Services & Maintenance: Furniture Refurbishing

By BOMI Institute
Published in the August 2004 issue of Today’s Facility Manager

Furniture is perhaps more closely associated with the identification of space needs than any other component of the built environment. This is because the association with furniture is so direct and constant throughout peoples’ work lives.

A facility executive’s budget might not allow him or her to acquire all new furniture. Fortunately, there are a number of alternatives to new products.

Rehabilitation And Reselling

The rehabilitation of existing products, especially furniture systems components, has mushroomed into a substantial extension of the furniture industry. Refurbishing sprang up when costs for new products skyrocketed.

Furniture brokering has developed as a way to relieve companies of furniture assets and match them to other companies that want the same products.

When companies buy refurbished furniture instead of new, they can save as much as 60%. Such impressive savings can be realized only if buyers know the market. Therefore, facility executives must understand the differences between the following two major types of players: refurbishers and brokers.

  • Refurbishers take possession of old products and dismantle, restore, recondition, warehouse, and sell the furniture. Reputable refurbishers restore furniture and observe relevant environmental waste disposal regulations. The typical turnaround time for refurbishers to restore furniture is four to six weeks, once furniture has been found.
  • Brokers purchase excess furniture and resell it as is, without any warranty. No refurbishing is performed. Check the broker’s references carefully, as the potential for misrepresentation is great.

Brokered furniture may be economically advantageous, but it does have limitations. For example, many older panel systems cannot incorporate cable raceways.

Because this is a burgeoning industry, many start up companies are not fully established. Therefore, a thorough business check of remanufacturing and brokerage firms is a must. Warning signs of a less than stable business include:

  • Little or no warehousing ability;
  • Deposit required (financial resources probably inadequate);
  • Reluctance to show the product that will be refurbished; and
  • Few or no client references.

Flexible And Responsive

When choosing furniture, it is important to identify what types of flexibility are needed. Examples include: easy replacement and interchangeable parts; support of changing work tasks; and interface with different brands.

Once the flexibility requirements are identified, facility professionals need to decide which ones are most important and how much they are willing to exchange to get them. For example, facility professionals may have to trade off the ability to support any work task to avoid the high cost of maintaining factory trained mechanics on site.

Many capabilities made possible by technology are tempered by the impact they have on users. For instance, if companies use systems furniture for its wide range of components, accessories, and adjustability, facility managers must ask if their company has the staff or contractors to manage, redesign, and reconfigure the components day in and day out.

Many systems furniture purchases made in the name of flexibility remain unmodified, because the resources to make all those “easy” changes are not there. To avoid this, identify company needs and take a strategic approach to work station design.

With the help of well-thought out plans, educated facility professionals can find good furnishings for their companies and save capital as well.

BOMI Institute is the leading provider of educational programs for facility managers. For information about the Institute’s courses and professional designation programs, call (800) 235-2664.

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