CW Interiors |
 
Feature One | June 2013

Flexible workspace

Modular workstations offer flexible solutions to the ever-growing work force. CWI attempts to tap the buzzing trends and highlight the numerous benefits of modular furniture for office spaces.

The basic form and function of workstations have changed and evolved to serve changing work requirements. From writing desks, computer stations to a more modular workstation now, the basic design has been modified to serve employees from various domains to ideate, collaborate, hold meetings and work etc.

The biggest advantage offered by modular furniture is flexibility. When built in modules, the furniture aids growing businesses to expand the set-up for growing workforce. The low cost for refurbishing and easy replacement of small components gives it an edge over standard office furniture. Moreover, with the advent of many renowned international brands in India, the contending local manufacturers too have shifted their focus to ergonomic design and aesthetics.

The market is flooded with national and international players offering modular office furniture that comes in a variety of sizes, materials, colours, customisation possibilities and delivery cycles. We speak with industry experts to highlight the present trends, benefits and challenges of modular workstation.

Planning right

Anil Mathur, COO, Godrej Interio traces the shifting trends in office furniture.

What are the latest trends in modular furniture?
The trend continues to shift towards desk-based systems. Also, there is a spurt in demand for green furniture. Technology integration with furniture systems, minimalistic looks and straight lines are in vogue. In offices, we do get to see more open environments and more collaborative work spaces.

How do you go about designing the modular workstations?
We involve our team in market studies to understand the market requirements; designers and marketing teams who undertake these studies help develop product designs which are then market tested. Also, a MGPP (multi generation product planning) is done across segments and product categories.

We also focus on occupancy rate, multifunctional features, organisation work culture, and job profile of end users while designing. Apart from that, small details like wire management, fit and finish, and space utilisation are looked at. Finally, depending on the material and configuration, the end delivery takes about 3-6 weeks.

What are your best-selling products?
Wish and Vurv.

Which are your most innovative products?
Reason and Out-of-the-box (OOB).

Modular value

Rajan Bahri, Director, Eurocoustic Products-PSL Modular Office Systems weighs the pros and cons of modular furniture.

What are the benefits and disadvantages of modular furniture as compared to standard furniture?
Modular furniture is entirely factory finished, so minute details like pre-engineered cable and raceway management are taken care of. Keeping up with the trend, ergonomical chairs are designed to ensure back support for long hours; they can be quickly installed at the work site and easily reconfigured.

However, on the flipside, the designs and other details of the furniture must be crystallised before manufacturing since altering those, later at site, may spoil the factory finish. Two panel boards are assembled by means of standard knock-down type of joinery fittings and hence the thickness of one of the boards are always visible unlike conventionally-made furniture where the boards are nailed/dove-tailed together and edges are not visible. Factory-made furniture also attracts excise duty (present rate 12.36 per cent) which increases the cost of the project.

What are the materials used for creating modular furniture?
The materials used for putting together a modular workstation include pre-laminated particle boards or pre-laminated MDF (medium density fibre) boards; aluminium extrusions; powder coatings 9 epoxy-polyester hybrid type; CRCA (cold rolled close annealed) steel; PVC edge bandings are used for all edges of boards; knock-down joinery like half-turn eccentric wheel, and dowel etc.

Is it an eco-friendly alternative to standard furniture?
Modular furniture is extremely eco-friendly since it does not use solid wood. It uses wood-substitutes which comprise of resin-bonded fibres and chips of branches/ twigs of trees. They also use fibres of bagasse (a sugarcane waste) or rubber trees which no longer yield rubber sap or even Eucalyptus trees which can be re-grown very rapidly. It also uses adhesives, powder coatings and other finishing materials which have a very low VOC (Volatile Organic Content) thereby resulting in no damage to the environment.

Influential designs

Kartik Shethia, Sales Director-SAARC Region, Herman Miller Furniture India throws light on factors that influence design of modular furniture

Which materials do you work with for creating modular office furniture?
We largely use steel, aluminium, die-cast aluminium, particle board, MDF, fabric and plastic. All of these materials have recycled content and are recyclable to some extent in some and up to 100 per cent in some.

What is the average delivery time for an order?
Depending on the source of the product and the design of the product itself, it can range anywhere between 6-15 weeks. But the average would be about eight weeks.

Which are your best-selling products?
In chairs, we are doing extremely well with Aeron, Mirra and Sayl chairs. In system furniture, it is Arras, Arras Spine, Resolve, Abak Environments.

What is the price range of your modular chairs?
Aprroximate starting price of Aeron chairs is Rs 80,000 while price range of Embody chairs is Rs 1,25,000 onwards.

