We tend to think of maintenance as testing and inspecting. However, the most neglected part of the typical service involves neither to maintain it. What is it? It’s the space around the equipment.
Revenue per square foot is an important metric in property management. Unfortunately, people using that metric don’t always look at the means of producing that revenue.
This mental blindness permits the misperception that space “set aside” for electrical infrastructure is "wasted," and reducing it is an improvement. So, the thinking (or lack thereof) goes, space devoted production, storage, or trafficways should never be less than 3 ft from electrical equipment; any more is a waste.
The 3-ft number comes from misreading NEC and OSHA flash protection requirements. Because they're based on voltages, these requirements don't universally specify a 3-ft space (it may be more). They provide the minimum for safety, not maintenance or power restoration.
Yes, ensure your service has the OSHA-minimum spacing. But maintain additional space around/within it for effective maintenance. The question is not, “How close can we get to 2 ft, 11.9 in.,” but “How much room do we need to properly maintain our electrical infrastructure?” It's an engineering question, not a regulatory one.
Start answering that question by staging and timing maintenance/repair tasks — first in cramped conditions, and then with more room. The difference may amaze you.