We trace the history of German office furniture company Dauphin and see how it traversed five decades of change to come out on top.
October 8th, 2018
Friedrich-Wilhelm Dauphin founded Dauphin in the German back in 1968. Throughout that time a ceaseless entrepreneurial spirit has ensured that the company continues to sit at the forefront of the commercial office furniture sector, now recognised as a leading European manufacturer in that market.
The foundation for Dauphin as a company was laid by Friedrich-Wilhelm Dauphin in 1968. Friedrich-Wilhelm looked at the potential in the market, seeing an opportunity before anyone else.
In the early years, the trained businessman travelled around Germany with his suitcase and chair and gradually established his own sales channels. The first major order came in 1971 from the government of North Rhine-Westphalia, which ordered more than 25,000 chairs for the regional finance offices and higher regional courts.
An important milestone came when the company decided to develop its own office chairs. Friedrich-Wilhelm Dauphin made the breakthrough at the beginning of the 1970s with a clever invention: He designed an office chair from conically pluggable individual parts which could be packaged up, saving on space and making shipping economical – a crucial competitive advantage for the export business.
More than 85 patent applications and over 150 design patents followed, including Dauphin’s first synchronised mechanism for office chairs. The high level of innovation is still one of the most important factors behind the Dauphin group’s success today. The central focus of development work is always on creating a perfect blend of ergonomics, design and ecology.
In the in-house research department and working in close collaboration with institutes, universities and designers, new chair mechanisms and award-winning designer products are still developed on a regular basis today.
The 1980s and 1990s were decades of expansion. As well as building up the export business, Friedrich-Wilhelm, supported by his wife Elke Dauphin, improved the manufacturing chain by setting up two additional production facilities – one for mechanisms and one for upholstery.
A clear goal for the company at that point was to supply integrated office concepts from a single source. With that as a focus, Dauphin has expanded its production range over the last 25 years including the acquisition of other companies such as Bosse, Trendoffice and Züco.
To complement its office furniture business, in 2010 the Dauphin group also entered the home furniture sector: Under the ‘Dauphin Home’ brand name, the group now offers modern, timeless solutions for the home.
Since 2017, the office and home furniture of the “Bosse modul space” tubular furniture system has also been offered in an exclusive collection in the array of colours of Le Corbusier – as licence holder of Les Couleurs Suisse.
The life’s work of Friedrich-Wilhelm has earned him numerous awards and honours, including a Founder Award of the Bavarian Savings Banks, a “Sustainable Manufacturer” award, a German Brand Award, a if Design Award and a Red Dot Award.
But it wasn’t just Friedrich-Wilhelm all on his own, he was supported for more than 50 years by his wife and partner Elke Dauphin, who played a major role in helping to build up the company. With her passion for art and culture and her unerring instinct for good design, Elke ensured that the company conveyed an unmistakable image both externally and internally. Elke was a member of the Association of German Women Entrepreneurs (VDU) and the second chairperson at bayern design Nuremberg. But alongside her tireless commitment to her work, Elke was also always heavily involved in local causes: In 2001 she was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany for her support for social and cultural initiatives and her achievements in the field of design. Sadly, Elke passed away in 2016.
Since 2011, daughter Antje Dauphin has also been a member of the Board of Directors. Together, they are transforming the family business into a management-run holding company to ensure its success in the decades to come.
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