|Traded as||NASDAQ: KBALB|
|Founded||Chicago, Illinois, USA (1857)
Jasper, Indiana, USA (1950)
|Operating income||$11.634 million|
Kimball International is a manufacturer of furniture and electronic assemblies, serving customers around the world. Kimball International consists of two groups: the Furniture Segment and the Contract Electronics Segment. It is the successor to W.W. Kimball and Company, the world's largest piano and organ manufacturer at certain times in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Kimball piano and organ
Kimball International started as a piano dealership in Chicago in 1857 as W.W. Kimball and Company, founded by William Wallace Kimball (1828–1904). In 1864, Kimball moved from its earliest location in the corner of a jewelry store to sales rooms in the Crosby Opera House where Kimball sold pianos made by East Coast piano makers Chickering and Sons, the J & C Fischer Piano Company, Hallet & Davis, F.C. Lighte, Joseph P. Hale, and the W.P. Emerson Piano Company. Kimball also sold less expensive reed organs. The Great Chicago Fire destroyed all of Kimball's commercial assets in 1871, but he continued selling from his home, and rebuilt his dealership business.
In 1877, Kimball began assembling its own reed organs, using actions made by the J.G. Earhuff Company and cases made by contractors. After three years, the company began offering organs made entirely in house. In 1882, the Kimball company was incorporated, and an expansive factory was built to produce reed organs. Soon, the factory was producing 15,000 organs a year; the world's largest organ maker. Kimball stopped making reed organs in 1922 after having produced 403,390 instruments.
In 1887, Kimball began building a five-story factory for making its own pianos, and the next year produced 500 instruments of indifferent quality. Kimball hired veterans from Steinway & Sons and C. Bechstein Pianofortefabrik, and these men initiated improvements to the piano line. By 1893 at the World's Columbian Exposition, at which Kimball received the "Worlds Columbian Exposition Award", Kimball was known for high quality, efficiency in manufacture, and aggressive sales practices using 35–40 traveling salesmen to cover cities and remote areas. Prominent East Coast piano makers snubbed the Chicago exposition because they feared Chicago favoritism, and because of philosophical differences between their reliance on traditional name brand faithfulness and Kimball's streamlined modern efficiency which greatly threatened their sales.
In 1890, Kimball hired Englishman Frederic W. Hedgeland, trained at his family's organworks in London: W.M. Hedgeland. Hedgeland supervised a portable pipe organ design about the size of a large upright piano. The pipe organ division of Kimball also built large, permanent pipe organs, including one for the Mormon Tabernacle in 1901. When the pipe organ division was closed down in 1942, some 7,326 models had been built.
During World War II, Kimball produced aircraft parts for major military airplane manufacturers such as Boeing, Douglas and Lockheed. After the war, piano production resumed but a series of poor financial decisions by W.W. Kimball Jr led the company into decline. In the mid-1950s, Kimball built a luxurious new factory in the Chicago suburb of Melrose Park, Illinois, but the factory's high costs, its poor performance, and flagging sales brought the company into grave financial crisis. Kimball had slipped from being the world's largest piano maker to the seventh largest, and it was nearly insolvent.
Acquisition by Jasper
The Jasper Corporation was founded in 1950 in Jasper, Indiana, to make television cabinets, kitchen cabinets, and office furniture. Jasper prospered from expanding television sales and from its investment in vertical integration, giving the company self-sufficiency. In 1959, Jasper, Inc., purchased the W. W. Kimball Company as a wholly owned subsidiary. Jasper moved its Kimball piano manufacturing to West Baden Springs in 1961; some 26 miles (42 km) northeast of the town of Jasper. The first Indiana-made pianos were plagued with quality problems, but the issues were addressed and the pianos improved. In 1966, Jasper bought the prestigious Austrian piano maker Bösendorfer.
