WeWork has already expanded its business lines from managing trendy workspaces for entrepreneurs to overseeing co-living facilities, a school, gyms, and more.
Now, the company is gearing up to be a manufacturer of the actual glass and aluminum parts used in its signature interiors, with a 200,000-square-foot facility located 35 miles from its New York City headquarters.
The company is seeking to hire at least 50 people to work in roles ranging from furnace operator to manufacturing director in Edison, New Jersey, per recent job postings on LinkedIn. The new hires will work in a new facility with "state-of-the-art" equipment, per the job postings. The company's design aesthetic relies heavily on glass and aluminum to partition rooms.
Moving into manufacturing represents a big pivot from WeWork's positioning as a tech company that does real estate. The manufacturing plant build-out comes as WeWork parent The We Company prepares to go public, a rocky process that's seen questions about the company's leadership, conflicts of interest, and basic business model.
The company has been trying to pivot to partnerships with landlords over signing traditional long-term leases, and has also flagged helping other companies design office spaces as a potential way to help narrow wide losses.
WeWork's spokeswoman declined to comment, citing the company's quiet period ahead of its initial public offering.
The company's pre-IPO filing last month flagged its drive to reduce costs by "vertical integration" – doing more in house:
"Over the past several years, we have been able to achieve efficiencies in our capital expenditures through a combination of greater economies of scale resulting from the increasing size of our global network, vertical integration of our design and construction process and increased use of technology."
A handful of major real estate developers have tried to better control their supply chain and cut costs through owning manufacturing plants. Related Companies, which is developing the New York neighborhood Hudson Yards, built a wall manufacturer in Linwood, Pennsylvania.
The practice is rare for flexible office providers like WeWork, which has taken a more asset-intensive approach to its business than its peers. Seeking to own buildings rather than lease them, the company started raising a private equity real estate fund in 2017, eventually wrapping the fund into an investment platform called ARK this spring.
The CEO of Knotel, a flexible office provider that raised $400 million last month at a $1.3 billion valuation, said WeWork's move into manufacturing was unusual. Amol Sarva told Business Insider that "if you're in traditional real estate, it makes sense." A developer like Related, for example, can make its supply chain more efficient by owning a plant and overseeing production instead of buying materials.
Sarva said he's focused on innovating in other parts of the design and construction business, which he said is ripe for a shakeup overall.
"Every part of the office business has been untouched by time," he said.
But instead of changing the manufacturing process like WeWork's trying to do, Sarva said he's focused on reducing the amount of waste generated by office build-outs.
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