Fox Partner Bob Dunn often talks about that one summer in his youth spent working on the Corvette production line. If Bob visited the line today, there is not much he would recognize. If you walk through most plants today you will likely see an array of digital technologies embedded into the production process and complex, repetitive tasks being performed by robots. Today’s manufacturing has more robots and fewer people. These people have higher technical skills with a focus on producing more advanced components.
Successful manufacturers today leverage technology in ways unimaginable a decade ago. Production improvements happen faster with rapid prototyping and improved life cycle testing. All of this is required to stay ahead of the competition and anticipate the integration of new technologies. Labs for product development and product testing are a critical part of the production process.
At Fox we believe in the power of bringing everyone into the process – visual connection being KEY. Production labs that are set apart from operations, engineering, marketing and production will never be as effective as those that are integrated into the environment. The speed required to bring products to market is driving non-linear design processes. Visual connection – actually seeing the people who are designing and testing the product – enhances collaboration which benefits the entire effort.
This is evident in Fox’s design for Missouri Science and Technology’s new CENTER FOR AEROSPACE MANUFACTURING TECHNOLOGIES. Phase One of this project opened this year and specializes in cutting edge fabrication processes for aerospace and other industries. Phase two will bring expanded collaboration space, more fabrication cells and greater visibility of the process for the campus. This design is centered on creating the visual connection noted above. Centers like Missouri S&T play a leading role in educating tomorrow’s industrial design visionaries while creating collaborations among Universities and Corporate America.
The same concept is used at the new headquarters of InSinkErator, the leading manufacturer of food waste disposers and hot water products. The project concept uses a centralized Lab space visually connected to the entire workplace through the use of two-story glazing. This is not just a wide open-high bay space with an industrial aesthetic: the space is a collection of specifically designed areas that balance the contrasts needed to innovate. There are private, focus spaces and open gathering areas. Fabrication space and office settings. Spaces for casual interaction and those for specialized activity. All share visual connections that allow the occupants to quickly connect, understand what is happening, and work collaboratively.
These spaces were not designed top down between architects and the corporate or educational leadership but involved extensive input from the people actually using the facility. This approach allows the users to have input into how their space functions.
High Tech manufacturing is becoming baseline. The addition of the human element – leveraging the ideas and creativity of everyone – is what defines the most innovative companies.