Reimagining the Furniture Selection, Specification, and Procurement Process

The CBRE Furniture Forum asks – can we reimagine how we manage the furniture selection, specification, and procurement process?

Furniture Forum

The CBRE Furniture Forum – opening a discussion on making positive changes for all stakeholders in the furniture process – Image courtesy of Contract Consulting Group and CBRE

Over lunch after the annual turmoil and adrenaline rush of Neocon2016, Julie Deignan, Director of Furniture Advisory Services at CBRE and Amanda Schneider, Founder & Consultant at Contract Consulting Group (CCG), were comparing notes on their experiences as advisors to different sectors in the design, CRE professional services, and furniture manufacturing businesses. It became apparent that each segment has multiple frustrations, at many points along the progression of their work, with the process of providing furniture solutions for their clients. The aspects of frustration were similar for each sector, and provided the impetus to start asking the question, “Why does the industry continue to repeat a process which has historically created a lot of pain points for themselves and their clients?”

Amanda and Julie decided to investigate the root of the problem, how each group sees the issues, and direct a series of conversations to see if there could be a way to unravel these different problems. The intention was to utilize their skills, coming from a more neutral point of view, and leverage the panel of experts they assembled from the A&D, Furniture Manufacturer’s and Reps, Furniture Dealers, and End User communities. Julie’s background in the furniture-dealing industry and her current position in a client facing advisor role complemented Amanda’s business of providing research and insight to multiple furniture manufacturers. They saw a similarity in the problems and issues that clients, design teams, furniture dealers, and manufacturers encounter as well as the dearth of applicable solutions that could perhaps resolve some of the “pain points” that occur across the board.

In order to identify and analyze the process, pain points, and their effect on all parties they conducted a series of discussions in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Once the participants saw first-hand the universal similarities in the challenges experienced through the process, the discussion flowed in a constructive and enlightened manner. The process changes identified in these meetings will build the foundation for further exploration and problem solving as CCG & CBRE work to bring those concerns forward for further discussion and evaluation at the Furniture Forum events scheduled in Washington, D.C. on October 26th and Chicago 2.0 planned for November 9, 2017.

Keeping in mind that the markets in D.C. and Chicago are different in some respects, the most significant surprise was the commonality of the panel’s key objectives:

  • Develop a team approach early in the process that will on board the dealer to enable them to better support the design team with pricing, potential product solutions and value engineering options.
  • Identify new process ideas that supports the early on boarding of the dealer while still delivering competitive pricing and increased transparency.

After an extensive discussion on understanding the industries pain points, the focus shifted to the client so much so that the event name changed to “Creating A Better Client Outcome.” This shift enabled the panels to come up with more concrete ideas to move forward.

Furniture Forum

The panel discussions in Chicago and Washington, D.C. yielded a change to a more positive focus, “Creating a Better Client Outcome” – Image courtesy of Contract Consulting Group and CBRE

Trying to capture the process into a new map proved to be challenging. In working with industry representatives, there were too many project and client variables that can come into play for there to be one new process map. To keep the client pain points front and center, there was consensus reached when new process ideas were developed to address the client pain points. The new process ideas work as puzzle pieces in that they can be plugged into different spots depending on the project parameters and objectives.

Using the information collected during the initial panel discussions in both Chicago and Washington, CCG and CBRE are using that to shape the presentations for the upcoming events. Some of the initial findings outlined in Amanda’s latest article about the panel discussions. Moving forward the teams will work through the key “pain points” from the viewpoint of the client, common to both the Chicago and Washington, D.C. panels:

  • Pricing is confusing
  • The furniture procurement process can be complicated, time consuming and frustrating
  • There is often a lack of communication among all parties involved in the process
  • The number of options can be overwhelming
  • Clients do not feel educated on the options available (all the above elements contribute to this pain point)

The upcoming events will focus the conversation with delegates from each city’s panel to engage in a lively discussion on what we have learned, share new ideas, and discuss where we can go from here. Now that critical problems have been identified, we can use the energy and interest generated by our initial events and talks to move things along. The healthy debate, discussion, and learning that’s taking place shows that there is a keen interest in finding common pathways to bridge the gaps and work toward defining solutions to lessen the pain, and increase the collaboration and understanding among all participants in the process.

Through continuing research and engagement with the design community, manufacturers, and dealers – to collectively harness their experience – goals are being defined, and the methodology to reach them, is a work in progress.

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