Case Study Watlow

Watlow, a $500-million global innovator in the design and manufacturing of thermal systems, wanted to renovate the company’s 50,000-square-foot global headquarters and create a state-of-the-art technological development facility.

Since 1922, when Watlow developed low-wattage industrial heaters for the St. Louis shoe industry, the company has expanded its technological competencies to become an industry leader in providing customers with cutting-edge thermal solutions for their most challenging issues. Watlow wanted its new headquarters building to reflect that heritage and commitment to continued innovation.


St. Louis, MO

Project Specs

Manufacturing Company

Design Firm

Gray Design Group

Dealer Partner


Breaking Down Barriers and Building a Community

Knowing that the creativity of its 2,000+ employees brings innovation and growth to Watlow, the company was looking to create a new headquarters space to support the needs and activities of its people, fostering a universal sense of community and collaboration that retains good employees and attracts top talent.

A company with global reach and facilities around the world, Watlow was finding it difficult to maintain a collaborative culture, which it needs to support company-wide creativity and innovation. Instead of people working together, silos had formed, and their St. Louis headquarters building was perpetuating them with walls and separation.

With these physical barriers to collaboration and a space lacking a feeling of community among employees, people were unable to do their best work. Creativity was suffering, and employees felt unmotivated and unfulfilled. Moreover, it was becoming more difficult for Watlow to retain current employees and even more difficult to attract new talent.

"We're able to look around at our co-wokers, grab them for a quick conversation at our desk. If we find that the conversation is going to be a little longer, we can move to a collaboration area so that we're not disruptive to other teammates. We can use the white board spaces. We can really get up and move around."

Brittney Phillips

Watlow Engineer

An Open Hub for Collaboration and Innovation

In 2014, Watlow’s leaders decided that the company needed a global technological hub that would bring people together as a community, rather than separate them. This was the impetus for a complete building renovation that would result in the creation of the Advanced Technology Center (ATC) at their headquarters in St. Louis. Everything about the new ATC building was designed specifically to make it easy for people to come together—from within the facility or any of Watlow’s global locations—to communicate, collaborate, and share ideas, enabling the creativity and innovation the company prides itself on.

Watlow’s new space has a far more open environment than its predecessor. The number of private offices has been reduced and the few remaining have been located on an inside wall. To further open the space, the amount of bulky physical storage has been reduced in favor or digital files. Not only does the open plan offer more daylight and outside views to the entire office, it invites collaboration and community with easy access to others at workstations and a variety of informal spaces that accommodate quick huddles, work sharing, unplanned meetings, and discussion. New formal conference rooms have been added, as well, to provide the technology needed for presentations and working sessions.

People-Led Design

For Watlow, a company that focuses on creating innovative solutions for its customers, keeping valued employees happy and attracting new talent were huge considerations in the creation of its Advanced Technology Center. “We want a workforce that feels energized with autonomy, mastery, and purpose to meet the demanding challenges our customers face,” noted Sheryl Hicks, Watlow Vice President of Human Resources.

While collaboration is important at Watlow, individual workstations are still needed to provide employees with a dedicated personal space for focus work. Multi-generational steering committees were created to help determine what people needed from their workspaces to do their best work, while supporting Watlow’s brand and culture. Mockups of individual workstations were created for the steering committees to try, and adjustments were made based on experiential feedback that would not have been available if everything were just done “on paper.”

Shawn Bailey, Project Manager for Northstar Management Company, observes, “It actually looks like a state-of-the-art facility. It’s a place where folks want to work and be there helping push that cutting edge with their design.”

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