From The Editor: The Quantum Group: Innovation Honoree

By Jim Borneman, Editor In Chief

The Quantum Group and its sister companies are honorees of the 2015 Textile World Innovation Award. After spending time interviewing founder Jeff Bruner, it is not hard to see that these companies are not ordinary textile companies.

Bruner, who is 100-percent owner of The Quantum Group, established sister companies to allow key employees and industry partners to participate with Quantum in ownership.

Bruner’s background, even in his early career, is as a problem solver. And it’s as if this is his natural state, as well as the state of those who surround him.

Compared to many textile companies, Quantum works backwards. Bruner doesn’t have a sales staff except for one salesman in the monofilament area. When questioned about this business structure, he simply stated: “For 30 years people just keep bringing us their problems to solve.”

In a following article in this issue titled “Random Acts of Innovation,” TW editors were truly challenged by how to best present the company’s activities and products in an understandable way. The problems are random — Bruner has no knowledge of what will come through the door next — but he and his teams will do what they do best — establish the client’s wish list, examine the knowns, get creative and develop some tests, evaluate the answers, and build and modify their way to a solution.

Whether the solution is to refurbish and modify shuttle looms to weave a perfectly tubular fabric to be slit into perfectly dimensioned belts for a client served for many years; or to create a masterbatch of chemical additives to be added to the molten polymer prior to extrusion to modify the performance characteristics of the final fiber, products are all created through problem solving.

When Don Chadwick and Bill Stumpf were challenged to design a new kind of office chair for Herman Miller they had to get creative. Office furniture at that time was focused on bulky foam upholstered in leather. Chadwick and Stumpf’s idea was a breakthrough design based on ergonomics whereby the seated person feels no pressure points and has his weight evenly distributed across the bottom and back.

This design required an air-permeable suspension fabric for air flow though the fabric to avoid the heat build-up associated with typical upholstered office chairs. Having tracked down Quantum through a call to Dupont, Chadwick challenged Bruner to develop the fabric he needed.

Quantum received funding for the research and development, and to hire employees and rent a building. About 30 months later the Pellicle® fabric solved Chadwick and Stumpf’s design problem. That was in 1994, and the Aeron® chair gained almost immediate iconic status — it is in the permanent design collection of the Museum of Modern Art — and Bruner was now in the leno weaving business, which continues to be a core business to this day.

The Quantum Group will be honored at the award banquet during the Textile World Innovation Forum.

Look forward to seeing you there.

November/December 2015