Learning is All About Innovation
Education is evolving…and rapidly. From the infusion of technology into nearly every aspect of instruction to a growing emphasis on the “whole child,” early childhood centers and elementary schools are working diligently to improve every child’s and their teachers’ school experiences. At Jonti-Craft, constant conversations with educators, hands-on time with watching and studying how young learners navigate the school day, and a commitment to creating furniture that meets educators’ and students’ needs drive innovation.
Tapping Into Virtual Reality Technology to Connect Facilities Design with Instructional Priorities
Jonti-Craft is among the first adopters of virtual reality (VR) in classroom design. This technology gives designers, facilities managers, school leaders, and frontline educators the opportunity to experience what their new or redesigned learning spaces will look like, how they’ll function, and how the furniture they choose will contribute to student comfort, safety, and learning engagement. From storage to story time, and small group learning areas to quiet spaces for individual reading, VR design support gives customers a “you are here” experience so they make the right choices for each grade level and every kind of learning opportunity.
Said Matt Hinkle, Jonti-Craft’s VP of Sales, “VR has given us a way to expand the way we work with our customers. As they explore the virtual classrooms we create based on their needs and specs, they can visualize a finished classroom, library, or other environment. They can ask questions, request alternative configurations, or other furniture options and see how their choices impact room function and budget. It’s an immersive, collaborative way to work with our customers and incorporate their ideas and needs. This technology has also been a net positive in our ability to close larger projects more quickly.”
Jonti-Craft’s leadership team also learns from the company’s own in-the-field sales specialists and dealer channel representatives who saw opportunity in the power to create compelling visual proposals in real time, while working onsite with school customers. As a result, the company was the first early childhood manufacturer to incorporate sales-based design software. The company uses KITS Collaborator to offer in-the-field design capabilities so dealers and end users can participate in the design and product selection process and use the immediate feedback to, as Matt Hinkle notes, “get to yes!”
Materials: Fabrics, Colors, and Superior Quality Construction Are Part of the Innovation Landscape
Schools, daycare centers, and healthcare environments all share a need for durable, healthy, environmentally sound, and aesthetically appropriate furniture. Jonti-Craft is now expanding the integration of new materials, such as sound damping panels and plexiglass table dividers to keep classrooms quieter and to keep students focused on their work while maintaining healthy distances from one another. These kinds of innovations, while simple in nature, can make a significant difference in the way students and teachers experience learning and teaching.
On the color front, Jonti-Craft is continually introducing new palettes and color options for seating, tables, and more. From a vibrant new lime green to a calming driftwood gray, educators can brighten up their classroom environments and give students a critical sense of belonging in their classrooms.
Making a Leap from Desks, Tables, and Chairs to Experiential Learning
The product design team at Jonti-Craft has dramatically expanded their approach to create innovative learning options. From play kitchens and reading nooks, to dress-up centers, castles, imagination stations, sensory tables, and rolling STEM centers—the whole category of early learning furniture has expanded, and Jonti-Craft is leading the charge with rapidly expanding collections of furniture that inspires learning and exploration.
Responding to Changing Health & Safety Needs in the Classroom
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, innovation carried the day at Jonti-Craft as the company answered schools’ and healthcare center needs for portable, affordable, no-plumbing-required handwashing sinks. The company’s Clean Hands Helper sinks, introduced prior to the pandemic, were suddenly in high demand. With a quick manufacturing pivot and an expedited shipping process, the company produced thousands of portable sinks to help school re-open and stay open safely. It’s another example of the intersection of innovation and opportunity that propels the company’s success.
Manufacturing Processes Continually Updated and Expanded
Doug Buster, Jonti-Craft’s VP of Operations, shared his perspective on innovation, through an experienced manufacturing and production lens. He explained, “ Jonti-Craft continues to invest in technology to help us remain an industry leader. In the past year, we took on one of the larger projects in our recent history – rearranging several pieces of equipment within our factory, coupled with pairing some new equipment with our existing machinery to optimize our layout. This project required significant advanced planning and intricate steps to accomplish with little disruption to our customers. As a result of this project and strategic investment, we are poised to provide increased production capacity and performance for our customers.”
A Legacy of Innovation that Keeps Growing
From the early introduction of furniture designed to contribute to healthier indoor air quality and environmentally safe spaces, Jonti-Craft has operated with a strong commitment to the environment, choosing suppliers that incorporate forestry management plans and engineering box-making systems to reduce cardboard waste.
Innovation in Education Inspires Innovation at Jonti-Craft
As American schools innovate in the ways they deliver learning opportunities for students, Jonti-Craft is innovating across each of its operational areas to answer education’s evolving needs. In daycare centers and schools in all 50 states around the country—and even across the globe—as children come to class, that innovation is helping improve and enrich their experiences in class and beyond. That’s a good day at school for this furniture manufacturing innovator.
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