AV and IT overhaul at Bayer headquarters

The UK headquarters of one of the largest names in the pharmaceutical world now boasts technology to match the scientific innovation it has become renowned for. Charlotte Ashley reports.

“You  could  say  that this  was  an  IT-AV project,  not  just  an AV  project,”  says Justin  Paveley,  project director  at  Focus  21.  “We’ve tipped the balance on this one in that we’ve had to use our AV skills to deploy an IT project.” The task in question, providing an extensive AV upgrade as part of the relocation and renovation of  biotechnology  and pharmaceutical company Bayer, was  awarded  to  the  integrator after  being  handpicked  by design  consultancy  MiX.  Focus 21 beat three other companies to  clinch  the  project,  and  was selected  for  its  attention  to detail in the tender stage, work began at the close of 2016.

“This  entire  project  was  built  around  the desire  to  bring  about  a  cultural  change  and encourage a more agile way of working,” recalls Glynn  Seymour,  innovation  &  infrastructure co-ordinator  for  Bayer  UK  &  IE  on  why  the company  undertook  the  ‘once  in  a  lifetime move.’  Once  home  to  a  basic  setup,  limited  to video  conferencing  and  signage,  Bayer  and  its new  Crestron-controlled  Green  Park  HQ  now boasts  over  60  collaborative  spaces,  meeting rooms and presentation suites connecting staff both  internally  and  to  colleagues  and  partners around the globe.

“This entire project was built around the desire to bring about a cultural change and encourage a more agile way of working.”

Designers  of  the  system,  MiX  consultancy, carefully  helped  Bayer  navigate  the  unfamiliar waters of a construction project from the start, and  held  workshops  with  key  stakeholders. “We engaged MiX after multiple meetings and visiting reference sites.  It  was  clear  they  were highly customer focused, and used to dealing in a  global  enterprise  environment  and  the  issues and opportunities that can bring,” says Seymour on the origins of the partnership.

Central  to  the  project  is  the  universality  of the  equipment’s  connectivity  and  functionality – a concept to benefit everyone involved in the project. “A key component of the strategy was to provide standardisation through consistency and simplicity by minimising customisation but also delivering innovation to the business,” says James Woods, IT/AV consultant at MiX. “This in turn promoted user confidence.”

Focus 21 worked to digest the brief and architectural drawings and create a fully ratified working design. “As a design and build project, they  were  designing  on  the  fly  so  trying  to coordinate  our  installation  was  difficult,”  says Paveley. Focus 21 initially had a 16-week period to deliver the project – including waiting for custom products from the US for videoconferencing - which was extended slightly due to unforeseen delays, the team had to stretch its resources over the holiday period to deliver the project. “We had a two-week period to get 65 rooms up and ready, so time was a huge challenge.”

large Bayer boardroom installed by focus 21 in reading

Following  the  completion  of  the  main installation  in  February,  technology  now  spans four floors of the building – transforming Bayer into a hub of different business and collaborative activity. “There’s a wide range of technology in the  building,  but  probably the  most  important  space  in the  building  is  the  ground floor.” Here, around the central atrium  space  at  the  heart  of the  building,  employees  have access  to  a  3-way  divisible multifunctional  space  for meetings  or  recreation,  as well  as  Skype  rooms  and presentation rooms.

Clients  enter  the  building through a welcome  area running  BayerHub  digital signage,  sharing  company news  and  events. Bayer were keen to redeploy a 3.5m x 2m Absen  videowall previously installed at its Newbury office in the lobby, yet manoeuvring the screen proved to be one of the biggest tests of the project. “The big issue with the videowall was that it was rear access and they wanted it on a wall so we had to design a bracket to  allow  it  to  be  removed  from  the  wall  on  a kind of pull-out bracket.” After its installation, the wall was connected to a Sedna Player with an Apple Mac mini for control.

Bayer lobby with large Absen video wall and projector installed by Focus 21 at Reading office

Guests later move to dedicated spaces showcasing Bayer’s latest scientific innovations. The centrepiece to this is the BayLab, a laboratory area equipped with an NEC projector and 109-in Draper screen and a number of Smart Kapp IQ Pro screens, controlled by a Crestron panel for both wired and wireless presenting.

To  the  left  of  the  building,  staff  and  guests have access to a large restaurant and café space featuring multiple booths with individual displays and  Cisco  video  conferencing  and  presentation points. The rest of the space is completed with floor-wide  46-in  NEC  displays  and  Christie projection  showing  world  news,  sports  events or  internal  content. Tailored content is shown throughout (i.e. weather forecasts in the morning and traffic news near rush hour) for employees. This is controlled by a Crestron DM Matrix 32 x 32 and an Audio Dante network to facilitate flexible use of the space. The restaurant area opens up to a large town hall space for quarterly employee gatherings which later down the line may be bolstered with an LED videowall.

Bayer projected screen in restaurant and recreational area at Reading, UK headquarters

Currently occupying floors two, three and four in the building, each of Bayer’s floors above feature twenty rooms in a standardised set up. Home to a mixture of spaces for internal use, workers on  each  floor  have  access  to  small  or large  Skype  rooms  or  dedicated  conferencing rooms  depending  on  their  requirements,  with breakout screens sharing signage throughout the spaces. “There’s also a lot of informal rooms so if you’re stuck for a meeting room space you can quickly sit down and have access to a screen and do a wire-to-wire presentation,” adds Paveley.

Bayer are  also  benefitting  from  monitoring room usage according to Seymour; “Having more high-quality integrated video conferencing rooms which are easier to access has encouraged higher usage, and the expansion of our existing Condeco booking system has made sure that we’re using the new technology and the space its housed in the most efficient way.” The whole building is managed by Crestron Fusion RV, allowing IT and FM managers to provide remote management capabilities for AV assets and the building system.

“The biggest achievement across all four floors was that there was over 400 endpoints put on their network,” states Paveley. “This included lots of wireless presenting receivers, videoconferencing endpoints,  Biamp  Devio  units  (on  the  Skype network), VOIP interfaces, IPTV receivers, breakout screens on their signage network and all the AV kit on  our  AV  control  network,”  states  Paveley. This was in addition to a standard data network providing nearly every room with the ability to do either a wired or wireless presentation.

“The biggest achievement across all four floors was that there was over 400 endpoints put on the network.”

To ensure everything would be as operational as possible in situ, Focus beta tested products on the network with the client, collecting feedback on how things worked over a period of  six weeks. “We also mocked up their whole network in the  factory  so  everything  that  they  saw  was as operational  as  it  would  have  been  in  their building,  because  we  were  given  such  a  short period of time we had to make sure they could just pick up equipment and it would work.”

Working on such a scale was facilitated by a willingness from the client to value outcome over  cost.  “I  think  Bayer  definitely  saw  the return on investment they could get from having technology  in  the  space,”  says  Paveley.  “The package we offered was one of the biggest so I don’t think was cost was too much of an issue. It was more about getting the space right and benefiting from the flexibility of the workspace.”

Focus 21 secured a 3-year maintenance project to  continue  to  support  Bayer,  with  day-to-day support  also  offered  by  the  company’s  in-house IT team. “We’re already quoting for new products on pretty much a weekly basis so there’s definitely developments in the pipeline,” says Paveley. On the company’s new meeting room and office facilities, Seymour from Bayer concluded: “It’s clear the overall effect of the new environment has  both  inspired and engaged colleagues, and the AV provision has been pivotal in enabling that change.”



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