There’s a myth that floats around industrial facilities. The myth is that you should try to get three feet of space (using a crooked tape) in front of electrical equipment.
This myth contradicts both the NEC and the OSHA clearance tables, both of which provide the minimum (not maximum) clearance [110.26(A)]. Depending on the exact circumstances, that legally required minimum can be five feet, not three feet.
But you can’t just use those table minimums and call it a day. There’s another factor, and it relies on proper analysis of the actual situation. The access and working space must permit ready and safe operation of the equipment [110.26].
If the maintenance procedure for that equipment requires portable lights, a maintenance cart for test equipment, and two electricians, the chart-required minimums probably are not going to be adequate.
Instead of trying to see how tightly you can squeeze down the space around (and especially in front of) equipment, determine what space is needed to safely keep that equipment running.
When the revenue-per-square-foot folks raise objections to losing six precious inches, you can point out that this is the space that’s needed to ensure the other space is actually making the company money.