Tokyo total FM: not a new funky radio station for the metropolis but the increasing demand for, and provision of, comprehensive facilities management services. (Facilities Management: Special Advertising Section).
Facilities management is also the kind of industry that can prosper during times of upheaval, change, adversity and even recession. When, as in recent years, times have been tough, companies look to solutions such as FM to reduce overheads and, in the words of that mantra of the modern corporation under pressure, "concentrate on core business." When better times do return, a good relationship with a good FM outfit can help maintain competitiveness and allow for better long-term strategic planning.
An example of FM benefiting from what are tough economic conditions for others will be the impending glut of new office buildings to appear on the Tokyo skyline. Well over 2 million square meters of new high-grade office space, an amount higher even than the bubble era peak, is to come online at a time of stagnation across the economy. For landlords, construction companies and the associated industries, this looks like a huge financial headache on the way. However there are benefits in store for others. Kenny Gold from Midas explains, "This is an excellent time for companies to take advantage by reducing facility costs while improving their office environment. Many companies are now offering different services than maybe even 5 years ago, yet they have not changed their office environment to reflect this, so this 'problem' is an opportunity to promote change. It's important to provide space that enhances and aids a worker in performing their tasks and functions."
He adds, "These new buildings are far more advanced in handling technology requirements and offering much better environmental improvements, such as air circulation, lighting and having a sense of fun that could include amenities such as shopping areas."
David Devlin of systemsGo Corporation believes the waves caused by these changes in the property market can be turned to the advantage of the facility management sector. "For systems Go there is an obvious opportunity to work on expansion or relocation projects. As clients take advantage of opportunities presented by cheaper rent and increased office space, systemsGo will be aggressively pursuing these perceived opportunities."
eSolia's Rick Cogley is someone else who views the "2003 problem" as having some positive potential outcomes, including one which may specifically affect his own company. "The 2003 problem, if we're referring to the expected over-supply of space, is going to be interesting. Will landlords let those buildings just sit empty or lease them at a loss if needed? There's a business opportunity in that problem, especially for a firm like mine. Regardless of the direction, there will be moves, additions and changes, so we feel positive about any situation that requires our skills. Besides, maybe we'll be able to avoid a rent increase!" This is not to say that FM is immune to the effects of economic downturn. He concedes, "We were indeed affected by the recession in a negative way and had to do some of our own restructuring to stay viable. Therefore, we're thinking of the recession as being a positive, as it forced us to become more efficient and tighter with our operation."
So what kind of companies are availing themselves of facilities management in Tokyo?
Matthew Connolly, co-founder with Paul Timmons of Eire Systems in January 1996, comments, "The majority of our clients are foreign financial and multinational companies, although we are more recently doing business with large Japanese companies."
Midas, too, with 25 years in the business, is breaking into the Japanese corporate world from a base of foreign companies. Gold comments, "Multinationals, crossing all industry types and the domestic market, is growing for us, especially with leading industry companies such as NTT Software."
BiOS, in operation since 1998, takes an even wider approach. Paulachak says, "At BiOS, we don't limit ourselves to what kind of clients or industries we deal with. Our clients vary from large financial companies to small manufacturing and importing enterprises. What we provide is a core need for any company doing business."
Devlin of systemsGo, launched in 1998, reports, "Our client base is predominantly multinational companies with offices in Tokyo. They range from professional service firms in financial, legal, architectural, advertising and management consulting through to manufacturing and mining companies. We have also worked on a number of projects for Nikkei companies and plan to further develop sales in this market in late 2003."
Cogley of eSolia says, "Although we are relatively newcomers, appearing in 1999, we already boast a broad client base across almost all industry sectors from finance and law through to manufacturing and medical." eSolia generally deals with either medium-sized Japanese companies or multinational firms with small- to medium-sized branches in Japan.
Takeshi Watanabe of Yamashin says, "We mainly deal with gaishikei consulting firms, office design and accounting companies, as well as manufacturers and public schools, offering a wide range of services from support for all their office needs, design and planning, interior design, office furniture sales, networking and moving. We also provide ongoing support to customers after they have opened their office with necessary layout changes, storage/disposal services for unused furniture and documents as well as cleaning."
He adds, "Yamashin, originally established in 1972 as a transportation company, began office relocation services in 1991, later providing storage services from 1996 onwards. Primarily, our business lies in used furniture sales, acting as an official sales agent for other major furniture manufacturers such as Okamura, Kokuyo, Uchida-yoko and Itoki."
