Last year when I wrote my review of the APCO dispatch furniture vendors, I went into the color themes and what I thought I saw as upcoming trends. This year, I noticed that not much has changed in terms of the design and color there is still a lot of dark colors and some wood-looking work surfaces.
What I noticed this year was how many dispatch furniture makers still put electronic equipment, mostly computers, under the console. I saw far too many sales reps doing presentations by bending down and showing the techs how they would access the computers, cables, radio, and power.
I’m still not sure why someone would want to crawl underneath the console to access computers for simple reboots, updates, and cleanings. This seems extremely inefficient, and I, for one, think we have enough “plumber’s crack” in this world. I mean, is this what you really want to see? NOT ME!
You don’t just take my word for it, the techs have also said how they feel about it:
“I’m getting too old to crawl around under the station and access that stuff.”
“You would not believe the amount of junk and old food I find under there.”
“I’ve even seen rat droppings.”
It stinks to have to crawl on your hands and knees to access computers and cables. Even though the surface runs all of the way up, it still doesn’t make for an ideal work environment. To top it off, underneath is usually painted black on black, on black. This dark color scheme makes it very difficult for the techs to see, even with lights on.
To further elaborate, here are a couple of comments that the dispatchers have made:
“I do not want to see the tech crawl under there again.”
“Why do I have to leave my station for simple computer repairs?”
Dispatchers know Murphy’s Law; if a computer goes down and a high priority call comes in, the last thing a dispatcher needs is to get kicked out of their position while a tech works on the problem. If the computers are off to the side, at least the dispatcher can use the other working computers to help out.
So, why is the trend to house the equipment under the console? Well, it saves space in the overall footprint of the room. That is it. Really! To make matters worse, this setup takes away from the knee and leg space of the dispatcher. Nothing like stretching out, just to bump your feet or knees on the cabinets.
I rarely see anyone sit down at the console at the tradeshows and stretch out their legs. I know this is an afterthought, but with the computers just right there underneath, most dispatchers will not be able to stretch out their legs at all during that long of a shift. If you have the chance, try it! See if you can stretch out! It’s always better to test drive before you buy.
What should you look for at these trade shows? To make sure your purchase is practical, keep these tips in mind:
Look for consoles that house the computers off to the side of the dispatchers or behind the station.
Remember that the large walls/computer storage compartments that are on the back of the stations look great at trade shows, but beware that they may not fit into your room design.
Ask yourself if the computers are easily accessible for the techs, or as one of my great customers put it, ensure the work station is designed with “ergonomics for the techs” in mind.
Also, look for side cabinets that are not too tall. If they are too tall, the dispatcher can feel trapped in the space and will have limited ability to communicate with other dispatchers.
In short, don’t just stand and watch at trade shows. Take advantage of the fact that the product is right there, and ask the sales representatives to show you how they would swap out a computer or access it under the raised floor. This will get them out of their pre-planned sales routine and make them work for it a little bit. Most importantly, however, it will allow you to address any possible kinks before you buy the product.