The Benefits of Going In Over Your Head

It has been a design trend for a decade or more – transforming old factories and warehouses into chic modern office space. These old buildings are often convenient to the city core and they make appealing workplaces for companies seeking to attract hip urban employees. High tech, fashion, creative services, and media are among the many businesses relocating to these upcycled structures.

While each of these vintage buildings is unique, they share one thing in common: high ceilings. The buildings’ former function required a lot of headroom which most of the service-oriented businesses of today don’t need. Designers often make a feature of the extra volume, as reviewed by Karen Kroll in “Building Operating Management.”

The in-town location and industrial-chic look come at a price, however, when compared to more mainstream commercial space. Those high ceilings represent a lot of wasted space when volume is factored into the square-foot rental cost. But there’s good news, in the form of vertical storage. Motorized storage lifts can be adapted to store almost anything, from documents to bicycles, in overhead spaces. Warehouse-style steel mezzanine structures add a second level within a large space. Both of these storage options are comparatively inexpensive, and they fit right in with the urban-industrial look favored by today’s tenants.

If you’re considering a move into one of today’s super-hip repurposed warehouse spaces, discuss overhead storage with your designer. You’ll keep your real estate costs on track, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the design aesthetic.

 

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Fashion Designers’ Workplace Storage: An Update

Last year’s post about fashion designers’ work spaces was a reader favorite; this year, a new book examines the topic in depth.

From conservative to outrageous, fashion designers incorporate whatever materials work best for their unique wearable designs. That same approach carries over into the design of their workspace, according to IA Interior Architects’ director of design John Capobianco.

Like many other professionals, fashion designers find that a mixture of private space and collaborative areas works best for them. Unlike some other businesses, however, fashion designers have a need to store objects that are irregular-shaped and bulky. For this, they turn to high-density storage systems with adjustable shelving, accommodating everything from boots to blouses.

Designers also need transformable modular storage that can display dresses one day and shoes the next. As Capobianco puts it in a recent blog post, “It has to be much more user customizable, where you don’t have to hire someone to facilitate the transition.” And when the designs go into production, designers use RFID to track the source materials and finished products, and create databases for their catalogues.

When it comes to practical storage solutions, these wildly imaginative fashion designers have a surprisingly down-to-earth point of view. As with their clothing designs, they find the right storage solutions for their needs and, in the words of fashion icon Tim Gunn, they “make it work.”

2016 update: If you want to see just how they make it work, writer/photographer Todd Selby’s newly published book, “The Creative Selby,” explores the interaction of creativity and work environment through fashion designers’ work spaces. This third installment in Selby’s acclaimed series is filled with photos of designers’ ateliers, along with commentary hand-written by the designers themselves.

 

Photo © deniskomarov / Fotolia

Feeling Poorly? Maybe It’s Your Efficient Space Plan

The shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but it may not be the healthiest way to go. Australian insurance company Medibank constructed an office building that is, in many ways, spatially inefficient – all for the good of its employees.

Medibank and architecture firm Hassell theorized that inefficient spaces would force employees into physical movement. In the new building, a meandering office plan wrapped around an atrium, and in the atrium was a spiderweb of linked staircases. To have face-to-face interactions or retrieve documents, employees had to take many more steps than they would have in a typical office – a FitBit user’s dream.

A flexible mix of collaborative areas and private workspaces promotes mental well-being, another important aspect of the balanced healthy design. Hassell’s principal designer Rob Backhouse says they sought balance throughout the design, recognizing that there are certain efficiencies that are vital for the smooth operation of any business. And adding inefficiencies to space plans doesn’t have to mean higher real estate costs. Super-efficient high-density storage can actually reduce the overall footprint, making an inefficient space plan easier on the budget in every way.

After two years of being design guinea pigs, Medibank’s employees were surveyed, and the results were encouraging: 79 per cent said their new building made them feel more collaborative, 70 per cent felt healthier and 66 per cent felt more productive. Balancing efficiency and inefficiency turns out to be a surprisingly beneficial design choice. Learn more in this video: https://youtu.be/sBNzye_WwPg

 

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The Non-Hospital: Healthcare Design Goes Retail

A century ago, “the customer is always right” became the motto for success in the high competitive retail market. In today’s similarly competitive healthcare environment, providers are adopting that same customer-centric approach, according to Rob Chartier in Health Facilities Management. Many hospitals and clinics are redesigning themselves to create a total customer experience, in the same way retailers do.