While the advantages of comprehensive facilities management are becoming increasingly clear to companies across the spectrum, foreign companies in Japan can derive particular benefits from such services. The omnipresent issues of language and culture provide extra challenges requiring specific solutions. BiOS explains how their services are especially helpful to foreign corporations setting up in the notoriously impenetrable Japanese market. "Gaishikei coming to Japan for the first time often run into problems dealing with communication or cultural differences. The first problem is figuring out who to contact. This can be a massive headache for anyone doing business in another country but is a particular problem in Japan. Doing business in Japan requires know-how and connections to get things done. Government regulations can also affect what new enterprises in Japan are trying to accomplish. BiOS focuses on closing that gap and facilitating these processes to ensure a smooth transition. We've worked hard at d eveloping the right relationships to provide the services that clients need or demand."
Multinationals have the additional concern of having to make sure their systems are compatible with the corresponding technology in other offices worldwide while surmounting the language barrier. eSolia recognizes the problem and facilitates the solution. "Multinationals are focusing mostly on wide-ranging corporate IT standards and communication. They usually have a requirement that their centrally-set 'global' IT standards are met, but they can't seem to get the point across. Multinationals are rightly concerned that they are not communicating effectively with their Japanese counterparts -- and it's very often entirely true. When we handle a bilingual liaison engagement, we stress that we'll assist by making sure that what the HQ side wants, they'll get!"
According to Timmons of Eire Systems, "The biggest problem we see for gaishikei companies doing business in Tokyo is being able to retain the level and type of IT and Project Management expertise they are used to dealing with in other markets such as London or New York. Such expertise may also need bilingual skills with a thorough understanding of local working practices. As a company, we are able to meet these requirements by employing only the highest qualified and most capable professionals in the market."
In addition, there are the challenges of dealing with relevant personnel who may be on different continents. "Typically, our clients require us to report to both an IT department in their head office and also a local Japanese office manager here. This means we need to communicate in both English and Japanese to both these parties across a number of time zones." says Devlin of systemsGo.
If you're establishing a new operation, merging, taking over or just refurbishing your own workplace, then whichever time zone your office is in and whatever language you re using in it, the primary concern is likely to be the IT system. However, not all companies have yet realized the advantages of employing specialists to be involved from the start, and some will go on to pay the price. Says systemGo's David Devlin, "Despite IT being fundamental to most businesses now, we still often see companies not involving IT consultants during the design phase of their new office. It is easy to get excited about the new leather chairs in the board room compared to the design of the server room, but the importance of those leather chairs pales in comparison if there are IT problems on the first business day in the new office."
Gold of Midas points out another pitfall. "Small-to medium-sized companies often fall into the trap of appointing someone to be in charge of office IT, regardless of whether they have IT-related skills. Their IT system will become a hodge-podge of non-standard components; we assist by bringing a bit of the large IT department to the smaller company." Timmons of Eire Systems emphasizes that this is not just everyday IT support.
"More of our clients are realizing the importance of IT infrastructure in their offices and the need to properly plan and build such infrastructure when an office is being established or relocated. This is very different to the IT support that is provided on a day-to-day basis. Eire Systems has the expertise to help in this area."
Paulachak describes a situation where BiOS was brought in right from the start of a relocation project to provide a comprehensive service package for one of their clients. "There is a 200 person company that is moving their senior management into another office in Tokyo. We are doing the complete office for them. We have designed the office (through our partners), procured the furniture and are building their complete infrastructure including the cabling to coincide properly with the office power wiring. We recommended a PBX system and complete server room as well as voice and video conferencing equipment."
It is this level of total facility management that provides the peace of mind which corporate clients are increasingly demanding. Some of the work will be carried out with trusted partner companies or outsourced depending on your perspective. The relationships between client companies and FM companies are also changing. Instead of simply working for clients, good facility managers will work with them in much closer cooperation and mutual understanding as the scope of operations undertaken grows ever wider. As long as workplace technology continues to advance faster than the ordinary worker can stay sufficiently expert, then the movement toward this way of operating an office seems irreversible.
So how are these companies approaching the unique challenges of this expanding field?
BiOS -- "is always looking at increasing its service menu. Recently, we've joined up with the Chiba prefecture government to assist them with an early stage incubation center in Makuhari New Town. This is designed to help small- to medium-size foreign firms, including those entering Japan for the first time, to set up cheaply and quickly in a modern and comfortable environment. We are looking at creating other similar partnerships to give clients the support and options to start up and/or operate cost effectively."
