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“Mad Men” Office Cubicle Comes Full Circle

“Mad Men” Office Cubicle Comes Full Circle

In the “Mad Men” heyday of the 1960’s, designer Robert Probst developed a modular, reconfigurable workstation – the now-despised office cubicle. Probst’s early cubicles were created as a system of adjustable wall panels, modular storage, and desk surfaces. They were intended to give workers the freedom to customize their space as they desired, with panels that could be angled outward for collaboration, or angled inward for semi-privacy. So why did Probst’s creation become isolating, dehumanizing “cubicle farms?” As explained in Business Insider, companies’ cost-cutting measures forced Probst’s flexible design into rigid homogeneous layouts. The visionary inventor came to loathe the corruption of his original intent, calling cubicles “rat-mazes.”

Probst died in 2000, but if he were alive today, he’d be astonished by the reimagined workspaces that have recently blossomed from his early idea: mobile, modular workspaces that can be quickly switched between private and collaborative space. Such companies as SwiftSpace, with their “Power of One” program for individualizing workplaces, are at the leading edge of this second wave of Probst’s vision. He’d be proud to know he was just a little ahead of his time.


Photo by T. Beyer

5 Steps to Lean Warehouse Management

5 Steps to Lean Warehouse Management

Warehouses aren’t in the business of manufacturing, so it might seem irrelevant to apply the precepts of Lean Manufacturing to the logistics industry. However, says author Jeff Maree, there are surprising bottom-line advantages to managing a “lean warehouse.”

Lean manufacturing seeks to reduce errors, improve efficiency, and add value – the famous Japanese principle of kaizen, or continuous improvement. Maree, writing in Manufacturing Transformation, outlines five ways to apply the same principle in warehouse management.

  1. Technology – Barcoding, RFID, AS/RS, and other such systems reduce errors and improve efficient flow.
  2. Touch – Well-planned and implemented technology reduces the number of times an item is touched. Fewer touches means lower costs.
  3. Racks – The right storage solution will dovetail with the right technology solution to maximize space utilization, reducing real estate costs.
  4. Just in time – Tracking inflow and outflow over time lets lean warehouses maintain inventory at just-in-time levels, to keep storage use optimal.
  5. Partners – From software suppliers to storage providers, the right professional partners will support the lean warehouse in its goal of continuous improvement.

Manufacturers are reaping the financial benefits of lean-manufacturing productivity. Shouldn’t warehouse managers enjoy the same kinds of gains?


Photo © Fotolia

RFID Turns Green with Cash for Trash

RFID Turns Green with Cash for Trash

Recycling can be a hit-or-miss system in many communities: Should I separate glass from plastic? What kind of plastic? Aluminum cans or any kind of can? The confusion often discourages people from recycling anything at all.

In northwestern New Jersey, however, homeowners have become enthusiastic recyclers thanks to “smart bins” that pay cash to recycling households. As reported by RFID Journal, trash collection company Sanico initiated a program that uses RFID to track recycling. Each home’s recycling bins have an RFID tag that identifies the homeowner and the type of recycled material. RFID readers affixed to collection trucks capture the data from each bin so homeowners can be credited for every bin put out for the truck.

Some 2000 customers are participating in the pilot program, and there are plans to offer RFID bins to all of Sanico’s 15,000 customers. According to Sanico president Jim Smith, each month has seen an increase in the number of credits, proving that RFID can contribute “green” to the green movement.

Can your community benefit from RFID-tracked recycling? Talk to the RFID pros for an analysis.


Photo © Albert Lozano-Nieto – Fotolia

The Visual Hack: Is Your Space Plan Leaking Information?

The Visual Hack: Is Your Space Plan Leaking Information?

Cyber attacks are often seen as high-tech crimes involving elusive, amoral code geniuses in foreign countries who work as much for the glory of a brilliant hack as for the enormous paychecks crime bosses deposit in their Swiss bank accounts. However, many cyber crimes begin in a very low-tech way – the visual hack, in which sensitive information is stolen by a seemingly innocent visitor looking over a partition or passing by a cubicle. Usernames, passwords, and printed documents are favorites for visual hackers, who use the information to access a company’s proprietary information, HR records, and other confidential data.

In this study commissioned by 3M, security experts known as “white hat hackers” were able to steal log-ins, financial data, customer lists, and other sensitive data, often within just 15 minutes of beginning their visual-hack test session. The study pointed to the visual accessibility of open-plan offices as one of several factors in the thefts.

Despite the security risk, businesses are reluctant to abandon open office plans, with their benefits of spatial adaptability, lower costs, and positive employee management. Rather than scrapping open-plan offices, an in-depth space utilization risk assessment is the more practical solution to identifying where and how sensitive data can be kept secure without turning open offices into dark data vaults. Check with your office design professionals for an assessment.


Photo © kreizihorse – Fotolia