Other healthcare providers have opted to find a place in existing retail settings. Sarah Bader analyzes how consumers can be encouraged to utilize healthcare services in non-tradition settings. She recommends a number of retail design techniques which healthcare providers can use:

  1. Be accessible – Walgreen’s, a pioneer in retail health care, creates an inviting environment with large, bright windows and doorways, and encourages pharmacists to mingle with shoppers.
  2. Be specific – Retail is not a one-size-fits-all business. With market-specific services and designs, health care facilities can attract niche buyers.
  3. Be clear – Spaces that encourage communication result in better health care outcomes, just as they result in happier retail customers.
  4. Be nimble and flexible – Retailers are constantly adjusting store layouts to meet changes in consumer tastes. Health care designers, too, can incorporate flexibility into treatment facilities.
  5. Be virtual – Consumers are shopping at their favorite retailers’ online stores. Health care providers can leverage their online presence in the same way retailers do.
  6. Be visible – Brand identity is vital. Retail stores like Target and Nike are unmistakable because their brand identity is carried throughout the stores’ design. Likewise, retail health care can make use of signage and spatial design to establish a brand look-and-feel.

This new approach to healthcare delivery requires designers to rethink the entire healthcare environment, particularly secure storage of patient records and prescription drugs. Retail settings encourage free access, but healthcare demands patient privacy and safety. It’s the kind of design challenge that calls for a top-tier storage consultant.

 

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The Adaptive Office: Remember The Humans

Business owners and facilities managers are embracing the benefits of new flexible workspaces – maximized space utilization, minimized build-out costs – but for many workers, changing the old office environment may be an unwelcome update. Without an enthusiastic majority eager for change, facilities professionals will find it hard to implement any meaningful transformation. How can you get your fellow employees to buy in?

We humans are notoriously resistant to change. We fear the unknown. Facilities managers will find it much easier to allay people’s fears and reap the benefits of the adaptive office if they adopt these three management roles recommended by John T. Anderson:

  • The Business Strategist – “What is our overall business strategy, both outward facing (clients and recruitment) and inward facing (productivity, continuous improvement, and retention)? How do our people support the business, and how does the facility support our people?”
  • The Information Specialist – “What does the data show about the way people work together? How do we position people and departments so they interact smoothly and efficiently?”
  • The Marketing Communicator – “What is the best way to communicate with my target market – the employees – and how do I make sure they feel their voices are heard and their needs are addressed?”

Facilities professionals are accustomed to managing the built environment, and may not always think in terms of managing people. But when change is on the horizon, a personnel-management perspective will make the transition a successful one. Reach out to a designer who specializes in the adaptive workplace to get more information on making your change a positive one.

 

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Trending: Retail Stores as “Museums”

Retailers have struggled with consumers’ growing habit of “showrooming” – shoppers come to stores to see, touch, learn about, and try on products which they then buy from a low-price low-overhead online retailer. Brick-and-mortar retail grew last year in the single digits, while e-commerce enjoyed a 22% growth rate. Are physical stores going to be phased out completely?

Not at all, says Natasha Baker, writing in Forbes.com. Retailers can and should embrace showrooming and turn it to their advantage. Baker cites one expert who recommends thinking of stores as “museums” where shoppers can go to explore, learn about products, and be entertained. Retailers can gather instant analytics about shoppers’ preferences, just as e-commerce sellers do. Proximity sensors and “smart shelves” can follow individual shoppers via smart phone apps, and they can suggest related products or alert shoppers to customized coupons (think of Amazon’s suggested products). As reported in RetailTouchpoints.com, stores like Bloomingdale’s are even using e-commerce to test new products by displaying them in the store but selling them only online.

By adopting the “store-as-museum” model, retailers can also manage inventory much more effectively. Rather than keep large supplies of inventory in back rooms, stores can keep a relatively small number of products on hand, supplemented by deliveries from their warehouses. With access to the stores’ customer analytics system, warehouses can prep inventory for shipment in advance of a shortage, or fulfill online orders placed in stores.

Embracing the technology of virtual commerce can represent real-world savings to savvy retailers. With less need for in-store storage, retailers can reduce their real estate overhead while maximizing their less-expensive warehouse space to supply both their online shoppers and their “museum” stores.

 

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The Ultimate Document Management Guide

When the high-tech office became a reality 20 years ago, pundits predicted an end to paper documents. How wrong they were! Paper consumption has actually grown a staggering 126% in the past two decades, according to The Paperless Project. All those documents have to be stored somewhere, and if you’re among the foresighted business owners and managers who have installed a high density storage system in your office (see below), you’re ahead of the game. But the right storage system is just the first step in truly efficient and cost-effective document management.

