#10 Eclipse moving up in the world... again

Article number 10 in our history of Planet Eclipse focuses on yet another office move.
Yawn. Yeah, we know, not as exciting as talking about guns or tournament wins, but as boring as it may seem moving our HQ to something a little more sexy (and bigger) made a huge difference to how we operate day-to-day.

When we first moved to Praed Road from our original location in Manchester city centre , we took 2 units and knocked them through to make one bigger unit. As we expanded and started production of our own Marker (the awesome EGO) we took on a 3rd and then 4th unit. Luckily all next to each other (in a U-shape) so we could continue to work, but the bigger we got the more disjointed it became. When we took on the 5th unit which was over the road–not so convenient–we decided to start looking for something else. After some searching we found a new build that was only ½ mile away from Praed Road that would allow us to design and build the Planet Eclipse HQ for our future.




The move didn't change things, in term of our mind set. We are still, pretty much, the same people with the same ethos that we have always had. Apart from it being a much nicer, collaborative and efficient working space, it suddenly wasn’t so embarrassing to show people around. Whenever someone came to Planet, be that player or dealer, they would want a tour. For a lot of people this place was where the ‘magic’ happened and was a special place in their minds with hundreds of employees working 24 hours a day, men in white coats perfecting wind resistance tests on different barrel designs and production staff dancing and singing as they worked. The reality was VERY different at Praed Road. It was a grey drab building with no sparkle or glitter and we knew that. The new place still wouldn’t live up to the highest expectations but it was certainly a hell of a lot better.

As a business we expand to fit into the space we have. If we would have moved to a smaller building we would have adapted to that size. Having more space gives us the ability to grow into the space. The biggest improvement was having all of the office based staff, including all the management, in an open plan office environment which helps with communication and collaboration. If I look up from my desk I can see what design are doing or R&D or customer service or event coordination which is great. You can get involved, help, offer ideas or suggestions and all of this helps the process when we are bringing new products to market.





Ledz:
Do you have a stand out memory from when you first moved in?
I think when you make this type of step it's very similar to when you move house. If you move to a bigger / better house in a nice area it’s cool and exciting. It’s the same feeling moving into a new business premises. You then have the scary stuff, the same when you move house unless you’re lucky and have won the lottery. You are making a commitment for X amount of years. So it’s a kind of an excited scared stand out memory for me :-)

What were the biggest problems you had when you moved? 
For me personally... moving into the New Planet HQ on the same week I moved house. Not the best of timing but we got through it. Moving is a painful process at the best of times. We needed to keep the wheels turning so the move sort of happened around people until crunch day when everyone had to pick up from the old place and move into the new place. We all had new desks and chairs, etc so for some it was a case of one day you were in the old building and the next you’re working in the new place. For others it took a big more time but no huge problems. Who doesn’t like working in a building site for a few weeks?!

Actually, I’ll give you one story / fail from the move. We had a bunch of paper that was just old and pointless that needed throwing away but could have had some sensitive information on it so I had the bright idea of burning it. We had an old oil drum so we started a fire in it and I thought I’ll just throw in a bunch of paper every few minutes like you see on the films and it will be burnt in no time… I was so wrong. It took ages and in the end I gave up and had a shredding company come in and sort it. Nothing is as easy as they show in the movies!

How much work did Eclipse have to do to the place to make it fit for purpose and to help you move forwards?
The new building was an empty shell, we had to put in a mezzanine floor for the offices upstairs along with the studio, server room and board room. Downstairs was kept pretty open with a 2nd meeting room (that was going to be a showroom, but never did), 2 sound proof rooms, gas-safe testing rooms, fixing room, customer graphic anodising room, canteen, hide-stuff-in-that-corner room and a compressor room. Everything else was racking, open-plan production areas and dispatch areas.

How nice is it working 15 minutes away from your home?
Yep. I live about 15 minutes away from Planet on a good run so I drop my kids off at school on the way into work and I can still be at my desk by 9:10. We open at 9:30 so perfect. We have moved 2 times now and each time where we locate the new place has always been important so the staff can get in and out of work easily. That’s why we start at 9:30am. It takes far less time getting to work after 9. If we started at 9:00am it would take me 45 minutes plus to get here. Work/life balance is very important to us at Eclipse.

How did it feel to have a proper office with a window overlooking your minions as they scurry around under your watchful eye?
I can’t say it was anything I’ve aspired to or dreamt about. But yes it’s nice. I didn’t know but everyone else was more excited about it than I was. It turns out that I’m quite loud and having me in an office (even if it is glass with a door I never close) is better for the staff… Who would have thought it.

