Ben Gold has been an account executive with Patterson Pope for more than 20 years. He’s done work with all sorts of clients, including businesses as varied as banks, attorney’s offices, insurance firms, and manufacturers. How businesses like these view storage is changing, as is the way they look at storage needs within their own operations. Here, Ben provides some insights into these changing trends.
When we talk about “business” clients, to whom are we referring?
It cuts a wide swath, to be sure. Really, any new or existing commercial space could be included under that umbrella. There are so many different projects we’ve got going on at any one time, and these days it’s as exciting as it is varied.
How has the view of storage changed for these commercial entities over the last few years?
Certainly the expectations for what “storage” is – and even for what’s being stored – is changing. For starters, the focus on storing papers and paper records is really going away. That used to be the hallmark of what we did. Digital disruption, though, is everywhere, and it’s happening quickly. With that, the reliance on traditional boxes along with both stationary and moveable shelving is really decreasing. There are still certain businesses where that’s huge, of course – businesses like attorney’s offices, for instance – but they’re rarer than they used to be.
Given the changing nature of views towards storage, what are some of the current trends?
Two of the most popular items now are modular casework and day-use lockers. A lot of places are really embracing the telecommuting realities in their space design. They’re creating interior spaces that are open, flexible, and that really encourage collaboration. Inherent in those flexible spaces is the realization that rather than fixed work stations or cubicles, there’s an increased focus on “touch-down spaces.” These are desks where anyone can “pop in and plug in,” so to speak – for a day or a week or even just for a few hours – before they’re off again. In these types of spaces, day-use lockers are incredibly convenient.
As for casework, that’s something that is flexible and can be changed within a relatively short time. It has a lifetime warranty and in larger commercial spaces, especially banks, it can be moved more easily when they start to move and shift what they’re doing with their workspace as their needs change. I’ve had two clients come to us who asked us to price out modular casework. In their case, the millwork guy had a 15-week lead time, because everyone is so busy right now. If it’s standard product, we can produce it in four weeks and have it installed in five.
Would you say that companies are instituting this new design to reflect the reality of how people work today or to encourage its development?
I suppose it’s a little bit of both. Companies want to have an inviting workspace for their people to come in and enjoy when they’re on-site. What’s really cool is that more and more clients are looking into using RFID digitally accessed lockers. These work using employees’ unique key codes that get them into the office. They can walk up to a locker and scan their key card. No physical keys to keep track of and no numbered combinations to try and remember. It’s just one more convenience.
In your more than two decades with Patterson Pope, have you noticed any changes in clients’ expectations of what Patterson Pope can do for them?
When we sit down and show them what’s possible, clients are always astounded by the variety of products and solutions we can provide. The newer firms are usually especially astonished. Our growth and success has helped us to innovate, and we’ve been lucky enough to build a portfolio of some pretty exciting projects. When we’re able to showcase some of those successes and we can tell new and prospective clients those types of stories, it always helps move things forward.
To what do you attribute the changing nature of how commercial clients view storage?
You’ve got a couple of things going on. There’s the digital disruption I alluded to earlier, and you’ve got the design element. Rightfully so, architects and designers are always wanting to come up with the newest, most innovative ideas. Those two realities are always colliding. So now that the storage of paper is, for the most part, going away, the design of these open spaces with clean sight lines and collaborative areas is forcing all of us to think differently. That’s how growth happens. That’s how innovation comes about.
In commercial, the needs could be all over the place. You could have someone who’s very modern in their thinking or in their design perspective, or you could have someone who’s on the other end of the spectrum who’s more traditional, perhaps even a little staunch. Finding those unique solutions is always exciting.
With all of these new paperless environments, what are some of your more unique challenges?
What comes with all of these newer, wide-open workspaces is, naturally, a less traditional view of the need for storage. We don’t often see rooms full of computers or back rooms crammed with paper and boxes and things. Those are being pushed off-site to server farms or third-party vendors. Businesses are trying to have a much sleeker look about their design and the way they do things. That means we do things differently, too. Sometimes we’ll help them with their personal storage spaces. Or we might utilize casework to create a more attractive and effective mailroom or incoming/outgoing package prep station.
Is there a project you can tell me about that best represents the current trends in the industry?
We did some work for the Electrolux headquarters in Charlotte that typifies a lot of the kind of work we’re doing lately. It was a new design for one of their engineering spaces, where they’d accommodate workers traveling back and forth from Atlanta. Those folks had lots of engineering files and a lot of drawings, so they wanted to incorporate some personal touch-down spaces at the office in Charlotte. They also needed to be able to open up large-format drawings and have a place for them to hold their files.
Engineers keep a lot of paper files. So, we created these day use locker pods. It had four to six day-use lockers, and a tabletop at counter height, along with some tall chairs so a bunch of engineers could sit and work together. Inside the lockers, they had their own personal storage for all their stuff — laptops, bags, etc. It also had a removable box file drawer that accommodated standard Pendaflex files. It created a good personal space and filing environment.
What do you find most exciting about the current trends?
Change is a constant. As thrilling as it is to see that in the companies we’re working with, it’s also a welcome challenge for us internally. That sort of forward motion helps keep us on our toes, too. We’re always looking for new ways to help our clients arrive at the right solutions. Whether it’s from a product standpoint, design, or even in how we talk to those who are interested in what we do, standing still simply isn’t an option. That keeps everything fresh.