Sirva applies moving expertise to its own relocation
By Doug LeDuc | Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly
One of the world’s foremost authorities on business and residential moving is applying that expertise to the relocation of its own operations from 5001 U.S. 30 to the Indiana Michigan Power building in downtown Fort Wayne.
An economic development filing with the city related to the move shows Sirva has summertime peak employment of 407 full-time and 47 part-time permanent workers in Fort Wayne. They coordinate the activities of a vast network of moving agents who carry out the physical relocation of customer belongings.
The filing shows Sirva’s average local salary is $49,054 and its annual local payroll is $22 million. It prepared for the move extensively and the related plans it has put in place would be the envy of any business its size planning to relocate.
Going digital, saving space
It took several steps to make the move easier, and because it is going paperless with more of the documentation it processes, it will be operating more efficiently after the relocation is completed in the coming months.
“Like most companies, we’ve been moving to more digitization. The move gave us incredible impetus to accelerate that effort,” said Andrew Coolidge, chief operating officer. The acceleration “began many many months ago.
“You don’t want to be moving boxes of files that don’t need to be moved, that can be scanned and placed onto a server. So our teams have been hard at work with a digitization effort,” he said.
Once a paper records has been replaced with a digital record, the paper version is disposed of through a records management company, Coolidge said. If someone weighed the amount of paper records Sirva was replacing, “I think it would be a quite impressive number,” he said.
Even with the digitization effort, the company will house fewer servers at its new location than it is using now because it is electronically transferring much more of the information traditionally stored on servers at its office into the cloud.
The servers that are relocated, along with desktop computers, monitors, copiers, printers and other office equipment, will need to be moved into the seven floors Sirva will occupy at the Indiana Michigan Power building immediately before the employees who use them relocate.
Telephone systems will not be moved because the company will be buying a new phone system, which will be installed and tested before it is needed.
Sirva also reached an agreement to leave all of its office furniture at the facility it is leaving, which Coolidge said would make the relocation much easier.
Other than office equipment, most of what will be loaded onto trucks for the move will consist of pictures, historical memorabilia and personal belongings. The company has been at its current location since 1978, he said. It is about six miles from downtown Fort Wayne.
Time for an update
As a result of changes that have taken place with the company over the years, Sirva will be making a right-sizing move into 75,000 square feet on seven stories and leaving behind a single-story complex of 280,000 square feet. The complex consists of a 180,000-square-foot main building and a 100,000-square-foot annex facility.
“I think it’s fair to say that our environment got a little dated, that it was overdue for some investment. And really, when we sat down and looked at the investment, it was a calculus of renovating 180,000 square feet to make modern a facility when you really only need far less square footage than that,” Coolidge said.
“It made much better sense for us to move into a smaller facility and spend the appropriate amount of money on that space. We will be bringing ourselves up to much more modern standards, which will afford our employees a more comfortable work environment that they’re absolutely deserving of.”
Demolition work starting in June removed flooring and ceiling material from the seven floors the company will occupy and took much of the space to its bare exterior walls.
The renovations called for new interior walls following a new floor plan, as well as new flooring, ceiling structures and lighting fixtures. The economic development filing put the project’s cost at $4.5 million.
“The current construction plan, it’s essentially a floor being completed every one to two weeks. So that will allow us the option of moving over in groups rather than one mass move. I would point out though, that we haven’t necessarily determined that that’s what our approach will be just yet,” Coolidge said.
“I think there’s probably an advantage to staggering it and moving in smaller waves. That gives you a little better time to recover from maybe some issues you find on one floor. You can potentially recover from what those issues might be and correct them on the floors that you’ve not yet moved into.”
Coordinating a move of hundreds of employees at one time, over a single weekend would be more challenging and create more opportunity for error, he said.
Sirva is now in a phase where it is monitoring the progress of construction closely with expectations that the floors will start becoming available to it for occupation next month.
“We’ve got the luxury of a common party who will be our landlord and will also be the entity that purchases our existing building, so we’ve got an interest on both sides for it to go very smoothly for us, so that is what makes our move a little bit unique and gives us a little bit more of a comfort level,” Coolidge said.
If an unexpected delay were to take place with completion of the renovations, that would just mean Sirva would remain in its current location a little longer, he said.
To make sure the company executes smoothly on the aspects of the relocation that are within its control, “management teams will need to step up and take ownership for the special circumstances involved in the moving of their individual teams to the new facility,” Coolidge said. “We cannot allow any customer interruption whatsoever. That’s just non-negotiable.”
With drywall going up and new flooring going onto the floors as of mid-September, renovations had reached a point where the company could start sharing images of the progress in order to begin generating excitement about the move within its workforce, he said.
“Given the fact that we’re likely to move in November - and maybe even in the early December time frame we’ll have some people moving over - the fact that we’re going to have some covered parking and a parking garage versus open parking that we have here will resonate with a lot of people,” Coolidge said.
“Certainly access to food is something that they’re very excited about. I think there’s been some publicity about a new Starbucks going in, which will be effectively across the street. I think it’s really the restaurants and being central and being in a different work environment that most people have voiced to me as what’s got them excited about it.”
Sirva has been giving employees tickets to attend Tincaps games for the last five years and more than a few of its workers have said the games probably will become even more popular with them, once they are able to walk to Parkview Field from the the company’s downtown offices, Coolidge said.
The company just might have to increase the number of season tickets the company holds, he said.