Inside ARI's Technology and Innovation Center
Photo courtesy of ARI.
In mid-June, ARI held an official ribbon-cutting ceremony for its new Technology and Innovation Center on the same Mount Laurel, N.J., campus that also houses the fleet management company (FMC)’s global headquarters.
The 107,000-square-foot building was completely gutted and renovated to create a space designed to inspire the 550 employees who will now work there to innovate new technologies and methods to help fleet customers to be efficient and improve their companies.
The three-floor Technology and Innovation Center sports a clean, modern feeling and features a light-filled open floor plan with only a handful of glass fronted offices located at the center of the building. There are also numerous meeting and break rooms expressly designed to foster collaboration.
ARI’s new Technology and Innovation Center is designed to inspire and create an environment for employees to innovate. Features of the building include:
Regularly ranked as one of the best places to work in the country, ARI leadership sought to preserve this by getting feedback from employees during the design process.
“It was a very collaborative effort,” said Bob White, executive vice president and COO for ARI. “We certainly engaged experts and professionals who could guide us with regard to best practices and use cases. But we also wanted to involve our employees, so we could know what they wanted to see and learn what they thought would make them productive. We put together a steering committee to not only help us make decisions but to also take information back to their respective departments and teams to see if what we were doing was lining up with employee expectations.”
The key to creating a space designed to maximize employee engagement was listening, said Chris Conroy, president of ARI.
“One of our greatest skills as an organization is listening, and this building is a great example of that,” said Conroy. “We listened to the feedback from our employees about what they felt would make a great environment. This building is a real departure in a very positive way from some of the more traditional ideas about what a work space should be but it represents what we aspire to be as an organization going forward.”
The Technology and Innovation Center will now be home to the company’s 200-plus member IT team. Most of the third floor is dedicated to the state-of-the-art call center, which allows ARI’s team of technicians to streamline their workflow and manage call volume with real-time metrics and data available at a glance from the central command center. Managers oversee operations from a central, circular, raised dais that allows them to keep an eye on operations. The technicians assisting customers can look up and see call volume and status thanks to a band of screens crowning the command center.
The call center was up and running about two weeks prior to the official dedication, and the team’s new home was already starting to pay dividends.
“The new space has really allowed for two key improvements,” said Ted Davis, vice president of North American call center operations. “First, it has truly helped to enhance employee morale. The natural light and open space really leads to a positive attitude which in turn inspires our technicians to do their very best each day in a job that can be very demanding and very fast-paced. Second, it has allowed us to empower our technicians to shape their workday and their behavior through data and technology. By providing them with real-time stats via our command center — whether it is the number of calls in the queue or the kinds of calls that are coming in — they are able to understand exactly what kinds of demands we are facing and take on those challenges accordingly”
Other functions that are housed in the Technology and Innovation Center include sales, marketing, and Partners In Excellence, the team responsible for ARI’s quality management and employee engagement programs.
The facility features a number of modern, state-of-the-art touches, including noise canceling technology that is being used to create an ambient feel for the employees. There are also a number of open and closed collaboration spaces, the latter of which are called “huddle rooms” that include video conferencing technology, giving employees a place to gather to brainstorm or work on projects.
ARI incorporated many of the standards of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) recommendations, including the use of LED lighting which is responsive to natural light levels and water efficient low-flow fixtures throughout the building.
The development of new technology is an important part of ARI’s brand identity.
A quarter of ARI’s operating budget is invested in developing and implementing technology to improve client fleets’ operations.
“This building is evidence of something larger than just the actual structure itself. It really represents the continuous investment that ARI makes into our people, process and technology which in turn allows us to deliver superior results to our customers. We feel we’re unique in the industry because we are always in continuous investment mode,” said Conroy. “This new facility is simply a part of a much larger strategy of continuous investment in our people, so they feel happy and engaged, and that they have a great place to come to work every single day.”
While the building and its operations are a clear indication of ARI’s commitment to developing and implementing technology, a centerpiece of this commitment is its technology lab. This room allows fleet customers and others to evaluate ARI-developed and other third-third party technology that is designed to help improve the efficiency and bottom lines of fleets. On the day of the building’s official dedication, technology on display ranged from telematics solutions to an ARI-developed fleet app to a 3D printer that had fabricated a model of a truck upfit.
“From a technology perspective, we wanted to configure a space and create an environment for our staff that allows us to take best advantage of what we would call the supply chain of technology development,” said Howie Spangler, vice president of Information Technology for ARI.
“We needed to make sure that we had space that was very collaborative that allowed our developers, the engineers that support them, the quality staff, and some of our thought capital leaders in the organization to work very quickly in close proximity to each other. We wanted them to be able to duck out, have ideas, white board things, prototype and build without limitation. All of that has enabled more successful innovation in a short time.”
During the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which was attended by ARI company leadership, employees, local business and government officials, and members of the Holman family, who own ARI, a recurring theme was the importance of the people who work in the building.
“This building highlights our continued investment in our most important asset — people,” said Conroy during his address at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
White built on this theme later, when discussing the significance of the new Technology and Innovation Center for the FMC.
“The two things that we leverage most in order to serve our customers is our people and our technology. I think this building is a great example of trying to leverage those two things together. It’s really to optimize those two things together and the sum of the two is greater than the individual components,” he said. “In terms of the people, we want to make sure that we have the best people in the business. Creating a great work environment helps us to attract and retain the best people, which hopefully creates value for our customers.”