Old Manufacturer's New Office
Next time you go to Disney Shanghai, check out the shower faucets. (You wanted to see the sights, right?) They’re custom designed and produced in Braintree by 75-year-old Symmons Industries. Manufacturing for export is still alive, and this family firm is finding that its new open-plan workplace is helping it stay vital, CEO Tim O’Keeffe tells us.
Ticking off the final punch list items from its relo and interiors redesign begun last May, Tim wants the new design to drive Symmons' business plan. The aim for this manufacturer—like many other firms adopting open layouts—is for the space to enhance collaboration that results in bringing more “innovative solutions to market." Symmons sells brass fixtures and accessories for the bathroom: shower valves, sprayers, robe hooks, and towel bars. (We've been in the market for new robe hooks ourselves.) Its hot markets are China, where it set up a dedicated business unit last year, and in the US, Boston, New York, Chicago, and LA. Its hospitality clients include: Disney, the Four Seasons, Wynn, Marriott, and Ritz Carlton.
While Symmons' 250 employees have only been in the new space for a few weeks, Tim says they love it. The work environment is defined by soft couches, high-top tables, glass-walled offices, and plenty of natural light. The company hopes that this can “change our culture” and offer new products, technologies, and services to customers. The collaborative spaces make it easy to meet or just keep one person energized by picking up their laptop to work in a different space. The project team was Visnick Caulfield and Campanelli.
After being in 31 Brooks Dr, which Symmons owns, for nearly 50 years, and other nearby leased facilities, last May it purchased 39 Brooks Dr. It grew to a total of 145k SF, integrating some functions (the shower and faucet manufacturing lines) and reorganizing its 25k SF of office space. The project called for heavy demolition of cinder block walls while the company kept producing and shipping. Since they were converting an old warehouse, achieving the funky brick and beam look so popular among young tech and startup firms was a natural. They tore the building down to the box but kept the warehouse aesthetic.
On the company's “Main Street” are conference rooms for strategizing where next to take the company started by Tim’s grandfather Paul Symmons and then run by his Dad, William O’Keeffe. They’ve been exporting for many years but only in ‘13 set up the business development team in Shanghai where the opportunities are “great.” After working with Disney on hotels in Florida, California, and Hawaii, Symmons is now outfitting two hotels with a total of 1,200 rooms being developed in Phase 1 of Disney Shanghai. Its fixtures are also in the Four Seasons in Guangzhou, the Wynn Macaw, and in the US, the Time Warner Mandarin in Columbus Circle, and Boston’s Mandarin Oriental, Ritz Carlton, and Liberty hotels.