Playworld Systems was started in 1952 by owner and founder Robert Miller as QE Manufacturing Company, a producer of precision machine parts. In 1959, QE branched out to manufacture playground equipment. Because of the high demand, Robert’s son Dale introduced the company’s own line of precision playground products and launched Playworld Systems in 1971.1
Headquartered in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, the company has more than 200 employees and offices in Herefordshire, England, and Paris, France as well as a network of global representatives throughout the world. Playworld Systems is now led by Dale’s son Matt as third-generation owner and CEO. Commenting on the family’s business, Matt said, “Playgrounds are places where children learn to test their mental and physical limits, engage in the community around them, and open their imagination.”2
The company offers a variety of playsystems for preschool children as well as those in school. NEOS is an electronic playsystem, which combines reflex action and aerobic exercise intended to encourage children, their parents, and grandparents away from sedentary lifestyles. In an independent study by the Geisinger Center for Health Research, NEOS has been shown to raise heart rates to the equivalents of a child jogging or playing soccer. Another playsystem, Activo, challenges children 8 to 14 to problem solve and also take risks, while they are burning calories.
Playworld Systems also offers products to encourage physical activity and fitness, such as their Motion Play equipment for children and ENERGI, a fresh-air total body fitness system for ages 13 and up that engages the entire community. There are five stations: Station 1 – for static and dynamic stretches; Station 2 – for pulling back, angle bar, and hurdle exercises; Station 3 - for squat, dip, push-up, and balance exercises; Station 4 – for power and agility step exercises; and Station 5 - for core, torso, and balance disc exercises. ENERGI was designed in accordance with principles endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Council on Exercise.3
Co-created with leading gerontology and kinesiology specialist Danielle Du Vall, Playworld Systems designed LifeTrail, an advanced wellness system with 21 functional fitness stations designed to meet the needs of older adults. Using the person’s own body weight as resistance and real-life body positioning, the LifeTrail Advanced system focuses on building the strength and energy required to accomplish routine activities. Tests conducted in 2009 showed that LifeTrail Advanced helped to increase strength and dynamic balance among older adults.4
Realizing the need to encourage more nature play for children, Playworld Systems’ Origins offers play elements, such as water features, hillside slides, and plant elements. Nature-inspired rock-like climbing boulders and rope bridges along with T-Rex bones and eggs encourage climbing. Garden elements and digging for fossils in sand also help to restore children’s connection to nature.5
Playworld Systems strives to achieve the barrier-free principles of universal design to provide accessibility to children of all abilities. The company has partnered with Mara Kaplan and Let Kids Play!, an organization that specializes in designing play spaces for children with special needs.6
The company has measurably reduced its carbon footprint, from eliminating polyvinyl chloride (PVC) to enhancing its lean manufacturing, waste management, and recycling programs. Playworld Systems is one of the first major U.S. playground manufacturers to remove PVC from its products through the use of Eco-Armor, the company’s durable, thermoplastic polyethylene (PE) coating. PE coatings like Eco-Armor average a 38 percent lower carbon footprint than PVC coatings. The company is ISO 14001 certified, because it meets the highest standards for responsible environmental manufacturing practices. Matt Miller said, “We have a responsibility to the environment and the children who use our playgrounds to do everything in our power to use the most environmentally friendly substances.”7
In 2011, Playworld Systems achieved the Cradle to Cradle certification, which is recognized by environmental experts worldwide for its innovation in sustainability. The Cradle to Cradle Certified program provides guidelines to help businesses evaluate all materials in their supply chain and focus on using safe materials that can be disassembled, recycled, and repurposed once their useful lifecycle is complete.8
Playworld Systems has received numerous awards throughout the years, including the two International Industrial Design Excellence Awards, a gold medal from International Design magazine, two News Directors’ Choice Awards on Early Childhood, and the Pennsylvania Governors’ Award for Safety Excellence. Along with these awards, Playworld Systems was a consultant to the Architectural and Transportation Barriers Compliance Board (Access Board) to write a cost benefit and regulatory assessment for the proposed guidelines on access to play areas. Playworld Systems’ leaders are founding members and active participants in the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA). The company has also been recognized six times as one of the best places to work in Pennsylvania.9
In 2011, a Playworld Systems playground was chosen to be built as the 2,000th build of KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit, at Southeast Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. First Lady Michelle Obama joined KaBOOM! in the build and celebration.10
- 1. “Playworld Systems, Inc.” National Playground Contractors Association, Manufacturer’s Profile. Summer, 2001. pg. 4.
- 2. “Letter from the CEO.” Playworld Systems. < http://www.playworldsystems.com/about_us/letter_from_the_ceo > 4 Aug. 2010.
- 3. “ENERGI.” Playworld Systems. < http://www.playworldsystems.com/design/playsystem_gallery/energy > 27 Aug. 2010.
- 4. “Adult Fitness.” Playworld Systems. < http://www.playworldsystems.com/design/product_gallery/adult_fitness > 27 Aug. 2010.
- 5. “Playworld Systems Introduces Origins – Elements Integrate Play Activities With Nature.” Playworld Systems. < http://playworldsystems.com/about_us/press/story/playworld_systems_introduces_origins_elements_integrate_play_activities_with_na > 9 Sep. 2011.
- 6. “Playworld Systems Deepens Commitment to Accessibility through Partnership with Let Kids Play!” Playworld Systems. < http://playworldsystems.com/about_us/press/story/playworld_systems_deepens_commitment_to_accessibility_through_partnership_w > 9 Sep. 2011.
- 7. “Playworld Systems, Inc. is first Major U.S. Playground Manufacturer to Eliminate PVC from Products.” PR-inside. Business Wire, 11 Aug. 2008. < http://www.pr-inside.com/playworld-systems-inc-is-first-major-r747819.htm > 23 Sept. 2009.
- 8. “Playworld Systems Becomes First Playground Manufacturer to have Products Cradle to Cradle Certified for Ongoing Commitment to Sustainability.” Playworld Systems. < http://playworldsystems.com/about_us/press/story/playworld_systems_becomes_first_playground_manufacturer_to_have_products_cradle > 9 Sep. 2011.
- 9. “About Us.” Playworld Systems. < http://www.playworldsystems.com/about_us > 27 Aug. 2010.
- 10. “KaBOOM! Celebrates 2,000th Build With Long-time Partner Playworld Systems.” Playworld Systems. < http://playworldsystems.com/about_us/press/story/kaboom_celebrates_2000th_build_with_longtime_partner_playworld_systems > 9 Sep. 2011.