Q&A With Mike Read, Maine

MikeMike Read formed MKP over 30 years ago, building the company from scratch to become the well respected and multi award- winning, engineering company it is today. Design has always been a driving force, even before MKP was formed he had a drawing board at home, designing in the evening and making tools during the day for his original company, Ryeland Tools, named after the street where he lived. As the company grew and took on more presses and a factory in Bletchley, the name became Milton Keynes Pressings ( MKP ). Many of his customers had press shops but little tooling knowledge, so they referred to him for answers to their problems. In 1989 MKP became a supplier to General Motors for Vauxhall Frontera and they now supply all the GM network including Nissan and Bentley. As a first tier automotive supplier you have to be accredited and audited twice a year, you need to be impeccable in everything you do. In addition to designing and manufacturing car parts MKP have been working with Maine since 1985 and through this close relationship and Mike’s desire to diversify and grow the business, he bought Maine in 2006.

Maine mobile

How did you get into office design?

I have always thought Maine was a very good fit with MKP; we’ve been making parts for 20 years so it was a natural progression to make and design everything, including assembling and finishing. In our work with the automotive industries we have to show continuous improvement and a spot on shop floor, so we have brought this attitude and culture to Maine. Design has always been a great interest of mine and a driving force behind everything we do, we have recently been working with the design team at Aston Martin to find a creative solution to new parts, we also work with the design team at Lotus. Innovation and the ability to manufacture the new designs at a high quality level is important to all our clients whether they are car manufacturers or Interior Designers. With Kaizan processes we have to question everything we do, so finding a better design solution and innovating is just a natural part of who I am and how I approach everything. I have been working this way all my life. Maine is a small fish in a big pond compared to some of its competitors, but as a subsidiary of MKP it has a lot more muscle. The products are excellent and I believe that Maine’s reputation is second to none for quality. I get the same buzz knowing we have supplied parts for Bentley and Aston Martin as I do walking around the Shard seeing our units in place.

“…finding a better design solution and innovating is just a natural part of who I am and how I approach everything.”

What gets your creative juices flowing?  

Problem solving, a chance to innovate, working out ‘how to do things better’ this is what excites us. For example the trend to have simpler more streamlined offices has led to storage fronts to become simpler and cleaner in design. Although the marketplace had sprung-loaded doors and drawers these were not successful, but Maine’s solution was to create a dual use for the handle. The handle was inset, small and discreet, also acting as a label holder, functional and aesthetic. This design was later refined and updated with Maineslim, a unit with a visually slim and elegant frame. The frame was still strong and the same width as the original, but tapered back behind the width and height of doors and drawer fronts to create an illusion of a slim frame.

Maineslim

 

What do you think is the biggest challenge of late for the office sector?

The challenge for furniture and storage manufacturers is to provide solutions that can adapt to an ever changing workplace. The traditional office set-up is changing to become fluid and mobile; smart phones, laptops and wifi mean office workers don’t need to be in a fixed place, at a desk and close to cables. Meetings are created spontaneously with easily movable seating and mobile storage units. The demands for multifunctional, flexible furniture is increasing, meeting tables can break-away to create smaller set-ups. Desking can be at seating or standing height. Storage can create walls, replace desk legs, be accessed from both sides, power smart phone and laptops, this is far more than a traditional filing cabinet from only 10 years ago.

“The challenge for furniture and storage manufacturers is to provide solutions that can adapt to an ever changing workplace.”

What has been your favourite project/product you have been part of?

Favourite projects are always when we have a close relationship with the designer, so that we understand their priorities and can provide the best possible solution. It is exciting to be able to improve the way people manage their storage and filing needs. An intelligent yet small design change on a unit can make tricky filing tasks so much simpler. For example on a recent project with lockers, the combination lock on the bottom locker was not easy to read a foot from the floor, so Maine angled the lowest slots with the locks so they faced upwards so they could be read without stooping low down.

Mainelockers

 

and finally what are the latest trends you see coming into the office sector?

Traditional offices of fixed working areas is changing to adapt to a more mobile and flexible workplace, breakout areas with themes or a softer more homely design are becoming standard practice. Storage and filing is evolving to meet this need, the design of units could be for use in an office or a home. The well-being of staff is incorporated within the design for office spaces, not just on an ergo-dynamic and practical admin level, but the general happiness and work environment on every aspect is explored. This leads to more individual storage and filing, softer colours and finishes specified. Breakout areas can be fun and themed so storage units need to reflect this, for example with mobile units with soft seat pads or individual lockers with different coloured fronts to match with the theme. Offices are no longer defined by the role of a profession, for example law offices can look like designer’s offices, the aim is to create an environment to retain and attract staff, as well as wow their clients. Branding is all important and is exercised throughout the office not just as a colour choice, so if your brand is fun, so is the whole style of the office including furniture and storage and filing.

“Offices are no longer defined by the role of a profession, for example law offices can look like designer’s offices, the aim is to create an environment to retain and attract staff, as well as wow their clients.”

 

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About Alys Bryan

Alys' experience as a furniture designer, along with her in-depth marketing knowledge, makes her uniquely placed to work with the BCFA as the Editor of Design Insider and run her marketing business, Method Communications.
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