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Making the right move: For companies planning a relocation, months of preparation are often in order

September 18, 2006

CORPORATE RELOCATION
Making the right move For companies planning a relocation, months of preparation are often in order Employees of Aprimo Inc. are settling into their new digs at Parkwood Crossing after the fastgrowing marketing-softwaremaker moved its headquarters early last month.

While the building may be different, the surroundings are quite familiar. The company remains in the same office complex, albeit across College Avenue from its previous space.

But don't tell Dani Hughes, Aprimo's human resources representative who coordinated the move, that the short distance made planning the transition any easier.

"A move's a move," she said. "You're still going to have lease negotiations and space planning. It doesn't matter whether you're moving next door or miles away."

Indeed, picking up stakes takes months of preparation, no matter how large the business or how far the move, as organizations that have recently done so can attest.

The most high-profile move in the city, that of Simon Property Group Inc., will be finished by the end of the month. Like Aprimo, the real-estate developer is not traveling far. Simon is abandoning its longtime headquarters at National City Center on West Washington Street for a building it constructed across Capitol Avenue. Corporate executives declined to discuss the move until after it's completed, however.

Melissa Brown of locally based Relocation Strategies Inc., which has helped coordinate moves since 1986, said many companies want to complete the task during a holiday, when offices are closed and there's less threat of disrupting operations.

"They're going to pay a lot of overtime," she said, "but that's a small price to pay when you don't have to tell clients you're closed."

Moving during downtime

Executives of Indianapolis-based Central Restaurant Products followed that advice when they chose to move last Thanksgiving from their downtown location to the northwest side.

The company, which has distributed restaurant equipment and supplies nationwide for 25 years, was in a 100-year-old building on Central Avenue belonging to Central Restaurant Products owner Rick Weinstein. At 103,000 square feet, the building he bought in Park 100 is considerably larger than the previous location. A lack of parking prompted the move as well.

Management created what it called the Move Tracker, a program operating within the company Intranet that allowed it to track the moving process that involved about 60 projects simultaneously, said Bret Beegle, Central Restaurant Products' chief operating officer.

Employees used the system to provide information and daily updates regarding progress. The same program now is used to track projects.

"We had to create that, or otherwise you're passing paper everywhere," Beegle said. "With a significant project like moving a company, communication is critical."

Although the company closed on Thanksgiving to observe the holiday, it still managed to book sales. It accomplished that by establishing a "war room" where salespeople congregated the following day to push products while the move continued.

The warehoused products number in the thousands and include refrigerators, freezers and fryers. With so many things to move, the company transported nonessential inventory that didn't have to be immediately distributed the weekend before the official move.

Planning commenced in April, more than six months before the moving trucks arrived. By that time, everyone knew their duties so well that the logistics were pinpointed down to the hour, Beegle said.

"The move was extremely successful," he said. "It was just absolutely a nonevent, and that's what you want."

Some don't have the option

Those that never close, not even for holidays, don't have the luxury of moving while the doors are closed. Take for instance Clarian Health Partners, which operates Indiana University, Methodist and Riley hospitals. It consolidated each clinic's laboratory into one, with the opening of a $67 million structure in May near the Central Canal.

Construction on the laboratory began in October 2003, and administrators started planning the logistics of a move about 18 months before its opening, said Sue Hill, the lab's administrative director.

The undertaking involved transporting 2,300 pieces of equipment worth millions of dollars, as well as 500 staff members, without compromising patient health care.

"You can't just shut things down and move," Hill said. "Every test has to be continuously available. You can't ever stop doing the testing in the facilities."

For that reason, the hospitals maintained laboratory functions by methodically moving equipment from the three facilities-one at a time-during a twomonth period. Combined, the lab processes 18 patient results every minute, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, which totals 9 million tests a year, Hill said.

The original goal was to complete the move in three weeks. Soon realizing patient care indeed would be interrupted if they had abided by the schedule, staff stretched the time to nearly two months.

Clarian contracted with Mayflower Transit Inc. to transport the equipment. It even used the People Mover, the light-rail system that shuttles folks to and from the three hospitals, to move some items.

Moreover, 30 vendors of equipment helped ensure their pieces were transported properly. With only one bay available for unloading, timing was everything. But when some of the older equipment left behind at Methodist laboratory was shut off and the new turned on, the transition went so smoothly that technicians didn't even realize it, Hill said.

Yet Hill, who said a move of this magnitude is bound to present challenges, expects the wrinkles to be ironed out by the first of the year.

No one is complaining about the new location, however.

"Labs are always in the basement next to the morgue," Hill said. "Now we can look out our windows and down the Canal. It's great."

No time to waste

Meanwhile, Aprimo's move within Parkwood Crossing became necessary as the company doubled in size, from 60 employees when it came to the office complex in 2000 to the 120 it has now.

The software developer that industry experts say could be poised for an initial public offering began searching for a new location last October. Lease negotiations began once suitable space was found.

Then the real work started, Hughes said. Space planning-figuring out cubicle, kitchen and conference room sizes to where electrical outlets should be located-took much of the time.

Aprimo closed its office on a Friday, to complete the move, but reopened the following Monday, much to the chagrin of the employees.

"Folks had in mind that they were going to come in and it would be a mess and it would be another free day," Hughes said. "They were surprised to find out that wasn't the case."
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