A Smart Approach to Modular Office Systems
Corporate relocations provide opportunities for facility managers to take lessons from the past and apply them to fitting out the new workplace.
"Such was the case when a world-leading power systems provider relocated to a new facility to accommodate executive, legal, accounting, sales, technical assistance, customer relations and administration support personnel," says Mark Bassil, vice president and co-founder of MAiSPACE, a Mt. Olive, NJ, based manufacturer of modular office furniture systems. "The move gave this company an opportunity to design offices reflecting the realities of today's workplace. Criteria included ergonomics, style and quality consistent with the company's image, a lifetime guarantee at a competitive price and an office furniture system to support Local Area Network (LAN) cabling while allowing trouble-free Moves, Adds and Changes (MACs) without disrupting operations in other areas."
Modular Systems Mean Flexible Systems
After evaluating several manufacturers the company selected the MAiSPACE modular office furniture system to support adding, moving and replacing open office and full-height wall configurations in accordance with evolving requirements. "Overall the facility comprises 112 open office workstations, 23 full-height offices constructed of stackable panel segments, and 12 offices and 4 conference rooms constructed with movable floor-to-ceiling wall partitions," Bassil says.
Open office systems support shared tasks, teamwork and other group endeavors for the company. Their load-bearing stackable panel segments can be constructed in a variety of heights from 30 inches upward to custom-tailor spaces that accommodate personnel and tasks being performed.
Floor-to-ceiling systems are especially desirable for task-intensive knowledge work where productivity can be impacted by distractions or where confidentiality can be compromised in an open office plan. Similar requirements apply to conference rooms. But privacy need not mean isolation when glass panel segments allow natural light to penetrate and the solution provides a high sound- transmission-coefficient rating.
"Modularity, in addition to providing flexibility, has other favorable cost implications," Bassil says. "As one example, in-house staff rather than outside vendors can be used to assemble or reconfigure systems furniture components. As another example, because these systems are not part of the building structure, companies may be able to take advantage of more liberal furniture depreciation schedules and lower real estate tax assessments. Finally," he says, "modular elements require less storage space than monolithic full-height systems, which can reduce lease costs."
Technology in the Workplace
Company personnel required high-speed Internet connections, access to printers and other intelligent peripherals, the ability to share files on the LAN, and the means to communicate with other locations as well as with customers and suppliers via intranets and extranets. Managing this technology calls for reliable and standards-compliant voice, data and power cabling.
Another issue addressed by the customer is the cost of cable management, which impacts the lifetime cost of an office furnishings solution. As voice, data and power cabling requirements increase, the cost of MACs can become substantial and if unmanaged over time can exceed the initial cost of an installation. "There are statistics showing that the cost of reconfiguring conventional LAN designs can be as much as $500 per cable - higher if repositioning disrupts an entire office or department." Bassil points out. "The MAiSPACE standards-compliant plug-and-play cabling system design reduces these costs to $50 per cable."
The MAiSPACE cable management system provides easily accessible cable pathways allowing technicians to add, remove, replace or reroute cables without disrupting the entire office LAN. As explained by Bassil, "consolidation points behind removable panel segments provide the interconnection between work area outlets and the telecommunications closet, while a lay-in cabling design allows quick access to cable pathways for unrestricted cable management. Separate pathways are provided for power cabling. Its basic simplicity allowed the company's in-house personnel to master cabling MACs after a minimum of training."
Each workstation location has two data ports and provides access to the office LAN as well as interconnectivity with printers, faxes and other information technology equipment.
Visually the new facility features cherry wood grain surfaces throughout, including tops, end cap trim and work surfaces. "The project is very successful aesthetically, technically and structurally," Bassil says. "Panel framing and worksurface supports are constructed of 16-gauge steel and panel segments are 20-gauge steel. Shelves and filing cabinet drawers are 16-gauge steel. Full extension drawer slides glide on metal ball bearings and worksurfaces are 1.25 inches thick. This solid attention to detail supports our warranty that the solution is free from defects in materials and workmanship for as long as this customer owns the product."