Business author Susan Ward recommends asking yourself these four questions before implementing a document management plan:

1. What are the rules for creating documents? Decide on an in-house style guide and templates; sort out a review and sharing policy.

2. How will files be organized, archived, and disposed of? Follow good file management practices, including timely archiving, to streamline your efficiency; weed out old files that are no longer needed.

3. How can files be retrieved simply and easily? Ward suggests posting a File Locations list adjacent to file cabinets, to remind users of where to find various file categories.

4. How do we keep documents secure? File cabinets should always be lockable; advanced electronic locks allow managers to track user access, and RFID tags can pinpoint a document’s location within the office.

Ward reminds readers that a document management plan is just that: a plan. To be effective, it has to be executed consistently over the long term. But the results – efficiency, cost savings, and peace of mind – are well worth the effort.

High density storage system

Just one example of a space-saving high density storage system

Photo © Rostislav Sedlacek – Fotolia

Storage Challenge: Truly Unusual Museums

Museums typically fall into a few well-known categories: art, science, and history. But there are some museums specializing in genuinely obscure collections. The Travel Channel’s online magazine offers a selection of some of the most unusual, including:

  • A circus museum
  • A firefighting museum
  • A museum of garbage
  • A spy museum
  • A Pez dispenser museum
  • A museum of bad art

These museums all share one thing in common – as well as creating a roster of ever-changing exhibits, they have to safely store all the fascinating items that aren’t on display. A well-designed high-density storage system is often the best solution for storing the wide variety of shapes and sizes of a museum’s overflow collections. See below how one museum solved their storage problem, then let us know about your strange-storage story.

 

Photo © Vladimir Wrangel – Fotolia

6 Design Tips for Health Care

As health care continues moving out of critical-care facilities and into consumer-friendly settings, designers are picking up a few design secrets from the retail industry.

Writing in Health Facilities Management, Sarah Bader presents six retail design techniques that can influence the behavior of consumers, encouraging them to make use of health care services offered in non-traditional settings like pharmacies and retail health clinics. Bader’s recommendations:

  1. Be accessible – Walgreen’s, a pioneer in retail health care, creates an inviting environment with large, bright windows and doorways, and encourages pharmacists to mingle with shoppers.
  2. Be specific – Retail is not a one-size-fits-all business. With market-specific services and designs, health care facilities can attract niche buyers.
  3. Be clear – Spaces that encourage communication result in better health care outcomes, just as they result in happier retail customers.
  4. Be nimble and flexible – Retailers are constantly adjusting store layouts to meet changes in consumer tastes. Health care designers, too, can incorporate flexibility into treatment facilities.
  5. Be virtual – Consumers are shopping at their favorite retailers’ online stores. Health care providers can leverage their online presence in the same way retailers do.
  6. Be visible – Brand identity is vital. Retail stores like Target and Nike are unmistakable because their brand identity is carried throughout the stores’ design. Likewise, retail health care can make use of signage and spatial design to establish a brand look-and-feel.

 A few years ago, retail consumer behavior was barely a blip on the health care radar. Now it’s a big part of the health care business model, and retail design can be a major influence in health care success.

Photo © Catherine Estevez – Fotolia

5 Steps to Lean Warehouse Management

Warehouses aren’t in the business of manufacturing, so it might seem irrelevant to apply the precepts of Lean Manufacturing to the logistics industry. However, says author Jeff Maree, there are surprising bottom-line advantages to managing a “lean warehouse.”

Lean manufacturing seeks to reduce errors, improve efficiency, and add value – the famous Japanese principle of kaizen, or continuous improvement. Maree, writing in Manufacturing Transformation, outlines five ways to apply the same principle in warehouse management.

  1. Technology – Barcoding, RFID, AS/RS, and other such systems reduce errors and improve efficient flow.
  2. Touch – Well-planned and implemented technology reduces the number of times an item is touched. Fewer touches means lower costs.
  3. Racks – The right storage solution will dovetail with the right technology solution to maximize space utilization, reducing real estate costs.
  4. Just in time – Tracking inflow and outflow over time lets lean warehouses maintain inventory at just-in-time levels, to keep storage use optimal.
  5. Partners – From software suppliers to storage providers, the right professional partners will support the lean warehouse in its goal of continuous improvement.

Manufacturers are reaping the financial benefits of lean-manufacturing productivity. Shouldn’t warehouse managers enjoy the same kinds of gains?

 

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