Case Study: MetLife, Japan

Hurrairah bin Sohail delves into the MetLife project in Tokyo, Japan with PTS Consulting which demonstrates the value of an extensive and adaptable global AV standard. Find out how the global standard with local feedback led to the deployment of AV systems.

MetLife is one of the largest global providers of insurance, annuities, and employee benefit programmes, with 90 million customers in over 60 countries. An operation of that size necessitates a global footprint and MetLife has offi ces in Tokyo to serve its Japanese customers.

The company decided to undertake a consolidation initiative to bring its Japanese workforce together and operating from a central space. The project was broken down into three phases. The fi rst phase was the construction of a new head offi ce, Tokyo Garden Terrace. The second and third phase involved consolidating and restacking the existing MetLife offices at Olinas Tower in Kinshicho, Tokyo.

MetLife’s aim was not just to consolidate their offi ces in a central location but to modernise its workspaces across the board; from facilites to IT and AV. The AV side of the project was helmed by Metlife Multimedia overseen globally by a head of multimedia engineering, who is based in the United States of America.

PTS Consulting was brought on to perform IT and AV project management. PTS Consulting Japan’s AV multimedia team is bilingual and expert in AV technology localisation - not only in terms of product selection but also gathering exact requirements of Japanese users matched against global designs.

John Loving from PTS Consulting Japan talks about the role: “MetLife is an international company. But for this initiative, the project team was largely Japanese, the majority of the workforce in the Tokyo offi ce as well as the building construction team and contractors were Japanese. It goes without saying that Japanese communication was essential and part of our role was to provide that layer of communication. The team in the US was not yet engaged with the local team and facilitating the communication was essential.”

PTS Consulting also provided local expertise on culture and working customs as Loving details: “The project was being driven from the US and it was the fi rst time key directives and multimedia initiatives were being implemented in Japan. The benefi ts of these directives need to be explained to the Japanese side and communicating local feedback to the US was essential.”

Schedule and budget management were also a huge part of the role PTS Consulting Japan performed. Loving says: “This was a huge project spanning across two sites. We worked with the project team and AV integrator to value engineer the workspaces and optimise systems. There were a total of 226 rooms including two boardrooms, a three-way divisible training room, a fi ve-way divisible training room and a photo studio.”

Set standards

Like most global corporate deployments, PTS Consulting Japan and the AV contractors were working off a standard. Loving goes into detail: “The standards and designs for the AV system at MetLife were the most comprehensive that I have worked with. The reference schematics were standardised to a degree that even the equipment port assignments were specified. The reason for the thoroughness is that MetLife uses a single program globally.

“The program used in all the rooms and AV systems is modular and allows changes via the admin panel. So for example, if you want to enable videoconferencing in a room that previously did not have the capability, you just have to bring in the videoconferencing system specified by the standard. Plug it in according to the standard and then just enable the relevant program modules for the room via the touch panel and the space has been upgraded. This means all the rooms can be easily changed into different configurations.”

One of the pitfalls of a global standard is that you can end up with rooms and spaces that are ‘over-spec’d’ in terms of AV equipment. Loving says: “When I looked at the designs they were not grossly over-spec’d. What you could save on the equipment cost, you would have to spend on programming for an atypical project.

“If you have a loose standard and overkill, then it might be wasteful. But at MetLife, real thought has been put into making the standard, the equipment, the design and the programming for the AV systems.”

However, the standard was not the be all and end all. Loving explains: “The global standard is not static. When new equipment is brought in the standard is upgraded. It is very forward thinking. We had already taken into account the type of equipment which would be necessary in Japan and made adjustments to the program to accommodate these changes. But no real changes had to be made to the core of program. “During the course of the installation, we also found that there were certain features, interpretation being a notable one, which had to be added to the rooms. This was accommodated and the program was upgraded so that now interpretation is part of the global standard and if any other MetLife office wants to deploy it they just need to add the module and procure the equipment.”

With the design for the AV systems for the MetLife project not an issue, PTS Consulting Japan got to work. Loving says: “Multimedia was behind schedule and getting the team working on the project to understand the reality of AV was the first thing we did. We can move things around to fit the overall schedule of the project but it is also imperative that everyone understands that multimedia also needs time and that some things can’t be rushed.

“We had great support to tackle the project from the US while PTS Consulting Japan worked on the ground. You don’t always get the level of support from the client that we were lucky to get on this project.”

Again, the global standard developed by MetLife helped. Loving says: “The global standard really cut down on project time. Our main question for MetLife Japan was whether there was anything about the standardised rooms that didn’t meet their requirements. The global standard cut down so much of the user confirmation part of the project and a lot of the back and forth that happens when designing AV systems was eliminated”.

The rooms at MetLife are internally referred to as Huddle rooms, Huddle-V, Connect rooms and Convene rooms along with training rooms. These are spaces with varying degrees of presentation and videoconferencing capabilities able to accommodate differing group sizes. In addition, there were special boardrooms for high-level meetings.

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