Office Furniture: Price and Longevity Considerations
As with any purchase, paying attention to price tags when buying furniture is critical. In a tight business environment, companies definitely want to get the most value from every dollar. However, aiming solely for a rock-bottom first cost often undermines the ability to maximize the investment over the long term. An inexpensive system most likely will lack quality and durability, as well as the ability to adapt as business changes.
So, while the initial purchase price has to figure into the equation, it is also essential to look at product quality, warranty, materials, and ability to reconfigure the system, among other attributes, Hoffman says. Otherwise, the initial cost savings will be obliterated by higher costs down the road. What’s more, given the lack of moving parts in most pieces of office furniture, there’s no reason well-built ones shouldn’t last for decades.
As a starting point, look for features that contribute to furniture longevity, says Johnson. One example is threaded metal inserts in the screw holes in particle-board desks. These let you screw and unscrew the piece multiple times, accommodating moves and changes, without the screw hole disintegrating.
Another way to control life-cycle costs is to minimize the number of
pieces required to build the systems needed, says Johnson. Reducing the number of items kept in inventory cuts both cost and complexity.
Make sure to involve IT early on in furniture evaluations, says Lynch. Given the work involved in getting cabling, wires and other technical infrastructure where needed, “IT has to be a huge part of the purchasing decisions,” he says. Their input helps ensure that employee moves and changes don’t become more complicated than necessary.
In a few cases, purchasing less expensive furniture may be a legitimate strategy, Cahill says. A true startup, for instance, probably won’t have much cash available for furniture. What’s more, management may reason that the company will change so dramatically and rapidly that trying to pin down a corporate environment and image early on would be futile. “If you’re in an early state of chaos, and don’t know what you’ll need and what image you’ll want — there is a time to be frugal with furniture,” he says.
One way to cut costs is to work with remanufactured furniture. The savings can be significant, says Bill Davies, president of Davies Office Refurbishing. An organization that can take the furniture “as is” should save 80 to 90 percent off the cost of comparable new pieces. If it’s necessary to remanufacture some of the inventory — say, by replacing fabric chair cushions and the like — the savings will probably drop to the 60 to 80 percent range. Finally, remanufacturing all workstations should still generate savings, when compared to new items, of between 40 and 70 percent. Moreover, most remanufactured furniture should last as long as necessary, Davies says.
If a company is planning to buy a large number of pieces of remanufactured furniture, it can be difficult to find enough matching pieces. One way to avoid problems is to replace some of the fabric or other materials on the pieces, so that not everything purchased will need to match a specific color or finish.
Be prepared to act quickly, though. “It’s first come, first served,” Davies says. When considering remanufactured furniture, a facility executive should know exactly what is needed in terms of footprint, number, and materials, and be ready to order when inventory comes along that fits those needs.