By 1969, Kimball had returned to its former position as the world's largest piano maker. The subsidiary made some 100,000 pianos and organs annually during its peak years in the 1960s and 1970s. An average day saw 250 pianos and 150 electronic organs shipped from the factory. Grand pianos from Kimball in Indiana ranged from compact 4-foot-5-inch (135 cm) models to larger 6-foot-7-inch (201 cm) models. In Vienna, the Bösendorfer division made concert grand pianos as large as 9 feet 6 inches (290 cm): the Imperial Bösendorfer. Kimball also made upright pianos in 42-inch (110 cm) and 46-inch (120 cm) sizes, but not smaller spinet models; a decision which allowed great profits to be made by competitors. However, Kimball produced inexpensive console pianos, between upright and spinet size, in a subsidiary plant across the Texas–Mexico border in Reynosa, doing business as Kimco.
Based on the success of piano and organ sales, Jasper determined to leverage the Kimball brand recognition to assist sales of office furniture, home furniture and electronics. Company leaders realized that the Kimball brand had far greater popular recognition than the Jasper brand, and in 1974, Jasper changed its name to Kimball International, going public in September 1976 with the initial public offering of 500,000 shares of common stock.
Because of a worldwide decline in piano and organ purchases through the 1980s and 1990s, the Kimball piano and organ subsidiary was discontinued in February 1996. The last Kimball grand piano was signed by every worker and company executive, and remains on display at Kimball's showroom in Jasper, Indiana. The Bösendorfer piano brand continued unaffected, but was sold back to Austrian buyers in 2002.
In January 2007, Kimball Electronics Group (KEG) acquired the Reptron Manufacturing Services based in Tampa, Florida, picking up four facilities in Michigan, California, Florida, and Minnesota. Reptron specialized in end-to-end manufacturing solutions for medical devices. The acquisition brings 1200 more employees into Kimball. KEG manufacturing now consists of products ranging from automotive to medical, industrial and public safety.
After acquiring Reptron, Kimball consolidated operations and leveraged its global footprint.
The Kimball Furniture Group focuses on the office and hospitality furniture business of the company. It has three brand names: Kimball Office, National Office Furniture, and Kimball Hospitality.
Kimball Office made its first desk in 1970. Kimball Office expanded its offerings into a broad product line, including casegoods, systems, seating, filing, and tables.
National Office Furniture
In 1980, Kimball International formed National Office Furniture to make mid-priced office furniture. As part of Kimball International, National leveraged its advantages in quality wood construction, stocked inventory for quicker lead times, and modern production facilities.
Kimball entered the lodging market in 1985. Kimball Hospitality has furnished over 14,000 rooms in Las Vegas's major hotels and casinos.
Kimball Electronics Group
KEG, the electronic contract assemblies manufacturing arm of Kimball International, is a technology company providing design, engineering, manufacturing, packaging, and distribution of electronic assemblies and circuit boards.
KEG is a contract manufacturer of durable electronics and serves a variety of industries on a global scale. Kimball Electronics Group has facilities operating in Jasper, Indiana; Tampa, Florida;Reynosa, Mexico; Laem Chabang, Thailand; Nanjing, China; and Poznan, Poland. These facilities employ modern equipment that is used in the manufacturing of products for the automotive, medical, Public Safety, and industrial markets.
KEG was established in 1961 to build electronic organs. In the late 1980s KEG became focused solely on contract electronic manufacturing services.
Awards and honors
- 2007: Kimball International was listed in 2007 by Forbes magazine as one of the "Platinum 400", also known as "America's Best Big Companies".
- 2006: Kimball International was honored in 2006 by “Occupational Hazards” magazine, when its Kimball Office – Cherry Street manufacturing facility was named one of the "10 Safest Companies in America".
- 2004: Kimball International was listed in 2004 by Fortune Magazine as "America's Most Admired Companies".
-  www.finance.yahoo.com
- Palmieri, Robert; Palmieri, Margaret W.; Kipnis, Igor (2005). Encyclopedia of keyboard instruments 3 (2 ed.). Taylor & Francis. pp. 205–207. ISBN 0-415-93796-5.
- "The Jasper Corporation". Kimball History. Kimball International. Retrieved September 5, 2011.
- "Special Report: The 400 Best Big Companies – Consumer Durables industry". Forbes. December 21, 2006. Retrieved September 5, 2011.
- Harrington, Ann (March 8, 2004). "Who's Up and Who's Down How companies rank in their industries". Fortune. Retrieved September 5, 2011.