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State-of-the-Art Office Case Studies: Offices Supporting Management

BANDAI SPIRITS

*This article is based on the interview conducted in March 2019; some details may differ at present.

A Hobby Entertainment Company Reforms Its Working Methods with a New Office Design

The Bandai Namco Group's corporate philosophy is to become the leading innovator in global entertainment by providing "dreams, fun, and inspiration." In April 2018, it launched a new mid-term plan with the purpose of continuing the pursuit of challenges, growth, and evolution without being bound by previous business models or established ideas to achieve change and progress to the next stage. Bandai Spirits was established as one means of achieving this goal. For this article, we asked about the background to the new company's founding, the consolidation and relocation of various offices, and key features of the new office.

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Tatsuya Kawase

General Affairs Team
General Affairs Department
Bandai Spirits Co., Ltd.

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Open Space

Brief Memo
  1. Integration of "High-Target" Business Leads to Creation of Bandai Spirits
  2. Becoming More Physically Efficient by Consolidating Four Sites at Once
  3. Validating the Office's User-Friendliness by Imagining Employees at Work There
  4. An Entrance Design Inspired by the Nature of the New Company's Business
  5. Seeking to Reform the Company's Work Methods through Office Design

Integration of "High-Target" Business Leads to Creation of Bandai Spirits

Ever since it started operations in July 1950, Bandai (known as Bandai-ya at the time of its founding) has supplied a variety of toys and hobby-related products. It has also continued to develop intellectual property (IP) in Japan in the form of character goods and expand its business on the global level.

In May 2005, Bandai and Namco Co., Ltd. announced that they would merge their operations. In September of the same year, Bandai Namco Holdings was established. Since then, the company has actively pursued overseas expansion (with offices in 12 countries at present) and pushed forward with a business aimed at the international market. With Japanese characters enjoying global popularity in recent years, it now offers "dreams, fun, and inspiration" to people around the world.

In April 2018, the Bandai Namco Group launched a new mid-term plan. Bandai, the main company in the group's Toys and Hobby Unit, integrated divisions that primarily developed business aimed at the "high target" market (i.e., adult consumers of toys and hobby products), with the objective of growing the global high target business in future. This led to the creation of Bandai Spirits.

"First, in February 2018, there was a merger of the division that planned and developed figures and super-alloy and plastic models for adult consumers at Bandai and the division that planned and developed prize goods for convenience stores, bookstores, and so on at Banpresto," explains Kawase. "The idea was that developing business as one company with a clearly defined target market would increase the scope of innovation. Then, in April 2019, there was a merger with Banpresto, which develops prize goods and the like for amusement centers, with the idea of not just focusing on the high-target market but developing a lineup of high-spec products aimed at a diverse customer base, including hobbyists who have been using Bandai products since they were children, female history buffs, viewers of late-night anime, and young people who frequently attend events."

Becoming More Physically Efficient by Consolidating Four Sites at Once

Since it was not possible to combine the offices right away following the establishment of the new company, the business continued to be conducted at multiple sites for some time, including Bandai's head office in Tokyo's Taito Ward and the Bandai Namco Future Research Institute located in Minato Ward.

"Bandai Namco Holdings was housed in the Bandai Namco Future Research Institute to begin with," notes Kawase. "It made sense to establish the new company nearby, so in January 2018, when the current office building was completed, we immediately secured some vacant floors. Not only was it convenient to be near Holdings, but it also reduced the time and costs associated with moving. I think we made the right choice when we decided to relocate here."

Kawase says that simply bringing together multiple scattered offices in a single location greatly improved the efficiency of operations. The new office occupies seven floors of a large building in a convenient location that may be accessed via a JR railway line and two subway lines. The roughly square-shaped space, which facilitates office layout, was also appealing.

Validating the Office's User-Friendliness by Imagining Employees at Work There

"I officially became Bandai Spirits' general affairs manager in April 2018," says Kawase. "Prior to that, I had supervised office relocations and layout changes as part of the general affairs team at Banpresto, another company in the group. I'd been involved in quite a large number of layout changes within a short period of time, but this was my first experience with integrating several sites into a single location."

In April, when he was appointed as manager, meetings about the interior design schedule had already begun. At that time, it had been decided that all personnel would start working at the new office on September 1 and that the seven leased floors (floors 6 to 12) would be divided up by department.

"It was a rather tight schedule for a project that involved moving around 400 people all at once," notes Kawase. "My supervisor handled internal coordination, while I mainly supervised all on-site work for the project. Since we were bringing together colleagues from various teams with different work cultures, it did not always proceed smoothly. The actual tasks to be carried out varied widely. They included planning the disposal of old furniture and fixtures and procuring new ones, giving instructions for disposal of documents stored in the office, creating explanatory materials for employees, putting together an interior design plan, preparing press releases for distribution, updating printed corporate materials, notifying the relevant authorities, packing and organizing boxes, planning loading and unloading, and verifying everything after the move, to name just those that spring to mind. The work was really diverse in scope."

The office layout had been finalized to a certain extent. However, many improvements were identified as a result of holding multiple meetings.

"We tried to imagine our employees using the office based on the original layout," Kawase recalls. "When we did that, we found that some elements were not aligned with our corporate culture and spirit. If we started using the new office without making any changes, sooner or later we would have to devote time and money to improve it. That was something we wanted to avoid. We sat down with the designers multiple times and gradually revised the layout while exchanging ideas."

