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The challenge:

When it comes to furnishing a lab, an office, a repair center, a manufacturing floor—or any place work is done—with workstations, the straightforward can become complex quickly.

A factory floor. (image courtesy of Assembly Magazine ©2012)

A typical factory floor with assembly, inspection, and shipping

That’s because different users often have conflicting requirements. Let’s look in on Ed, who has been given the task of selecting workstations for his company’s newly constructed manufacturing plant.

Ed’s dilemma:

It all sounds so simple at first. Ed’s boss advises him, “Make sure the workstations look modern, are uniform, and convey the same high-quality feel that we’ve designed into the layout and look of the factory itself. But don’t overspend the budget!”

After reading a few trade magazine articles about plant layout, Ed calls a meeting. He invites the managers of the various groups needing workstations: assembly, test, inspection, packing and shipping. HR and Facilities show up as well.

A Workplace workstation configured for product assembly.

Workplace workstation configured for product assembly.

The assembly supervisor speaks first, “I need adjustable height benches, each with an overhead tool trolley and lots of bins to hold parts.”

“There’s got to be power for our test instruments, and I want computer keyboards and screens up and out of the way,” the test manager states.

“Right, we need power, too,” the quality manager adds, “And task lighting and shelving to store our inspection procedure manuals.”

The shipping manager ticks off his requirements on his fingers, “Racks both above and under the bench to hold boxes and a wrapping material spool holder. Oh, and some drawers.”

“Oh, yeah,” the others chime in, “We want drawers, too.”

“But don’t forget ergonomics; proper seating and lighting are essential,” the HR manager intones. The facilities manager reminds everyone that the workstations need to be easy to move for cleaning and able to be rearranged as user requirements change. Ed leaves the meeting with a notepad scribbled full of seemingly contradictory needs.

Workplace workstation configured as a packing station

Workplace workstation configured as a packing station.

The third option

So much for ordering a few inexpensive tables out of a catalog or off the web, Ed concludes. But he also knows the budget isn’t big enough to custom build an assortment of different workstations that would make each manager happy.

He decides he needs a third option—something between catalog and custom: a platform that serves as a common foundation for the different tasks. The supplier he chooses must have both a wide variety of table sizes and the accessories needed to “custom-equip” each workstation to meet the specific demands of each group. Good ergonomics such as easy height adjustability and seating options are at the top of his list. A pretty challenging assignment—all the more so as his boss’s words ring in his ears: Stay within budget!

Ed writes down five requirements:

  1. Ergonomic design: Easy to outfit each workstation to the specific task without forcing workers to compromise how they do their jobs. This includes height adjustability and features such as articulating arms to keep screens easily available, but up out of the way when not in use.
  2. Modularity: The workstations must be integrated, performing like they were designed from the ground up for each specialized task. Nothing about them should look cheap, “hacked,” or added on.
  3. Flexibility: The overall design allows easy modification of heights, layout, and location as needs change. The ability to add on accessories on the factory floor is essential.
  4. Availability: The workstation supplier must have all possible varieties of accessories in order to meet our diversity of task requirements.
  5. Attractively robust: Workstations that are rugged enough to take daily abuse on the factory floor, but also communicate the high-quality image that impresses visitors and makes workers proud to work here.


Configurability means “customize,” not “custom build”

With his list in hand, Ed goes to with its headline, “Modular Workstations Configured to Your Needs.”

Modular Workstations Configured to Your Needs.“Configure. Yes, that’s the word,” Ed says to himself. Workstations equipped for a specific task built on a common foundation.

The site’s idea generator lets him see the enormous assortment of configurations that can be created. Workstations not just for factories, but also for offices, labs, schools, government bureaus. In short, any place where there’s work that needs to be done.

Configurability is Workplace’s shorthand way of saying “modularity, ergonomic design, flexibility, availability, and attractively robust.

Why not follow Ed’s lead and check out how a strong foundation with a multitude of options and accessories can be configured to meet your own unique needs?