When Tough-Tech met Co-Working: Interview with 'The Engine' Lab Ops Manager Tara Tatu

All about The Engine and how Rayon helped streamline its facility operations and management

Shira Nathan
Shira Nathan
CSM & Senior Content Marketer
Nov 15, 20233 min read
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"We are working within a very unique and out-of-the-box space. So I enjoyed using Rayon for customizing our floor plans to exactly what we needed at The Engine. It made editing floor plan PDFs and managing the lab equipment in our space so much easier."

The Engine supports Tough Tech startups working to solve the world's biggest challenges through the convergence of science and engineering.

In this interview with Tara Tatu, The Engine Lab Ops Manager, we dive into the operational point of view of the incredible Tough-Tech startup hub, providing access to specialized infrastructure, including labs, equipment, tools, and workspaces.

Commercializing Disruptive Technologies

The Engine Accelerator was founded in 2017 as an initiative originating from MIT, recognizing the gap between academic resources and real-world business needs. It helps commercialize disruptive technologies through a specialized space and aims to accelerate the process of bringing lab solutions to the market by offering infrastructure, financial support, and expert guidance.

The Challenge: Creating a "Digital Twin"

The Engine facilitates 900 people from over 90 startups in a 5-floor building, including labs, meeting rooms, and other workspaces. The challenge The Engine faced at first was finding a way to monitor and manage this vast space:

"We were building out a large facility, and we had the floor plans available on CAD files, but not everyone always has accessibility or training on CAD. We planned and strategized at first by drawing the placement of things on a wall with a marker. As you can imagine, we'd run out of space quickly and couldn't undo anything."

Tara and the operations team sought a way to create a "digital twin," meaning a visual representation of the actual space. They needed accessible floor plans to monitor mechanical equipment locations, track tenants' workstations across the space, and see the overall operational picture.

"The uniqueness of our space made it hard to find a good platform to build our floor panels on. We tried a few demos and finally came on to Rayon, which made work much easier and more flexible. Also, we had never worked with floor plan software before, and Rayon was super simple to use."

The Solution: Streamlining by Floor Plan Customization

The Engine team created a customized floor plan with Rayon representing their unique space. The floor plans enabled them to streamline their workflow with three key values:

Monitoring equipment locations and integration with a booking system:

Lab equipment manager Robbie West uses Rayon weekly to update the location of the lab equipment across The Engine's 5 floors. Once updates in Rayon, the floor plans are exported and published in a booking system that tenants use to pre-order machinery.

Saving time by creating a custom equipment library on demand:

The team built and assigned properties to the collection of diverse lab equipment they use so that it is available to plug and play with, making it fast and flexible to rearrange the layout dynamically.

Sharing floor plans with clients:

The professional-looking floor plans made in Rayon help communicate the space to new potential tenants of The Engine, making the division and placement of areas of the vast space clear and inviting.

The Engine's Vision

The Engine aims to address the planet's most challenging problems and positively impact society and the environment by building Tough Tech. The ground-breaking startups of The Engine are solving challenges in climate change, human health, and advanced systems and infrastructure.

Tara and the operations team continue supporting the next generation of Tough Tech by managing the space to seamlessly answer its tenant's needs, alongside other benefits of The Engine Accelerator, such as various programs, services, and a thriving Tough Tech community.

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