State-of-the-Art Office Case Studies:

Offices Supporting Management

SGS Japan

March 2015

*This article is based on research conducted at an earlier date; some details may differ at the present time.

Global Certification Organization’s Improvements Create More Work-Friendly Environment

SGS (headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland) is the world’s largest inspection and certification organization. It provides certification, inspection, testing, and verification services in countries worldwide. In today’s environment, where ensuring product quality and safety and corporate risk management are essential to companies’ continued existence, inspection and certification organizations like SGS play a major role. Demand for its services is growing even stronger as companies become more global. In keeping with this, the company has expanded its organization and stepped up recruitment in Japan as a result of the growth of its Japanese division, SGS Japan. What’s more, since it could no longer expand any further due to the physical limitations of its old office, SGS Japan relocated to a new head office. In this case study, SGS Japan employees provide us with an overview of this little-known certification organization and explain how they created a more work-friendly environment through the process of moving office.

Project Managers

Nobuharu Suzuki

Nobuharu Suzuki

President & Representative Director
SGS Japan

Yuji Takeuchi

Yuji Takeuchi

Manager, Certification Services Division
SGS Japan

Yusuke Sasaki

Yusuke Sasaki

Manager, Functional Safety Group
Consumer Testing Services Division
SGS Japan

Kozo Makita

Kozo Makita

HSE/IT Manager
SGS Japan

Collaboration area within third-floor office space

Collaboration area within third-floor office space

Brief Memo

  1. Certification organizations do more than just review compliance and give their stamp of approval
  2. Playing a crucial role in companies’ long-term success by ensuring product quality and safety and enhancing their value
  3. Making sure to have enough space based on a multi-year recruitment plan
  4. Aiming to establish an office environment that facilitates constant communication
  5. Increasing productivity by improving the working environment

Certification organizations do more than just review compliance and give their stamp of approval

From the perspective of companies, increasing product value is an important driver of market development. Certification organizations such as SGS exist in order to help companies obtain customers’ trust in their products. SGS has 165 offices around the world, with over 80,000 employees working for it. The subject of this case study, SGS Japan, was opened in 1922 as the organization’s Japanese division.

Nobuharu Suzuki: “There are a number of certification organizations worldwide which operate on a global level, and as one of them, our company is engaged in certification work adapted to the different standards in each country. Certification by a third party proves that a product meets the standards and serves as a kind of seal of approval. In addition to this, there is a trend toward companies increasing the value of their brand by promoting their high level of reliability and product quality, which is obtained by applying their own or the industry’s standards and rules to their entire supply chain. This trend is expected to grow in future.”

Nobuharu Suzuki: “We have a number of competitors, but most of them only do work in the area of certification. At our company, certification is just one of ten business areas in which we work. We perform a broad range of tasks, including inspection, testing, and analysis, in practically every industry. For example, we perform testing and analysis to verify whether various goods intended for consumers meet specifications based on standards and regulations, then submit a report after conducting the tests. As a testing organization, we prove that standards are being met.”

Yuji Takeuchi: “In the case of certification, there are two patterns: proving compliance with international standards such as ISO, and proving compliance with the norms of the country, the industry, or the company itself. In order to handle either scenario, it’s necessary to know the standards and norms of individual countries. These regulations and norms are also sometimes revised. In order to stay up to date with this kind of information, SGS’s global network, which is the biggest in the world, is extremely important.”

Yusuke Sasaki: “In addition to the certification business, SGS’s global network supports customers in the area of risk management from a variety of perspectives. One example of this is auditing suppliers and inspecting and testing various types of imported and exported manufacturing equipment and products, electrical and electronic products, foodstuffs, textiles, toys, and so on for large-scale overseas plant projects. SGS also helps to improve the technological competitiveness of Japanese companies. We give technical advice, provide certification, and formulate certification norms and standards to ensure safety in Japan’s most important industrial fields, such as automatic steering for cars, robots and medical equipment, which are becoming highly complex and sophisticated. With the advance of technological innovation, SGS’s sphere of activity is expanding every day.”

Playing a crucial role in companies’ long-term success by ensuring product quality and safety and enhancing their value

Takeuchi: “Recently, there have been a number of incidents that have raised concerns about food safety, and the market has become especially sensitive to this in Japan, where consumers have a greater interest in this issue than they did in the past. We examine and certify the entire supply chain, from the farms where produce is sourced to production, distribution, and retail facilities. We provide consumers with peace of mind and safety based on various standards.”

Suzuki: “When we talk about the details of our business, the word ‘safety’ comes up often. The phrase ‘managing and reducing risk’ is a good way of expressing the substance of what we do.”

Due to the importance of quality and safety, which are essential to companies’ long-term survival, companies’ needs in this area are growing year by year. SGS therefore needs a lot of employees and is constantly recruiting new personnel.

Making sure to have enough space based on a multi-year recruitment plan

SGS Japan’s previous office was a high-rise building located in Yokohama’s Minato Mirai district. But with the number of employees continuing to grow, the company, realizing that it could not add more floor space within the building, decided to consider relocating its head office.

Makita: “Right before the move, the office was cramped and visibly cluttered. What’s more, there were few meeting rooms, and there weren’t enough spaces where people could gather in groups.”

Suzuki: “When you consider our future management strategy, we will continue to be active in recruiting personnel and expanding our workforce. As a result, we thought we should try to secure an office with a lot of floor space, based on our multi-year recruitment plan.”

In July 2014, the company began a preliminary survey of potential destinations for relocation.

Makita: “We promptly received information about various buildings from the office brokerage, Sanko Estate. However, it was quite difficult to find candidate buildings that met our conditions. We therefore modified our approach and decided to concentrate on a group of buildings where one of our divisions was already leasing space. When we looked into the vacancy situation, we found that we would be able to secure a large floor space there. We then carefully negotiated the conditions.”

Suzuki: “The division that was already leasing space there is a chemical laboratory that conducts testing and analysis. There was a lot of time-consuming back and forth between the lab and the head office, which was one of the issues that we wanted to resolve. Besides the physical distance, there was also a psychological distance, and interaction between employees was limited.”

The new offices, while not centrally located, are also located within the city of Yokohama, not far from each other. They also offered significant cost benefits. Location-wise, there were no problems.

In September 2014, the leases were signed, and then discussion of the interior design began. A number of companies were asked to submit bids for the work, and in October a contractor was chosen.

Makita: “There was only a limited amount of time until we moved in, so we proceeded with a top-down approach to planning rather than creating a large relocation project team drawn from departments across the company.”

Suzuki: “In order to obtain office design ideas, we asked two companies with state-of-the-art offices to let us visit them, and we reviewed a considerable amount of material with examples of cutting-edge offices. We also referred to the State-of-the-Art Office Case Studies on Sanko Estate’s website.”

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