Lawrence F. Lander, Workplace Strategist, Planning Design Research Corporation (Summer 2012)
At some point, a manufacturing operation will experience an organizational change - an acquisition, a divestiture, a merger with another company, or perhaps the closure of a plant. These and other events do more than just change the scope of an organization; they have an impact on a company's real estate footprint and the effectiveness of the work spaces that house its personnel.
Downsizing from divestitures and mergers may result in dark, vacant offices, while an acquisition can create the challenge of where to house a newly acquired work force without an investment in additional real estate. Both scenarios present opportunities for an organization to re-think its workplace not simply to achieve maximum real estate efficiencies, but also to improve its speed of decision-making, its level of productivity, and the recruitment and retention of talent - all key issues facing today's manufacturing operations. In most cases, a re-stack, or reorganization of the workplace, can help achieve these goals.
What Is a Re-stack?
A re-stack entails more than determining a better way to use space. It involves a
re-thinking of the workplace to create a more efficient, collaborative setting that reflects an organization's objectives. Rather than separating procurement, purchasing, finance, logistics, sales, engineering, or other organizational functions on different floors, re-stacks can integrate these functions so that workers come together in a way that mirrors the flow of the organization.
Moreover, a re-stack can lead to a certain level of synergy and an atmosphere of "co-creation" where empowered teams access and share information, solve problems, and reach decisions in a far more efficient manner. Re-stacks can reduce the size and magnitude of "I" spaces, where workers and their intellectual capital may be isolated in private spaces, and create more collaborative "we" spaces, where workers come together in a variety of meeting and team spaces or even coffee bars and lounges.
For instance, at Texas Instruments' manufacturing facility just north of Dallas, a
re-stack of the company's large open floors enabled engineers to spend more of their time working in teams, thanks to the creation of open, collaborative spaces where projects could be discussed and challenges solved among co-workers in a natural, spontaneous way. The firm's heritage work environment promoted working independently with heads down, but did not support new ways of working and the whole concept of speed-to-market.
In another example, a research scientist at a global energy company acknowledged the best ideas typically come from the "science talk" that occurs in her workplace's shared spaces. In the case of this company, the coffee bar actually became an important place where her colleagues could informally gather to re-connect and exchange information and ideas.
Quite often, a re-stack can occur without physical changes to a workplace. Large conference rooms, cafeterias, and the other monument spaces typically remain in the same place during a re-stack. Moreover, a re-stack does not lead to the entire elimination of individual workspaces. Desks and private spaces still have their place in today's workplace. However in this day and age, where efficiency and speed-to-market rule the day, a re-stacked workplace with a focus on collaboration just might hold the key to a manufacturer's success.