, Martha, accompanied me on the trip. She’s a veteran of the furniture industry – that’s how we met. And she loves a good factory tour. But the most compelling reason for taking her along is that I really want to stay married. So, if you were heading off to Valencia would your significant other just say, “Ok, have a nice trip.” Well, Martha wouldn’t!

Star designers Patricia Urquiola and Philippe Starck working with Andreu World’s talented development team approach Cradle to Cradle sustainability in a unique way for each project.

And a word about Andreu World hospitality – everything was arranged to perfection. They had suggested that we plan at least one extra day for an architect-guided walking tour of the city and the architect they picked to be our guide, Adrián Torres Astaburuaga was perfect. His depth of knowledge of the history of Valencia and how the city has evolved over time under its various influences from the Romans to the Moors to Franco was fantastic.

A well-known characteristic of Andreu World products is their exceptional level of attention to detail. Our primary host, Cristina Salavert, demonstrated that same attention to detail to our arrangements. Even though, as the communications manager, she probably just drew the short straw when it came to taking care of a visiting journalist, she was absolutely stellar before, during and after our trip.

After our architect-guided walking tour of Valencia, Cristina Salavert introduced us to Casa Montaña, an Andreu World favorite. (L to R) Martha Beck, Bob Beck, Cristina Salavert.

Andreu World is a truly global design and manufacturing company of seating and tables with products that artfully span the office, hospitality, and residential market segments. Its 24 showrooms across the globe attest to its international stature, and the fact that 12 of the 24 are in North America attests to the importance of the North American market to Andreu World.

The company was founded in 1955 by Francisco Andreu Marti, and it is still owned by the family of the founder. Along the way it completed certification as a B Corps company. I’ve written before about my positive opinion of B Corps companies, but at the risk of repetition, I quote from the B Corps website, “B Corps are mission-driven companies that balance [emphasis mine] purpose and profit. Our most challenging problems can’t be solved by governments and nonprofits alone. For-profit businesses play a critical role in shaping our future. B Corps are for-profit companies that meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability.”

The reception room at Andreu Est.
Lean manufacturing requires on-going training and process improvement meetings. Adjoining the production area, Andreu World has purpose-built rooms with appropriate tech.

Andreu World’s Mission Statement says, “We are experts in the manufacture of seating and tables, we work to create innovative and sustainable designs in collaboration with the best designers, with the commitment to create a positive impact on the planet”

And it’s stated purpose is, “To create great designs to provide inspiration and innovation to all architects and interior designers around the world. We also strive to be a world leader in seating and tables made with passion for a healthy, sustainable lifestyle.”

Multiple CNC fabric cutters.

Judging by the number of design awards Andreu World has won, it is definitely meeting its Purpose of inspiration and innovation. For example, they’ve won multiple Best of NeoCon Awards every year since 2011 and numerous other design awards around the world. At NeoCon 2023 they won  4 Golds, 4 Silvers, 4 Sustainability, 1 Innovation and 1 Business Impact Award, which has to be a world record for the most Best of NeoCon Awards by a single company in a single year.

The sewing room with images of finished products The sewing room with images of finished products adorning the walls.
adorning the walls.
Final assembly of a bench.

In both its Mission and Purpose statements, Andreu World mentions sustainability. There a many ways to think about sustainability and there are a growing number of certifications a manufacturer may choose to pursue; both as a guide to its efforts and to vouch for the veracity of its claims. Two of the toughest and most comprehensive are the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and Cradle to Cradle Certifications.

Andreu World was the first company in the world to have a complete FSC certified product offering. FSC is widely regarded as one of the most rigorous and credible certifications for sustainable forestry. It sets high standards for forest management, focusing on the protection of biodiversity, indigenous peoples’ rights, and the prohibition of illegally harvested timber, all of which are audited via a strict “chain of custody” protocol.

Work-in-process chair parts are delivered to the next station on carts that are moved by small robots that fit under the carts and are programmed by location.
Palettes made with recyclable, composable corrugated feet.

Andreu World was also the first, and to my knowledge, the only company in our industry to achieve Cradle to Cradle Certification for all its products.  One of the key merits of the Cradle to Cradle program is its holistic approach to sustainability. Instead of focusing solely on reducing environmental impact, it takes into account social and economic factors as well. The program’s goal is to ensure that all materials used in products are safe for human health and the environment, and can be perpetually recycled or go back to nature.

Andreu World operates out of three manufacturing facilities located a short distance apart in Alaquàs, Spain. It is Francisco Andreu’s hometown located just east of Valencia City proper.

The table manufacturing facility.

The original Andreu factory is dedicated to manufacturing tables and the new Andreu Est facility manufactures seating. The headquarters and showroom are located a short distance from Andreu Est in the repurposed and highly renovated school where Francisco Andreu’s kids went to school! The showroom is terrific. It’s a large two story, open atrium room. The first floor is designed in a way that is consistent with Andreu World showrooms everywhere – minimal, clean aesthetic. But then there is a balcony around the perimeter of the 2nd floor that has a wonderful “hall of fame” display of designers and the products they’ve designed.

Final fitting of a table prior to preparing for shipment.

For our tour of the seating factory, we were fortunate to have the Plant Manager, Fernando Minaya, as our guide. I was impressed by the degree to which the company has implemented lean manufacturing principles. Andreu Est is remarkably clean and well-organized. Visible work-in-process is minimal, neatly stored by customer order and protected from damage throughout the process. And careful attention to detail and sustainability are designed into the processes as well as the products. I also loved that displayed throughout the plants there are giant photos of the products as they are used in projects to remind and inform the factory workers how their work relates to the outside world.

The atrium room in the showroom with the designers’ “Hall of Fame” on the second floor.
Chair display in the showroom.

The capital investment in automation is striking and directly impacts the high standard of repeatable quality as well as sustainability through minimizing waste.

Our tour guide for the table plant was the head of Quality & Lean for Andreu World, Ana Isabel Sanchis. She has the confident air of someone who knows her job and approaches every day with a positive determination to continuously improve.

When Andreu World started making outdoor furniture they needed a good way to show it off in situ. I’m not sure which came first, the garden of the outdoor furniture, but as of our visit, the garden outside the headquarters and showroom has been outfitted with several platforms and pergolas; all displaying realistic and usable settings of their outdoor furniture.

Our lunch discussion group. (L to R, seated)Cristina Salavert, Martha Beck, Bob Beck. (standing) Federico Aguar, Jesús Llinares, Jesús Griñan.

The perfect finale of our whirlwind was lunch in the garden where we were joined by Jesús Llinares, CEO, Jesús Griñan, Vice President Andreu World America, Federico Aguar, Industrial Director and Cristina Salavert, Communications Manager for a wider-ranging discussion of the company and the industry.

Everything we saw on our visit convinced me that Andreu World is poised for continued growth and a continuing stream of outstanding design…and the design awards that will come with it.

Did they even arrange this “TEXas” container because they knew that’s where I live?