Using an Independent FF&E Consultant rather than a Furniture Supplier
What is the best way for a space to be planned and furnished? There are two options:
- Using an independent Furniture Fittings & Equipment (FF&E) consultant to help plan the space, procure the selected furniture and fit out the space in the most suitable way.
- Contracting a furniture supplier or manufacturer directly.
The choice should be made based on the individual specifications of the space itself, but it is important to be aware of the benefits and pitfalls for each option. To help make an informed decision, this article explains the differences between the two approaches.
Although on the surface, it may seem that going directly to a specific furniture supplier or manufacturer will make for an easier process, there are some hindrances that are naturally brought into the process with this decision:
 Vested interest and lack of choice
It is often the case that furniture suppliers or manufacturers have a vested interest in supplying and installing their own products or products of companies from whom they receive commission payments, even if these are not particularly suitable to the given space, making them more difficult to integrate with the space and the architect’s and/or designer’s vision.
 Hidden costs
In this scenario, consultancy fees are often artificially low, as they are subsidised by higher profits made from supplying particular products and often don’t represent the true cost of adequately resourcing the project. What’s more, the single source manufacturers have been known to add 20-40% mark up costs on assets supplied, which can bring the costs of each project up significantly.
Furniture and equipment orders placed with a limited number of suppliers means there is a higher risk of delays if those companies suffer production and ordering delays and there is no backup plan for any individual company going out of business during the course of the project.
Because of the reasons mentioned above, it is often difficult to judge the value and/or input of the various companies involved.
 Lack of transparency
Due to the commission-based model that furniture suppliers and manufacturers work on, asking such a company to control the process of design means it becomes virtually impossible to manage a fair, transparent and impartial tender process, where decisions are made based on what is best for the project, rather than any ties to specific product ranges.
 Using an independent FF&E consultant
Independent FF&E consultants have no commercial links to individual manufacturers or ranges and so are able to offer an impartial consultancy service, comprising design, specification, project management, cost management, product knowledge, procurement and site supervision.
The advantages of using an independent FF&E consultant include:
 Meeting client visions and ensuring best value
As the FF&E consultant is not tied to a specific supplier, they are able to draw on their knowledge of the sector and the individual client’s project specifications, whether the space in question is a classroom or a specific commercial space, in order to provide furniture and equipment that best suits the space and the way it will be used and thus meet and exceed the client vision.
 Compliance and conformance to British Standards
Being able to draw on a larger pool of suppliers means not only that there is always a larger choice (and back up solution) of equipment used, but also that an FF&E consultant is able to meet any compliance standards required on the project (this is particularly important on educational spaces, for example) without issue.
 Product selection and procurement strategy
Wherever possible, an FF&E consultant is able to procure the furniture and equipment to be used directly from a manufacturer, rather than involving a dealer or supplier because of their specific knowledge of the sector and current trends and solutions. Therefore, the usual 20-30% dealer margin, which adds cost but not necessarily value, can be eliminated.
The final decisions should always be made based on the specifics of an individual project. However, using an independent FF&E consultant may give greater flexibility in the solutions used, allowing them to suit the particular space and its specifications and requirements, while reducing the costs incurred through high margin and commission payments.
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