Magazine article Management Today

Space Craft for the Office

Magazine article Management Today

Space Craft for the Office

Article excerpt

Behind the flashy facade of many a building lies floor upon floor of mismanaged office space. The burden on employees who have to work in such surroundings is often as unendurable as that placed on a company's overheads. It is also unnecessary. With the right information, organisations could make better use of their assets.

Some recognise the urgency to do so. In London the soaring cost of office space has driven companies to greater efficiencies in floor planning. Either that or it has forced them to relocate to other UK cities, pushing up property prices as they go and, once again, underlining the need for optimal space usage.

For a good office manager, these days more professionally referred to as a facilities manager, space planning is a logistical problem that can adequately be solved on a drawing board. All it takes is a blueprint of the building, a list of all the moveable objects (desks, filing cabinets and so on) and the people to whom they are allocated, an idea about the working relationship between those people and, most importantly, the time to juggle one option against another.

Small companies and those that change little will eventually arrive at an acceptable answer. Bigger organisations, especially those given to radical and frequent restructuring, may not. If they fail, there is [british pound]200 plus per person per move at stake and in some financial institutions, for example, it is not uncommon for every individual in a staff of many hundreds to be moved at least once every year.

Facilities managers in these large organisations have two options. They can hire an outside space planning consultant at around [british pound]35 per hour or do the job internally with the use of a computer. Many suppliers offer computer aided facilities management systems either as a package of hardware, software, plotter, printer and operator training or as software only.

The systems enable drawings of a building to be combined with textual information on the computer's database so, if need be, every desk, fax or photocopier can be identified on a floor plan on the computer screen and information about its manufacturer, dimensions, maintenance and so on, called up. Like all computer systems, they have their good points and their bad ones.

Someone, first of all, has to collect all the relevant plans and data and put them into the computer. Some system suppliers do provide a data input service but at a price. The alternative is for the system operator to enter the data. This can take many months and cost two or three times the cost of the hardware and software, according to Tony Leppard, managing director of the FM Group, a system vendor.

Although many facilities management systems now run on personal computers, they are not cheap. System supplier Micad, for example, sells a complete package for about [british pound]30,000 and there are others three times the price. But Micad's managing director, Andrew Terry, reckons that large companies can recover the cost of the system in about 12 months.

There are exceptions. You can't mechanise something you haven't thought through,' warn Geoff Gidley, chairman of the Association of Facilities Managers and a system user. `Some companies see these systems a the solution to everything. …

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