The Service Side Of Systems Furniture Suppliers
First-time buyers of systems furniture, whether for a new office facility or an upgrade, must look beyond design and pricing when selecting vendors to receive their request for proposals. "Outfitting an office is a complex undertaking involving hundreds if not thousands of components that must come together in an orderly manner, and the coordination of several skilled trades," says Mark Bassil, co-founder and vice president of MAiSPACE, a Mt. Olive, NJ, based manufacturer of modular office furniture systems. "Attractive designs at a good price are not hard to find, but buyers must prepare themselves for serious problems if they overlook the service and support - or lack of it - offered by their systems furniture supplier."
Established in 1993, MAiSPACE has built its success on outstanding design, superior construction and extremely competitive pricing while setting the standard in customer service that leads to repeat business. "Once a contract is signed, the quality of a vendor's support service makes the difference between a smoothly running installation and outright frustration," Bassil says. "Our organizational setup recognizes this from component manufacturing through completing the installation. Indeed, our supply chain structure is so efficient we can complete an installation in as little as 4 to 6 weeks from receiving a signed contract. "
A Service Check List
Several activities are undertaken between the signing of a contract and move in. "From the beginning," Bassil says, "we assign from our nationwide network of resources the various contractors who are responsible for move management, inventory assessment, warehousing as needed and the removal and disposal of old furniture. While not all these services are required by all clients, they put the onus on MAiSPACE rather than on the client to get the vital jobs done."
The company's in-house design team is available to clients who do not engage an independent design consultant. "These experts produce the best and most cost-effective layout to satisfy our clients' current needs and help them plan ahead," Bassil explains. "They help clients select from our wide range of fabrics and finishes to turn an empty workplace into stunning workspaces including single-occupancy cubicles, teaming areas, conference rooms, executive offices, reception areas and other facilities that support their business."
Poorly designed floor plans can be a major problem and more often than not will put the project behind schedule and over budget. "Vendors who discover that their system elements won't fit only after they arrive at the project site do a serious disservice to their client and to the contract furniture industry in general," Bassil comments. "While last-minute changes are a fact of the business, there is no excuse for poor space planning from the beginning."
MAiSPACE makes move-ins virtually fault-free through the use of modern design software. "As an example," says Bassil, "GIZA software lets us design layouts and typical workstations, conceptualize clients' ideas and make three dimensional presentations. It facilitates changes, provides drawings and documentation while integrating with CAD and other specification software to achieve quality results that help us close the sale while assuring clients that the office furnishing components will fit as planned."
Concurrent with these activities, MAiSPACE project managers work with clients to address logistics issues and mitigate risks associated with employee downtime that may occur between the removal of old furniture and the installation of the new.
"When installation time arrives, MAiSPACE implements its coordinated delivery and installation process to manage activities from the receiving dock forward," Bassil says. "Product is received, uncrated and inspected prior to being transported to the client's space. Professional furniture installers move into action, erecting framing components in an orderly manner across the floor plan in accordance with the approved design. These are accompanied by licensed telecommunications specialists that handle the initial placement of the facility's local area network (LAN) comprised of the MAiSPACE plug-and-play voice, data and power cabling system."
Cabling is laid in the framing rather than being bundled and fished through framing elements, which simplifies initial installation and greatly simplifies cable management during future moves adds and changes to the office floor plan.
Once the modular framework is in place, installers snap on the panels, position desks, files, bins and shelving per the master plan, place seating elements and other detached components such as tables and storage files, and otherwise complete the project as ordered. "All debris associated with the project is removed, systems are tested and only then turned over to the client," Bassil says.
"Systems furniture vendors whose service stops at the receiving dock provide one example of poor service," says Bassil. "At the other end are vendors who assume clients' employees know all about the product, so tip their hat and say goodbye once the installation is in place. We believe," he says, "that client orientation is an important part of a service package. An example is explaining the simplicity of our cabling system - to the extent that personnel can manage cable rerouting without hiring outside professionals during floor plan reconfiguration. We also provide training on ergonomic seating, storage and filing systems, and workstation components.
"Summing it up," Bassil concludes, "buying new office furniture involves more than a visit to an office supply house. While bargains may be found, our ability to completely furnish offices starting at - per square foot while delivering a complete menu of support services, a lifetime warranty and guarantee against obsolescence makes a strong case for the importance of checking into supplier services."