Going mobile.

Author:Morreale, Melissa A.
Position:Developments in Indiana's office furniture industry

Flexibility is key in today's office furnishings.

That big, almost immovable mahogany desk, the matching chair - they may be history before long.

Companies want their office design and furnishings to deliver flexibility and efficiency. The result is streamlined tables and chairs that allow a company to respond quickly and easily to changing space needs while taking into consideration employees' needs as well.

"What people are looking for is a facility that is adaptable to change," says Ed Romary, president of Romary Associates, a Fort Wayne-based space-planning firm. "As we design space, we just try to prepare for the unexpected."

The versatility of today's office systems can mean the elimination of some traditional office elements. For example, rather than having a round conference table in a separate room, some companies are choosing to give certain employees a corner unit desk with a "run-off shape" that serves as a conference table. This allows a unit to double as personal office space and a conference room.

More variations on work surfaces and conference tables come from Nappanee-based Creative Dimensions and carry the brand name Byte Size, named for the bite-like cutouts that provide flexibility in configurations. These auxiliary tables are height-adjustable and can interlock with other Byte Size tables to form one large conference table or a group pattern for more intimate settings. The Byte Size tables also can be part of a work station, providing extra space, and can be detached to use as round meeting tables.

"Interlocking tables with wheels are becoming popular because the furniture can be individual or locked for group settings," says Rod Stump, general manager of Creative Dimensions. "It's something that's never been done before."

Bob Koehne, senior vice president of Business Furniture Corp. in Indianapolis, says many of the Steelcase tables that his company sells are coming with wheels. "Mobility is the key," Koehne says. "More and more products are becoming mobile."

For example, the Activity Products line from Steelcase Inc. features a variety of tables and accessories designed to work together or in combination with other modular office systems. The line includes tables in varying shapes and sizes, "Activity Carts" that ferry work tools and materials, dividers and the "Activity Post," which fits with other components and provides power and data connections.

Another table design that provides flexibility is the so-called desk base system, says David Weales, product manager of Jasper-based office-furnishings manufacturer Kimball International. These systems are component-based and can be used in a variety of configurations. With desk base systems, desks that formerly had two stationary pedestals are transformed into a free-standing desk, which provides more space and flexibility.

Weales says another innovation is Kimball's new Skate line, so named because of its mobility. The product is a series of movable tables and units that can be reconfigured easily in order to meet the changing needs of the office and the...

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