New Ergotron CEO Chad Severson said workplace trends such as open-plan and free-address offices are driving product development at the Eagan-based manufacturer of sit-stand desks, ergonomic-monitor mounts and mobile carts.
Companies increasingly want employees to move as they work to promote wellness and productivity, Severson said. Employers also are optimizing smaller, more collaborative workspaces where fewer employees have dedicated desks.
“If you can make the workplace more productive, more healthy and give people more choice and flexibility, that’s going to give you a leg up in attracting and retaining talent,” Severson said.
New products include the JUV, a height-adjustable desk that mounts to a wall and takes up no floor space, Severson said. One or two people could work at a laptop on the desk and then flip it up and out of the way when they’re done. Future iterations will mount to office panels.
In the works is the WorkFit Gem, a mobile, adjustable-height desk on a stand that’s on wheels. Severson envisions employees pulling several together for quick meetings.
Severson previously was president of the Wisconsin-based InSinkErator division of Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions. Severson, who earned an MBA at Ohio State University, has led business units in outdoor power, construction, automotive, consumer durables and heating, ventilation and air conditioning.
Severson joined Ergotron in January, succeeding Pete Segar as CEO. The company, founded in 1982 by the late Harry Sweere, announced Severson’s hiring in May.
Ergotron, with 1,300 employees and production in China, serves markets including office, health care and education. Ergotron sells through distributors and its website and offers unique products to partners including Amazon, Herman Miller and GE Healthcare.
Q: What brought you to Ergotron?
A: One thing that stood out about the opportunity is the mission of Ergotron. We are all about improving health and productivity of our customers. Wellness in the office is important and it’s growing in scope and scale. Having worked in a number of industries and a number of manufacturing firms, you don’t always have the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives in terms of health and productivity and that was clearly the driver.
Q: Were you familiar with Ergotron before joining the company?
A: I happened to have used a [sit-stand desk converter] 10 years before my time at Ergotron. I had injured my back playing tennis. A self-admitted product geek, I did the comparisons and Ergotron stood out. That was my exposure to the company so I started from a favorable place.
Q: How are tariffs affecting business?
A: Unfortunately that is a challenge we face as businesspeople doing work in Asia. Effectively for those products that have been impacted we have had to pass along those costs. At this point we need to make sure we’re planning for that and adjusting for that for the health of our business.
Q: How is your manufacturing experience influencing Ergotron’s product development?
A: There is a movement afoot to use Agile in hardware development and we’re in the process of building that out at Ergotron. What that means is a lot more rapid cycles in terms of development, much more iteration with customer focus and customer involvement. It’s been a tool that’s been reserved for software development but we’re moving toward that in hardware as well.
Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.