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Case Study: Dairy Farmers of America

Kansas City, Kansas

Formed in 1998, Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) is a leading milk marketing cooperative that has grown to serve and empower more than 14,500 dairy farmer members nationwide. With this growth came the need for a new space to house its Kansas City headquarters. DFA prides itself on being member-focused, smart, responsive, forward-thinking, and reliable. For their new office, DFA staff wanted to create a modern, interactive, and collaborative environment that would help build these points of pride into their culture, bringing them to life for current employees and job seekers, alike.

This meant leaving their leased Kansas City, Missouri property, crossing the river, and constructing a brand new threestory, 110,000-square-foot building in Kansas City, Kansas. And of course, this impressive, state-of-the-art facility needed employee amenities, flexible workspaces, and unique furnishings to match.

Dairy Farmers of America Building
Dairy Farmers of America | Haworth Office Furniture

Introduction


Previous Restrictions
DFA had outgrown its leased office space in both size and purpose. Its previous headquarters occupied seven floors of a tall, dark building, with no room to expand, limited access to daylight and no real opportunities for employees to work outside. DFA simply needed a new space of its own, with room to grow—a space tailored to its collaborative needs and the culture senior leaders wanted to promote for the future of the organization.

New Opportunities
By reducing the number of floors from seven to three, DFA’s new building eliminated the inherent disconnection of employees being separated by floors. The new building also maximizes the use of its open floorplan with shared space, scaling back the number of private offices to just 10 from the original 175. New workstations with access to abundant daylight were designed to facilitate easy, natural communication and collaboration between individual employees, as well.

Fern Office Chair at Dairy Farmers of America HQ

Engaging Employees in the Redesign

DFA leadership wanted their new headquarters to be reflective of a modern work environment and what today’s employees want from their workplace. They created about 15 different engagement committees, providing all employees the opportunity to participate in research, discussions, and recommendations for the new office. Each committee had a unique focus, concentrating on topics such as branding, workstations, alternative workspaces, collaboration, meeting areas, and outdoor spaces, as well as amenities like the fitness center and café. The committees generated ideas to bring the space to life in a way that actually supported DFA’s forwardthinking, community-oriented culture, rather than working against it.

The Four Primary Objectives

Bring People Together


•  Various informal spaces were added throughout the building, allowing employees to work openly, encouraging conversations, and facilitating collaborative activities that can lead to increased creativity and innovation. 

•  Home-like “living room” areas were created on each floor, inviting employees to freely gather, meet up, collaborate, and connect away from their workstations. 

•  Small conference rooms are available across the floorplan, as well, for times when more intense concentration and small-group collaboration is needed. 

•  Larger conference rooms, featuring farm design elements, were also added for formal meetings, collaborative activities, and client presentations. 

•  Rooms currently range in size from one-on-one spots to one that can house the entire DFA office, and they can be easily changed in size or moved.

Collaboration at Work | Haworth Office Furniture

Future Proof the Space


Set on the new headquarters reflecting their forward-thinking culture, DFA leadership treated the project as a long-term investment. They intended the space to have the ability to evolve and change to meet their organizational needs for the next 40 years—and still have the look, feel, and function of a modern office. 

•  Raised access flooring was installed in the entire building to house heating and cooling ducts, as well as wiring, allowing for easier moves and space reconfigurations when needed. 

•  Demountable walls provide the privacy needed for conference rooms, meeting rooms, etc., yet make it simple to readily change room sizes and locations. 

•  Workstations have been designed from a standard kit of parts that can be assembled in different ways to create multiple configurations depending on need.

“One of the important aspects of future proofing the project was Dairy Farmers of America’s desire to treat this as a 40-year investment. That ultimately changed the dialogue intensely, and we thought about everything from sustainability to making sure that they had a platform that allowed them to move, add, and change as easily as possible.”


– Peter Sloan, Principal at HOK

Tailor Workspaces to Employee Needs


With input from the people who use them, DFA’s new workstations were designed with the total employee experience in mind. 

•  The benching system with lower wall panels allows team members easy access to one another, while offering just enough of a perceived barrier to provide personal space. 

•  Workstations have multifunctional pedestal storage units that double as temporary seating for people dropping by for those quick questions or impromptu conversations.

•  Pull-out pantries provide added privacy, access to power for charging mobile devices, as well as display and storage for personal items. 

•  Ergonomic seating, height-adjustable desks, and accessories, such as monitor arms for their new dualmonitor setup, allow for more user control and personalization for a variety of workstyles. 

“Now you can easily take a look around and see folks are right there.  You can see conversations happening. You can see an opportunity to run down and ask an easy question. That’s incredibly valuable.”

– Darren Brehm, DFA Senior Director of Materials Procurement

Pay Homage to Farm Families

DFA has strong ties to the dairy farming families it serve, so leadership and employees wanted to honor them in the office design. The branding engagement committee concluded that office design should reflect the entire scope of DFA—from farms and milk production, to plants and processing facilities, to the dairy products people around the world use every day.

The Milk Bar is another fun dairy-themed feature of the new building. This space embraces DFA’s culture and showcases the base of its business.

Dairy Farmers of America

Project Results

DFA set out to create a new, engaging headquarters space that supported employees in their jobs and as people—a place they really wanted to work, and where they could do their best work. “What we were really looking for was to move far away from that traditional office space, and move into a space where collaboration and a heartbeat center of the building was evident when you came in,” said Monica Massey, DFA Senior Vice President and Chief of Staff.


Even the individual workstations are bringing people together by making it easier for them to communicate and get work done. Collaboration and communication just started happening naturally. There is still space for employees to do focus work, but the new workstations are also helping with workflow and productivity. “Things that used to take a lot of time to do just fall away,” said Brehm. “Now you can easily take a look around and folks are right there. It’s just really easy to get a lot of quick stuff done, in a fast way.”

“We wanted to make sure we focused on creating a more collaborative, more inclusive environment that facilitated unintentional, as well as intentional, interaction among colleagues. And that’s proven to be the case."

– Alex Bachelor, DFA General Counsel and Senior VP
Morrison High Pad Stools at Dairy Farmers of America

“This project, which more than I ever expected, is a beacon, and it stands proud both from the exterior and the interior. It reflects the perspective that [DFA] very much wanted and articulated many, many, many years ago. To see the joy of the people working here, and realize that this is, for us as a design firm, a result that can translate the bricks and mortar into something of great purpose and value. It’s super exciting.”

– Peter Sloan, Principal at HOK

Customer Profile

Dairy Farmers of America (DFA) is a leading milk marketing cooperative and dairy food processor that serves and is owned by over 14,500 members nationwide. It was established in 1998 to unite smaller regional cooperatives and help farm families survive in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. This combined cooperative offers programs and services that make it easier and more profitable for members to farm. Today, DFA has become one of the country’s most diversified manufacturers of dairy products, food components, and ingredients, providing dairy products for purchase by families around the world.

Case Study Assets
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Contributors

Architecture + Design Firm
HOK
Kansas City, MO
Branding and Artwork 
Dimensional Innovation
Haworth Furniture Dealer

encompas
Kansas City, MO
General Contractor
JE Dunn
Kansas City, MO
Photographer
Michael Robinson Photography