Evolving designs

Ankura and Ankit Patel, Directors, ANA Designs highlight the challenges and scope of modular furniture in Indian offices.

What are the challenges with designing modular offices in India?
Though modular furniture has evolved in terms of aesthetics in Indian market, they are targeted only for working segment and not for managerial levels. The Italian brands for modular furniture offer high-end furniture that are extremely expensive, almost 20-30 times the cost of local manufacture. In the Indian market, even the imported brands have restrictions when in comes to selection and looks. Manufacturers don't really experiment with materials like veneers.

Are workstations ideal for growing workforce?
Today work stations are 90 degrees, 120 degrees; they have different angles and different sizes. Workstations have evolved as per business needs. Earlier when it carpentered, symmetry was a big challenge. Now with the modular workstations, everything can be installed on site quickly, so if you want to add something on the work station, or deduct something in the future, it becomes possible.

Three international office designs that have inspired you
Autodesk, Google office and Facebook office.

Name the brands you prefer.
Techni Group, Haworth, Steelcase, Danco, Wipro and Godrej Interio.

Global Growth

Enrico Colzani, Vice President-Product Strategy, Knoll explains how latest modular furniture designs influence collaboration and productivity.

Do well-planned office designs help foster company growth?
The first open plan office furniture was unveiled in 1968 and was made up of components that could be combined and rearranged into a variety of work areas, not only for support staff but also for managers. Modular furniture allows companies to respond quickly to the rapid growth of office jobs, the changes in management strategies, technology tools and work processes.

How can inclusion of modular furniture in an office space improve productivity?
A broad base of research shows that spaces and furnishings that let people æshape' their workspace, and work experience, offer health and productivity benefits to workers. Modular furniture breaks down the space to individually configurable elements to adapt to different needs from a compact kit of basic components.

The need to shift seamlessly from one task and one type of work to another - from focused endeavours to both shared and team work - has created office layouts with more variety of spaces where work takes place. Smaller, more numerous meeting spaces allow for quick interactions

What are your best-selling products and most innovative product?
With our latest introduction, Antenna Workspaces we created an innovative product structure that supports individual work settings and collaborative areas: it becomes a new way of shaping space. In the tradition of Florence Knoll, Antenna Workspaces is both office furniture and a planning system.

Certified buy

Umesh Rao, Founder & CEO, Vector Projects asserts that office furniture must meet best industry standards.

What are the factors that come into play while designing modular furniture for an office?
Functionality and flexibility are most important factors while designing modular office for an office. Various load and rigidity factors have to fall within international standards governed by the ANSI/BIFMA programme. With the current development of the green movement globally, our products are compliant and certified under GECA (Good Environmental Choice Australia) and Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN) ISO 14024.

What are the replacement costs of modular furniture towards the end of its shelf life?
Modular furniture is made of several separate modules, so its shelf life can be lengthened by replacing specific parts. For example, just the fabric panel can be changed to change the look of the office or the table top or the legs in case of any damage.

Which are your most innovative products?
Trend-X pro system and our newly launched I-beam system.

Changing trends

Nitin Sudame, Director, Spacewood Office Solutions shares details of his company's wide-ranging products.

How are modular workstations adapting to the varying needs of business?
There are many trends seen in modular office furniture. The trend is moving towards hot desking, more open and interactive work-stations. Usage of fabric and acoustic materials to reduce noise levels has also gained prominence in offices.

What are your best selling products?
æSlide 60' which is a tile-based partition system in natural anodised finish and 'Z line' cabin furniture are two of our best selling products. Also, LINEO, the desking system and 'Ascent', full-height partitions are recently launched and well-appreciated in the market.

Office spaces may happen to be the second most inhabited place after one's home. The evolving modular workstations, in result, are increasingly becoming functional and creative. So there is absolutely no doubt that smartly designed offices play a crucial role in nurturing and fostering every employee's performance and the company's growth, as well.

Contact

  • Godrej Interio, www.godrejinterio.com
  • PSL Modular, Tel: 022-6644 7777, info@pslmodular.com
  • Vector Projects, Tel: 022-6755 2893
  • ANA Designs, Tel: 022-2823 3227, E-mail: designs@ana.in
  • Knoll, www.knoll-int.com
  • Herman Miller Furniture India, info_india@hermanmiller.com, www.hermanmillerasia.com
  • Spacewood Office Solutions, Tel: 07104-236 148 / 234 852, info@spacewood.in
  • Ebony Gautier: www.ebonygautier.com
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