Meet the Next Generation of Factories

method colorful factory from the outsideThe word “factory” is derived from “manufactory.” Actually, the dictionary defines a factory as a building or group of buildings with facilities for the manufacture of goods.

The secondary definition, and maybe one that’s hurt the public image of factories most of all, is that a factory is also “any place producing a uniform product, without concern for individuality.” In a country where individuality and free expression are inherent in our founding charter, that type of blanket statement can paint a really nasty picture of factories.

In fact, many people still associate factories with the grimy industrial workhouses in Manchester or Leeds circa 1850: dark, dank, and dim, with unenthused workers assembling parts for 20 hours a day.

If you’ve kept up with this blog for any length of time, you know that stereotype isn’t true. In fact, many manufacturers are going above and beyond to make their manufacturing facilities just the opposite: bright, cheerful, clean, and happy. The nature of industrial production isn’t always conducive to chic workspaces (unless you consider goggles and forklifts chic), but factories often house advanced technological equipment, thousands of square feet of workspace, and other important individual details.

It’s the new generation of factories—not only productive, but fresh, innovative spaces that can inspire generations of manufacturers to come. Here are a few of our favorite manufacturing facilities that certainly break the mold of Industrial Revolution-era “manufactories.”

Method’s Colorful Soap-Making Factory: Located right here in the Midwest, Curbed Chicago did a feature article on the brand-new, brightly colored Method cleaning supplies manufacturing plant! You can spot the facility from across the plains, highlighted by brightly colored banners, wind turbines, and solar panels.

The company manufactures cleaning supplies, but Curbed reports that the new factory will also have the world’s largest hydroponic rooftop farm that will grow one million pounds of fresh produce annually. Lab workers wear tie-dyed lab coats, people play ping-pong in a staff room wearing shirts that say, “People Against Dirty,” and even loading doors are painted in every color of the rainbow.

The sign by their recharge station reads “Shh, forklifts sleeping,” and the banner outside the factory says “Hello, we’re making soap inside.” The factory is filled with cheerful sayings painted in happy colors, and even if you don’t like manufacturing, it still looks like a fun place to work!

MakerBot Brooklyn Factory: The unique thing about the MakerBot factory? “It’s essentially a factory for tiny factories,” says The Verge. In a space where the product being manufactured is 3D printers, you can expect to find lots of creativity around the offices. Colorful 3D printed objects adorn everything from employee computers to shelves, and fans cool the factory floor to make a comfortable work environment.

Serta International Center: The international headquarters for mattress manufacturer Serta was strategically designed to reflect the importance of environment and the natural world, one reason why the site borders a protected wetlands area. All workspaces have views of the natural landscape, natural light, natural ventilation, and even some outdoor workspaces and terraces. It’s their corporate headquarters, so much of the space is used for offices, but there’s also 25,000 square feet allocated for research and development. The building is breathtaking, practically blending into the natural surroundings. See the photos and more of the inspiration behind the space at ArchDaily.com.

All of these factories defy stereotypes and are leading the way towards modern, worker-friendly workspaces. We look forward to seeing more like this.

Photo credit: Curbed