Using industrial design to improve the employee experience

Factories have always been designed in such a way that the floor plan is efficient for the processes taking place. What if it was also designed for employee efficiency?

“We have manufacturing companies asking us how we can design an industrial space that will be attractive to employees to work for them rather than their competitor across the street,” says Tammi Bailey, Principal Architect , JE Dunn Construction, providing design-build services, general contracting and construction management.

The environment of a factory, or industrial space, is becoming increasingly important to prospective employees when choosing companies. Since this hasn’t always been a major concern for manufacturers, opinions vary. “Especially coming out of the pandemic, everyone wants to feel a connection and want to feel part of a community,” says Bailey. “Employees want to feel valued and important to an organization. When you walk into a facility that looks more like a prison with doors and barbed wire, it doesn’t send that message. As soon as an employee enters a site, there should be a positive feeling. »

And part of that positive image is to project equality. “Instead of the old version of one entry for office workers and then another for production workers, there is now only one entry point. It sends the message of a united community,” says Bailey.

The interaction between interior space 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 is part of the design process”, says Bailey.

Technology continues to play an important role in ensuring employees have a good work experience. “Technology is able to connect different functions within the physical environment, making working safer, easier, more efficient and more enjoyable,” says Mike Kettleson, Director of Western Regional Operations for Aptitude, who is the technology partner of JE Dunn.

Southeast Toyota Distributors Leverage Employee Knowledge for Design

While incorporating design ideas specifically for employee engagement is new, the idea of ​​integrating employee safety into the design process is called 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. Today, companies include their employees from the start of the design process. This is exactly the route taken by the Southeast Toyota Distributors in conjunction with JE Dunn. The company; owned by JM Family Enterprises, decided to build a new facility rather than renovate an old site. As the largest independent distributor of Toyota vehicles in the world, Southeast Toyota built a new state-of-the-art facility that was able to double the processing capacity of this facility to over 95,000 vehicles per year.

When the company set out to build a new facility, which employs more than 230 associates, it designed systems with associates in mind, including flexibility, adaptability, efficiency, community, a fun environment and a zone comfortable working. These objectives served as the basis for decision-making throughout the project.

“JM Family considers the opinions and feedback of our associates when it comes to how we physically build our future,” said Rick Jorden, director of construction real estate, JM Family Enterprises. “As with every project we embark on, when we began construction of our automotive processing plant in Commerce, Georgia, we engaged with numerous associates to get a complete overview of the design project needs, all giving them early insight into pain points in their existing facilities, suggestions for process improvements, and ideas on how to improve workspace and flow.”

Comparing the new site to the old, the company found several advantages to using this decision-making process:

  • 50% reduction in vehicle contact
  • 12% increase in treatment efficiency
  • 67% reduction in safety incidents, largely due to collaborative thinking about vehicle flow through the facility prior to construction.

Overall, the amenities of the new building include air conditioning, a balanced music system throughout the property, a nature trail, an expanded cafe, and a community meeting area. Quiet spaces and computer terminals in each building. Environmental features include LED lighting, low-flow plumbing fixtures, raised glass windows that capture daylight, and water retention basins to promote natural stormwater filtration.

“Thanks to the contribution of associates, the company has added specific amenities to improve life at work, including a wellness center and an updated fitness center. Other features that were important to our associates were the expanded dining hall with ample outdoor seating, the community garden where associates can grow their own herbs, produce and flowers, the beautiful new water feature, and the fireplace, and the outdoor fitness trail that leads to a fishing pond, which we have restored and stocked. We were also able to meet their request to have the parking lot closer to the site associates and centralize the lunch room, making it easier for workers to enjoy a full 30-minute lunch break.

Using employee feedback to ensure the physical design of the facility provides a favorable experience is important to ensuring employee engagement. “Ultimately, we want our employees to feel valued and supported in an environment where they can perform at their best,” says Bailey.


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