Office Interiors that work—September print edition

As office furniture procurement has become more complex, purchasing professionals would do well to heed the advantages specialists can provide.

November 30, 2012
by Jacob Stoller

Office furniture procurement isn’t what it used to be. Rapidly advancing technology, increasingly specific product selections and constantly changing fashion trends have combined to make furniture selection a complex process.

Unlike the off-the-shelf consumer grade products found in office supply stores, commercial grade furniture is generally made to order. This allows organizations to specify their exact requirements, but it also means that requirements have to be carefully defined.

Given the many choices involved, furniture has become a specialty in its own right, just like flooring, lighting and other competencies. Furniture specialists often supplement the work of interior designers, architects or facility managers. “You need people who have industry experience, who can really help you sort through all of the products and services that are out there,” says Sandra Vyse, Ontario sales manager for Business Interiors by Staples, the office furnishings division of Staples Advantage Canada.

Furniture manufacturers, interior design firms and full-service furniture suppliers are the ones who employ furniture specialists. Here are ways they help organizations:

Simplifying the process

Office furniture procurement involves choosing from thousands of available options, as well as considering a wide range of workspace requirements. Even the largest companies can lack the expertise to oversee such a process. “We provide a vast array of different services and expertise that organizations of any size wouldn’t have in-house,” says Nick DeJulio, vice-president of sales, POI Office Interiors, a full-service furniture provider.

Furniture experts often utilize specialized planning tools to optimize layouts and allow customers to visualize combinations with 3D CAD drawings. They can create detailed installation plans that ensure that assembly goes smoothly, and that disruption to existing workspaces is minimized.

Experts can also ensure that all bases are covered, including traffic flow, public versus private space, spatial requirements, natural lighting and health issues like allergies.

Environmental compliance
Buying environmentally rated office furniture is an excellent way for a company to score green points. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program has a rating system for workspace furniture that can make a substantial contribution towards an organization’s overall point rating. Experts can look beyond individual product ratings and help an organization find the vendor that best suits their corporate sustainability goals.

They know the trends
A modernized office space is an excellent way to impress visiting clients, and furniture plays a major role here. Furniture experts combine experience with a watchful eye to help identify the best styles, the most competitive product offers and the most up-to-date colours and textures. Experts also help identify furniture best suited for changing work patterns. “The whole office-scape has changed because the technology is changing,” says DeJulio. “People aren’t tethered to their desk anymore. They could be on the road, or at a café, and still be productive.”

Solving workspace problems
The right furniture choices can often make it easier for employees to do their jobs. For example, an organization may have employees who collaborate on large projects. One possible solution is a layout known as workbenching, whereby each employee is given a section of a long table. Awareness of specialized furniture for healthcare and other fields can be helpful as well.

Health and safety
Organizations often forget that workspace furniture can have a major impact on ensuring a safe environment for employees. For example, furniture experts can advise on selecting suitable ergonomic products for particular applications. They can also ensure the combination of products—chairs, desks, keyboard drawers and monitor stands—is properly configured to ensure that the overall combination is correct.
Layouts can come into play as well. Furniture too close to exits, or blocking heating ducts, could have a negative environmental effect and could place a workspace in non-compliance with building regulations.

Long-term planning
Furniture has become a specialty area where knowledge of the furniture industry and the available options are extremely valuable in the decision process. Understanding the particulars of a workspace takes time, however, so it makes sense to have a long-term relationship with the right provider.                             b2b