The furniture industry has long been digital

Change is slow in countless business sectors, but in the furniture industry of all places the digital revolution is in full swing: equipped with 3D software, maximum customisation and a network of regional carpenters, the design platform demonstrates the great opportunities of digitalisation.

Sustainability, climate compatibility, regionality, quality – never before have these topics been so important for furniture buyers as they are today. For the younger generation in particular, innovation and individuality are also essential expectations of brands and products. Combining all this cannot succeed without digitalisation. This was already clear before Corona, but the pandemic has given digitalisation a massive boost. A year ago or before the pandemic, terms like home office or video conferencing were still distant promises for most people, but now they are part of everyday life. Just as the plague and other crises once became drivers of innovation, Corona will also profoundly change our society and our working lives and give rise to new business models. The future has become the present. The digital revolution is happening right now.

Alessandro Quaranta (right) and Nikolas Feth founded the company okinlab, which developed the platform.

In the furniture industry, we see ourselves at the forefront of the movement with With the design platform we launched five years ago, we network the wishes of customers with local carpenters and joiners on the website. We give people a tool online to playfully realise their ideas of the perfect furniture – in real time and 3D. This is how furniture is created that is as unique as a fingerprint. The business model is also unique: the entire design-to-production process is packaged in a complex but easy-to-use application. As is so often the case with, a good idea started with a problem. Because I couldn’t see a sensible solution for setting up a very narrow shop with conventional shelves, I asked my old school friend Nikolas Feth for advice. He is an architect and was researching lightweight components and bionics at the time. Together we found an affordable and at the same time spectacular solution. We realised what possibilities digitalisation offered. Because he couldn’t see a sensible solution for setting up a narrow shop, Alessandro Quaranta asked his old school friend Nikolas Feth for advice. The decisive idea for actually came to us at night over a beer. And then we got serious, tinkered, discussed, for days and nights. After almost two years of development with many ups and downs, it was clear that it was possible: furniture according to personal wishes, designed online, and – this was important to us from the beginning – always manufactured regionally and therefore better for the environment and the climate, but also better for the customer, because there is always a contact person on site and can be delivered and reacted to quickly. In concrete terms, with we combine the design process with the manufacturing process. The special thing about it: Every customer can intuitively design the furniture themselves by clicking and dragging, without any prior knowledge of construction or architecture. We stand for absolutely free formability, which means it is really about design, not just a rectangular piece of furniture that is five centimetres wider and seven centimetres higher. This offers the huge advantage that you can use every room optimally. Narrow corridors, high ceilings – the furniture adapts, ergonomically. This is particularly interesting in times of scarce living space in cities.

Software creates data for the milling machine

The customer only has to know what he or she wants and can then start with the 3D configurator. He or she does not have to deal with the complex construction in the background – structural principles, mathematical optimisation. An algorithm in the software ensures that the proportions of the individual elements change harmoniously and that the furniture always looks aesthetically pleasing. The result is a novel, soft language of form that is oriented towards nature and noticeably changes the feeling of space in a pleasant way. Once the furniture is finished on the screen, the software automatically creates the production data for a CNC milling machine and sends it to a joinery near the customer. We are already working with over 100 partners in Europe. Our goal is to have furniture all over the world. Behind this is the conviction that in today’s world, with all its challenges, it makes more sense to send data sets around the world instead of furniture. The goals of are: Sustainability, Fairness, Regionality.

A success story

And that is convincing more and more. In 2020, we had more customers and more turnover than ever before, and we were also able to enjoy awards such as the German Design Award, the State Prize for Design or titles such as “Sustainability Test Winner”. We seem to be on the right track. And we will continue on this path; more than ever also internationally with the new service “ Data”. It offers customers worldwide the opportunity to purchase the corresponding data set instead of a finished piece of furniture. The furniture can then be produced anywhere by the customer or by a suitable manufacturing company. How has developed from a mere idea to a successful company with more than 20 employees and many committed partners is moving for all of us. It was and is above all continuous work, passion, ingenuity, determination, but also a certain flexibility that makes it possible to master the new challenges every day… In the end, everything has to mesh to lead to success. Online everything has to fit, the website has to be understandable, the software has to work reliably, the process to the finished furniture has to be right. The most important thing is the people behind the idea, because the best business idea is nothing without the team that implements it.

BFH Events “Wood 4.0

As part of the twelve-part BFH digital event series “Holz 4.0”, Alessandro Quaranta presented’s new business model in an interview at the event “Zukünftige Geschäftsmodelle – Online designt. Regionally manufactured”, Alessandro Quaranta presented’s new business model. Also part of that event and valuable for the development of new business models is the “Strategy Check Forest & Wood 4.0″ developed for the wood sector, see the article ” Identifying strategic fields of action”. (

This article first appeared in BFH’s magazine “spirit biel/bienne”.

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AUTHOR: Alessandro Quaranta

Allesandro Quaranta is the founder and CEO of the company okinlab, with which he launched the platform. With this platform, digital design possibilities are combined with handicraft work at the local carpenter. In 2019, received the German Brand Award & the Saarland State Prize for Design, among others.

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