Eire Systems -- "Our company is involved in two separate but complementary areas. Firstly, we provide IT project management expertise for building relocations or restacks within existing buildings and disaster recovery planning and implementation. This includes liaison with architects and other construction consultants, IT designs (machine rooms, cabling, PBX, networks, servers, etc.), project definition, budget analysis and IT feasibility studies (i.e. feasibility studies of potential new premises). Secondly, we provide system integration and network maintenance expertise for both Unix and NT environments, and we have extensive know-how supporting market data systems used by the financial industry."
eSolia -- "eSolia is now focusing on consulting and project management. Our engagements usually challenge our multicultural or multilingual skills, and include what we call 'bilingual liaison" consulting, high-pressure project management of, for example, M&A-related IT re-fits, fast office setups or general office moves. We're also handling engagements to develop Japanese companies' IT departments, infrastructures or IT-related business strategy."
Midas -- "Developing office environments that can influence positively such things as worker productivity, effectiveness and efficiency is at the core of what we do. The idea of using the office as an instrument to stimulate and drive change has been in practice for a long time in the West and has over the past few years been utilized more and more in Japan. Markets are far more competitive and companies are realizing that employee satisfaction can make them more competitive through increased productivity and reduced staff turnover, which can in part be aided through strong design that stimulates."
systemsGo Corporation -- "We work with office designers to provide IT design input, taking into account future growth, corporate IT specifications and security requirements, technical specifications of server rooms, power and cabling requirements. We help companies plan and implement the IT aspect of their move, dealing with telecom and ISP vendors, liaising with the head office to develop and manage scheduling and transition, ensuring that all IT functions are operational the first business day in the new office."
Yamashin -- "In recent times, the demand for change to office layouts and moving services has increased dramatically. I see this increase in demand as being linked to the 2003 problem, which is also fueling fierce competition for business within our industry. In recent years we have begun importing new, high-quality furniture from Shanghai, China. Unique to our competitors, we are very active in used furniture sales. We also provide is interior plans based upon a customer's current office inventory."
RELATED ARTICLE: DIRECTORY LISTING - FACILITIES MANAGEMENT
BiOS -- A division of Linc Media
Odakyu Minami Aoyama
Bldg, 7-8-1 Minami
Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan, 107-0062
The premier office relocations and expansion service. Aligned strategically with partner companies to provide a one-stop shop to manage the entire project.
EIRE Systems K.K.
Kuroda Shiba Bldg., 3-25-2, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan, 105-0014
EIRE Systems is an independent provider of professional IT Project Management, Design and Consulting expertise, with a track record for successfully completing many assignments within the financial and multinational sectors.
Otowa Bldg. 3F, Otsuka 3-11-2 Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, Japan, 112-0012
eSolia delivers professional, bilingual, hands-on IT consulting services: HQ liaison, project management, support. The benefit to you? Leverage our broad knowledge of Japan, years of experience, and successful track record.
Midas Company, Ltd.
Landic Nagai Bldg. SF, 3-9-9 Tsukiji, Chuo-ku, Tokyo, Japan, 104-0045
Kenneth S. Gold
25 years as corporate interior and workplace specialists offering Interior Architecture, Process Management, Design+Construct, Strategic & M&E Consulting and Facility Support Services.
Kokusai Shin-Akasaka Bldg.
West 6-1 -20, Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan, 107-0052
Soumei Nakamura, Branch Manager, Foreign Corporation Dept.
Okamura Corporation continues to expand its designing, manufacturing and marketing operations of interior systems for offices, public spaces, stores and homes. We are committed to pursuing aggressive development in the 21st century in line with our corporate message: "Creating Your Ideal Space."
Roppongi OG Building, 1-3-4 Nishi Azabu, Minato-ku, Tokyo, Japan, 106-0031
URL http:// www.systemsgo.co.jp
David Devlin, Mathew Ward, Jonathan Nix
systemsGo provides bilingual IT infrastructure consultation, project management, implementation and support services to multinational companies in Japan.
Yamashin Service Co., Ltd
1-18-12 Horinouchi, Adachi-ku, Tokyo, Japan, 123-0874
URL http:// www.yamashin-service.co.jp
Office relocation, cargo transportation, office furniture, used furniture sales.
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