I had a thin room to ceiling window put in the back of my office that overlooks the warehouse and dispatch. They love it when I get my red laser out and point it at them when I know there messing about. ;-D

It’s said that moving office can be as effective as hiring good members of staff, do you think the move has made the business as a whole better?
We have always had great staff but I think if you put good people together in an environment where they can flourish it’s always going to be helpful. 80% of the staff in the old building didn’t even have windows. The new place has. Although it took the staff about 45 minutes before they started moaning about sun in the eyes and too hot in summer. You can’t win.

How did you choose where your office was going to be in the new building? 
Great question. Our top floor is in an L shape. One side faces an ecological park and the other you can see Old Trafford, Manchester United's football stadium. Some call it the Theatre of Dreams, but it's more like a nightmare for me, being a Manchester City fan. There was no way I was going to be looking at that place each and every day so the location was an easy choice.






Jack:
This move must have really had a positive impact on you and your team. This meant you actually had some space to work right?
Well the last 25 years has seen a steady upswing in the quality of my work surroundings, lol. The basement on Deansgate is where it all started, then "the corridor" at the back of Praed Rd, where there wasn't enough room to turn my chair round and the view was of bare plywood and painted brick for 5 years. When we expanded Praed Rd I finally got my first office, sharing with Flash, and a window with a view of another brick wall, lol. But it had real actual daylight! The latest move to the current HQ was my first 'Room With A View'. Big glass windows, glass office, view over the nature reserve. Not quite a Manhattan corner office, but it will do for me!
As for space to work, if you mean space to make a mess, then absolutely! Everyone always comments that Flash's side of the office looks immaculate and organized. Mine looks like a bomb just went off in a widget factory…

People say a change of environment can have a huge effects on people’s creativity, did this move drastically change yours?
I don't think so. If you are a true creative I can probably see why that would be so. But I don't see myself in that kind of way. I think of my job as problem solving. It's like doing a puzzle every day. But having a pleasant environment is always nice. Especially when you are working in a team. It helps to keep everyone positive and focussed.

At the very least, you have plenty desk space to leave lots of prototype bits, so that’s good right?
And floor space! Very important that square footage, lol. That does remind me that I do need to have a tidy up at some point. I'm running out of floor space, the top of the cupboards are decimated and I haven't seen my desk in months. I couldn't even tell you what colour it is… lol.

What did you have to do to set up your stall, so to speak. Did the move mean you could build the facilities you’d always wanted?
Yes, nice office aside it was great to be given a blank slate to work with. The unit was basically just a big empty box. We could design production, warehouse, testing, offices, the lot from scratch. Obviously everyone was vying for space, but we were lucky enough to get new test rooms, a small machine shop, lab and a few other things we had wanted for years. It meant we could get on with doing our thing without treading on productions toes or holding people up. It has definitely given us an extra level of flexibility that we didn’t have before and allowed us to do even more extensive testing both on concept parts and production. Which is what you need with an ever-growing product line. But it's still a surprisingly compact setup we have. People are surprised by what we manage to turn out with such a small number of staff and in such a small building. Pretty much the very definition of lean. Which is absolutely NOT how I like my lamb chops!





Flash:
You and Jack share your own 'special' office space and you both have room to actually work. Does it help or is it a nightmare being next to Jack?
It's a bit of a nightmare really, Jack communicates with most of the design team by shouting at them across the office, I spend most of the day with earplugs in.

How does Eclipse HQ compare to the workspace you had at Praed Road? The creative team all share the same space (engineering, electronics, design & marketing) do you find this really helps with product development?
It has certainly helped with communication, and it has helped to reduce the number of errors. You can listen in on what everyone is working on and are able to offer opinions on potential problems that they may not have considered.

You work with electricity and make things go beep. So you must have had some great electric shocks. What’s been the worst?
The worst occurred while working inside the control cabinet of a large winding machine, I had a screwdriver in my hand and was trying to get access to a hard to reach screw. My elbow caught the terminal of a large capacitor, the electric shock caused my arm to snap back and I stabbed myself in the side on the head with the screwdriver. The movement caused my elbow to break contact with the terminal and I instinctively pulled my arm away from my head only to reconnect and stab myself again!





So that's the story so far... in terms of office moves anyway. The current Eclipse HQ has rooms full of confidential works in progress, some rooms have paintball history hanging from the walls or cherished in glass cabinets, but whole place buzzes with our modest team of individuals working together to design, manufacture, test and ultimately use the best gear on the Planet.

Comments

  1. Great blog post! Had me LOL'ing most of the way through Flash's account of things.

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