Factories have always been designed in such a way that the floor plan was efficient for the processes taking place. But what if it were also designed for the performance of the employees?
“We have manufacturing companies asking us how we can design an industrial space that would attract employees to work for them and not their competitor across the street,” explains Tammi Bailey, Principal Architect, JE Dunn Bau, who provides Design-build services, general contracting and site management.
The environment of a factory or industrial area is becoming more and more important for future employees when choosing the company. As this has not traditionally been a major concern for manufacturers, views are changing. “Especially post-pandemic, everyone wants to feel connected and part of a community,” says Bailey. “Employees want to feel valued and important to a company. If you enter a facility that is more like a prison with gates and barbed wire, this message will not be sent. From the moment an employee enters a construction site, there should be a positive feeling.”
And part of that positive image is projecting equality. “Instead of the old version with one entrance for office workers and another for production workers, there is now just one entrance. It sends out the message of a united community,” says Bailey.
The interaction of interior and exterior space is also to be reconsidered. “The role that the natural environment plays in the physical design of the workplace is becoming increasingly important and part of the design process,” says Bailey.
Technology continues to play an important role in ensuring employees have a good work experience. “Technology has the ability to connect diverse functions within the physical environment, making a job safer, easier, more efficient and more enjoyable,” says Mike Kettleson, West Regional Operations Director at Appitutde, JE Dunn’s technology partner.
Southwest Toyota dealer uses employee knowledge for design
While incorporating design ideas specifically for employee engagement is new, the idea of incorporating employee safety into the design process is known as prevention by design. The goal is to minimize occupational hazards early in the design process, with a focus on optimizing employee health and safety throughout the life cycle of materials and processes. Now companies involve their employees early in the design process. This is exactly what Southwest Toyota Distributors did in cooperation with JE Dunn. The Company; owned by JM Family Enterprises of Commerce, Georgia decided to build a new facility rather than renovate an older location. As the world’s largest independent distributor of Toyota vehicles, Southeast Toyota built a new state-of-the-art facility that has doubled the facility’s processing capacity to over 95,000 vehicles annually.
When the company decided to build a new facility that employs over 230 people, they designed systems with employees in mind, including flexibility, adaptability, efficiency, community, a fun environment, and a comfortable work zone. These objectives were used throughout the project as a basis for decision making.
“JM Family considers the opinions and feedback of our employees when it comes to how we physically shape our future,” said Rick Jorden, Director of Construction Real Estate, JM Family Enterprises. “As with every project we tackle, as we began expanding our automotive processing facility in Commerce, Georgia, we worked with many people to get a complete view of the design project requirements and provide them with early input To give weaknesses of their existing facilities, suggestions for process improvement and ideas to improve the workspace and workflow.”
Comparing the new location to the older one, the company found several advantages to using this decision-making process:
- 50% fewer vehicle touches
- 12% increase in processing efficiency
- 67% reduction in safety incidents, largely due to collaborative thinking about vehicle flow through the facility before it was built.
Overall, the new building’s amenities include conditioned air, a balanced music system throughout the property, a nature trail, an expanded cafe and a community meeting place. Quiet zones and computer kiosks in each building. Environmental features include LED lighting, low-flow plumbing fixtures, high-mounted glass windows that harvest natural light, and water retention ponds to encourage natural filtration of rainwater.
“Through employee input, the company added special amenities to improve work life, including an updated health wellness center and fitness center. Other features that were important to our employees were the expanded dining facility with ample outdoor seating, the community garden where employees can grow their own herbs, produce and flowers, the beautiful new water feature and fire pit, and the outdoor fitness trail leading there runs a fishing pond that we have restored and stocked with fish. We have also been able to accommodate their request to move employee parking closer to the site and to centralize dining options so workers can more easily enjoy a full 30-minute lunch break.”
Leveraging employee input to ensure the physical design of the facility provides a positive experience is important to ensure engaged employees. “Ultimately, we want our employees to feel valued and supported in an environment where they can do their best work,” says Bailey.