Employee/Customer Deferred Maintenance

by F. Joshua Millman, AIA, LEED AP, CFM | Vice President, NTD

A phone call from the director of operations summoned us to a meeting in his office to be held 48-hours later. In the past few years we had undertaken a number of projects there, following a nearly four-year hiatus starting with the Great Recession. These projects were a mixture of upgrades to support changes in the production lines and to address deferred maintenance.  At the closeout of the most recent project a few months prior, we were advised that the capital budget was now fully committed. We would not see any more work there until the start if the next fiscal year. Apparently something had changed since then.

What had changed was a pivot toward addressing a different type of deferred maintenance. Eight years ago there was much less concern about “employee amenities.” Line workers were thrilled to be employed. New office hires were ready to accept employment without seeing the plant, or more than the lobby conference room. Clients were also less likely to check out the plant. Reductions in support staff made such visits too much of a luxury in a twelve-hour work day.  Price and reputation (“well, if you do work for THOSE guys, you’ll meet our standards, too”) were enough to compete for the reduce volume of opportunities.

In the past eight years, not enough was done to keep up the appearance of the support areas. Worse, vague plans were made to address these needs once the firm returned to profitability. These assurances were often couched in terms like “invest in our people” and “create a stimulating work environment.”  As profits began to climb, it was time to make good.

This is a story we have been hearing frequently over the last year. Employment markets are tightening.  Young professionals want to work in a place is visually appealing and utilizes advanced technology, even if the product going out the door is not mobile phones or lithium batteries. Dining spaces are looking less like a 1960s cafeteria and more like Panera Bread, keeping employees on-site for a good half hour lunch in a nice facility, rather than their driving to a lunch spot that could stretch their time away beyond 60 minutes.

The concept of customer welcome centers has also gained traction. These are not tour centers for vacationing families or busloads of fourth graders. Rather, these are VIP reception facilities, complete with mini-museums, interactive displays, demonstration studios, and state-of-the-art conference rooms, all designed to make the prospective or current client confident that they are picking the right supplier to partner with. Some of these facilities contain labs and planning areas in which a customer’s special needs can be discussed and prototyped.

After the director of operations explained that he knew our forte was designing manufacturing facilities, he asked if we were comfortable helping him out on these “employee/customer deferred maintenance” projects. Referencing a number of similar projects we’ve designed, I assured him that each had employee and customer facilities commensurate with that level of capital investment.  And by the way, how would he feel about including a bio-filtration green wall as part of the project?

Interested in upgrading your employee amenities? Contact Josh Millman, vice president of NuTec Design, at 717.434.1570 or email him at jmillman@nutecgroup.com.