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7 tips for planning your new location layout

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Moving your business to a new location is an ideal opportunity to make sure your space is laid out for high productivity and operational efficiency from day one.

How you set up your office and production areas will have a huge impact on your business, affecting everything, from how well your employees work together to how much waste you create.

“You should think of your place of business as a tool to support productivity,” says BDC Business Consultant Patrick Choquette, an operational efficiency expert. “It’s important to get it right from beginning because mistakes will be costly over time.”

Choquette offers these seven tips on how to set up your new commercial real estate space to support the success of your business.

1. Start by observing

If you’re currently in a space, a good first step is to study how you’re operating now. Observe how work flows through both your office and production areas. Are people forced to regularly walk long distances? Is work in progress piling up at a certain locations, indicating bottlenecks? Is your office cluttered and disorganized? (If you’re just starting out, you’ll have to do some educated guesswork, based on your business plan.)

2. Map your operations

On the basis of your observations, create a map showing how your business is organized in your current location. How are the departments laid out? Where are the machines located? Now, consider how you could eliminate inefficiencies and make the work flow better in your new space. To help, make what’s known as a spaghetti diagram, by drawing lines on your floor plan to show the path taken by people and objects.

3. Get your employees involved

Your employees work in your business every day, and can identify problems and suggest ideas on how to improve the layout of your new space. Involving your staff will have the added benefit of building their engagement and support for your move and the new layout.

4. Make your floor plan

Now that you’ve gathered information and thought about your current operations, it’s time to look at your new location and create a floor plan. Sometimes small changes such as moving a printer or a machine can pay dividends. But you might want to reposition whole departments and reorganize your machinery to reduce waste and boost productivity.

5. Focus on communication

In this era of email and instant messaging, it’s easy to forget the value of good old face-to-face conversations. However, open office spaces allow people to quickly exchange information with colleagues, ask for advice and receive immediate feedback from managers. You will, of course, want some closed spaces for concentrated work, meetings and private calls, but people who work together should be able to see and talk to each other. “If it’s easy to communicate, we’re going to do it,” Choquette says. “If it’s hard, we’re more likely to assume answers, leading to errors and delays.”

6. Aim to break down silos

A good layout will also help you break down departmental silos, and increase collaboration and innovation. Choquette says teams that interact frequently should be located close to each other to improve information flow. For example, it makes sense to put engineering in the same area as operations, and marketing with sales. “Marketing people are just with marketing people,” Choquette says. “But when they’re in an area where they are intermingled with sales and design people, that’s when collaboration and ideas flow.”

7. Get advice

Finding an optimal setup in your new space will make a major difference to your business in the months and years ahead. However, it’s a complex undertaking for an entrepreneur who is already tied up running a business and planning a move. That’s why it’s often a good idea to bring in an expert early in the process to advise you on planning and executing your layout.

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