With the layout design finalized up to a point, interior work began. Every detail was verified, down to selecting the furniture, equipment, and fixtures. Then it was time to relocate to the new office. The moving process took three weeks in August and was carried out one floor at a time.

An Entrance Design Inspired by the Nature of the New Company's Business

Next, we will present some distinctive features of the new office.

"The 6th floor is designed for use by group companies, with two event rooms, a sample room, and a processing room equipped with 3D printers. The two event rooms are separated by movable walls, which can be slid aside to turn them into a single large event room accommodating over 300 people. Departmental gatherings are part of our company's culture, so these rooms are used quite frequently," explains Kawase.

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Event room

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Event room interior

The seventh floor serves as the entrance and a meeting area.

"In terms of the concept and image, we were able to take quite a creative approach to design this floor," recalls Kawase. "Since the new company provides products aimed at adult consumers, we thought the color scheme should be sophisticated, instead of the bright pop-art colors that the Bandai Namco Group has used to date. The underlying color is therefore black."

The design company was asked to create an entrancing image inspired by the idea of a "base," in keeping with the name of the building where the office is located.

"In the entrance, there's a show window where various products can be seen. Originally, there was a proposal to put a large globe there, in recognition of our company's increasingly global nature, but we wanted to have an element that reflected a more modern perspective. After further consideration, we decided to present neo-futuristic images using projection mapping."

Ultimately, the aim is to inspire customers visiting the office, with the idea of communicating the group's new overall corporate vision, "Break out of the box--wow the world!"

"The new entrance has steadily taken on a life of its own and information about it has spread to the general public. It has also been extremely well received by people visiting the company," Kawase adds.

As an example, when Hidetaka Tenjin, an artist whose work includes box art for plastic models based on the popular Japanese robot anime franchise Gundam, was impressed by the entrance and tweeted a video of it, it was viewed 4.2 million times (as of March 2018). This led to increased media coverage from journalists at various companies who viewed it, generating significant promotional benefits.

Once visitors pass through the doorway with its distinctive projection mapping, they find themselves in an open area.

"In the original plan, we considered using this as a multi-purpose area for employees, but eventually, it was decided to make it an open space that could be freely used for holding meetings with either colleagues or visitors. Of course, sometimes information to be discussed is confidential, so there are also 15 closed meeting rooms available. These may all be reserved in advance and feature designs inspired by the interior of a spaceship. Large, medium and small rooms may be used, based on the number of attendees," explains Kawase.

During the design phase, he says, a rule was almost implemented stipulating that meetings would be conducted using screens only. However, at some point, the company realized that this would be impossible given its current work methods, and whiteboards were hastily purchased. Initially, the idea was that visitors would be given complimentary plastic bottles of water, but a water dispenser and tea machine have now been added as well. This is an example of the company responding promptly to employees' requests. Changes will be made quickly if they are felt to be necessary. While it depends on the scope of the improvement, there is generally no need to fill out a form or obtain executive approval. This kind of flexible corporate culture will have major advantages for future office development.

"Among the 15 meeting rooms, there are two concept rooms designed to facilitate different perspectives and new ideas. Their color scheme is based on orange, the corporate color of the Bandai Namco Group, and blue, the color of Bandai Spirits. The rooms are equipped with round tables, which allow seating arrangements that are not based on people's status within the company hierarchy. These rooms have received positive feedback from employees, who've told us they make it easier to share their opinions freely. In keeping with the image of these rooms, we've also used projection clocks to display the time," explains Kawase.

"All of the meeting rooms on the 7th floor are equipped with teleconferencing systems," he adds. "This enables meetings with overseas offices to be held at any time. Our interaction with Bandai Hong Kong and Bandai Namco Asia has already increased, because, in the end, it's easier to communicate ideas when talking face to face. Just having more rooms with teleconferencing capabilities has enabled us to work more efficiently. I think this will be an indispensable feature for our business going forward."

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Event room floor entrance

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Meeting floor entranceway

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Open space

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Meeting area

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Orange room

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Blue room

The 8th to 12th floors, meanwhile, are office areas. On each floor, the desks are arranged side by side, with low partitions that give the environment an open feel. There are diner-style booths and meeting tables set up by the windows, but given the frequency of use, there are not yet enough of them. At present, the 6th and 7th floors are often used for departmental meetings.

"Originally, we thought we would create communication areas on each floor. We also envisioned using an entire floor as a rest area, but that was not possible due to space limitations. It's now well known that giving your mind and body regular breaks leads to improved productivity. Going forward, we want to develop more useful features for the purpose of generating new ideas and culture."

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Office area

Seeking to Reform the Company's Work Methods through Office Design

Future office improvements will be managed primarily by the general affairs department.

"I believe that improving motivation by making the company appealing to employees is another way of reforming work methods," says Kawase. "To achieve that, we intend to pursue office development featuring a playful spirit and superior design. Since it's quite difficult to modify things like working hours or benefits packages, I think it would be good if we could make changes to the office facilities. Ultimately, that should lead to improved client hospitality as well. When it comes to office improvements, there's no end to what you can do, so we are always on the alert for more information. Moving forward, we are going to be more active in recruitment, so we're developing an office that will help at least a little to encourage interest from talented candidates while also inspiring pride in our employees."