There’s always talk about shop layout and design.
The better a shop’s laid out, the more efficient the work will flow …
But re-designing — whether it be by re-building, remodeling or relocating — is an expensive process. There is, however, an inexpensive way to solve a lot of production woes without tearing up the place.
What would be one of the easiest layout problems for someone to take care of? Better utilization of space (which, in most cases, doesn’t cost much to fix).
"Space is real estate, and bricks and mortar aren’t cheap, so getting the very best out of the space you have only makes perfect sense," says Brian Evison, technical director of Bemack Planning Services, a layout and design planning firm.
It’s surprising how easily you can start to waste space without realizing it, so you might want to assess your shop and try to eliminate projects that have been sitting around forever (you know, that custom paint job you’ve been working on as a side job, your boat or some other project you’ve got sitting in the corner — all of which eat up space and opportunity.)
And, says Evison, remove those unnecessary work benches in the shop. In this day and age, work benches aren’t as essential to have around — and, most importantly, they become a place to accumulate clutter. Not only do they accumulate clutter themselves, but every time you put a work bench against a wall, you’ve created another corner that wasn’t there before. And corners are great places to put stuff when you’re just looking for somewhere to put it — which, by the way, is not the right place to put it.
By the same token, try to take control of the size of the tool boxes used in your shop ("try" being the operative word, since tool-box size can be a controversial subject). "We’ve got tool boxes in shops that you could accommodate a family of three in," says Evison. "[You’ve] got a mattress, a double bed in the bottom, a refrigerator and the whole bit. These things are enormous. I mean, they’re ‘ginormous.’ " Tool boxes of this magnitude hold more tools than a tech would ever need to repair a car, and they eat away at space you can potentially organize and use.
Improving Employee Morale
The organization of space is about as important as the layout and design of it — and you don’t have to rebuild, remodel or relocate to get organized. Why is organization so important? If your shop space is organized, your techs will know where to find things, they won’t lose anything, they won’t stumble over things that are lying in the wrong place — possibly damaging them — and they’ll generally get more done.
Another benefit of organization is improved employee morale. Shop environment is a direct result of the facility’s layout and design, and employee attitude is directly affected by shop environment. For example, the organization of space in the production area can have a dramatic impact on morale.
"A cleaner working environment will always relate to a higher level of productivity," says Evison. "Just by virtue of, I think, everybody feels better about where they work."
Other factors also help to improve shop environment, such as making sure there’s enough light so technicians can see what they’re doing and reducing noise in the shop, which can be done a number of different ways. But don’t stop there. A lot of other little things can also be done to improve your shop’s environment — and to create an atmosphere in which your employees can be happier and more productive.
Move It or Lose It
With just a little thought — and some elbow grease — you can improve productivity in your shop without spending tens of thousands of dollars building a new facility. In fact, if you haven’t thoroughly explored the inexpensive options for getting the most production out of your current facility, it’s not likely you’ll get the most out of a brand new facility either.
Writer Eileen Benedict is associate editor of BodyShop Business.