Industries tend to become insular. Eager to implement proven ideas, entrepreneurs often borrow from others in their field. They may have friends in a variety of industries, but they most likely don’t follow them around at work or press them for strategies they could apply to their own companies.
“When an organization has been doing whatever it does for any length of time, their reality tends to feel ‘fixed’,” Robertson says. “We focus on helping companies create conditions for change by having conversations they haven’t had before. Sometimes, there’s already a template for those conversations elsewhere, in another business model. For instance, the way we design and construct buildings is historically slow, expensive and wasteful. Architecturally, the audacity and splendor of what we are capable of building has only increased; however, the way it gets done needs to be faster, more efficient, and less expensive. Guess what? There’s an industry that knows all about how to do that: it’s called manufacturing!”
Architects—who work hard to create something both unique and beautiful—are likely to view manufacturers as the cookie-cutter antithesis to their creative process. Getting past that anxiety and having an open mind is the point, explains Robertson. “What’s scarier? Having conversations today that take you out of your comfort zone, or trying to navigate a rapidly changing world with ideas — and ways of doing things — that don’t work anymore?”
What can an architect learn from a manufacturer?
As it happens, Fathom recently introduced two of their long-time clients, Svigals + Partners, an award winning architectural firm, and Willington Nameplate, a manufacturer serving 1500 customers in aerospace and automotive industries.
Svigals + Partners visited Willington Nameplate’s facility for a day of learning about ‘LEAN manufacturing.’ They came away with a plan to streamline aspects of their business, from how they adhere to standards, to how they store and access samples of building materials. “Even though the LEAN process has historically been geared to manufacturing,” says Omarys Vazquez, an architectural designer at Svigals + Partners, “there are commonalities we realized that we can extract and modify to fit our needs.”