A major part of any re-organizing, expanding or setting up a new machine shop is planning the floor layout.
The KISS principal (Keep It Simple Stupid) should be taken seriously by about 95% of shops. Unless you have a large facility that can justify using some type of electronic drawing program, ¼” to the foot squares on paper with cardboard cutouts made to scale is the best way to create a layout.
Graph paper with ¼” to the foot squares has always been available at office supply stores, but you can print the same squares on paper using Microsoft Excel. Look for the Excel template under “Graph Paper – Medium Rule”. Using the ¼” squares makes it easy to lay out most shops on a standard 8 ½ x 11 or even legal size paper. If your shop is larger, you can tape any amount of paper together to come up with the size or shape you need.
Use a soft lead pencil to draw on the graph paper so mistakes can be easily corrected. After you have accurately drawn all the things that will not move you can go over the pencil lines with a Sharpie marker to make them stand out better.
Make the cutouts of all your machines, benches, trash cans, refrigerator etc out of light cardboard. Use the squares on the paper or a ¼” per foot ruler for sizing them. Don’t forget to include anything that sticks out from the machine. Now you can move the cutouts around the drawing until your final design is reached. When you think you have it as perfect as possible, a light dab from a glue stick can hold the cutouts in place.
Obviously any shop employees should be involved from the start. Their daily movement and efficiency can be greatly affected by the location of equipment. Don’t be shy about soliciting ideas and opinions from others outside your business. Fresh ideas or questions can sometimes be a real eye opener and help.
The area for most shops seems to be always too small. One of the simplest ways to gain space is to use pallet racking for storing incoming or completed work. You are now making use of vertical air space that you are already paying for. Besides gaining space, pallet racking can really make a difference in the appearance of a shop being organized.
There is probably nothing that requires more compromise than organizing a shop, but there are some basic ideas that you should keep in mind.
1. Any machines that emit dust or dirt should be kept in a different room or as far away from the main shop as possible.
2. I like to use the 80/20 rule. Focus on making the flow for the majority of your work (the 80%) as efficient as possible.
3. If possible a designated area for receiving incoming (dirty) jobs should be defined. Isolating dirt is always a help to keep the rest of the business cleaner.
4. Also if possible have a designated area for customers to pick up their clean parts. Sometimes it has to be the same as the incoming area which makes it a challenge to maintain a clean environment.
5. Be certain there will be enough room to move equipment into the shop without taking down walls.
6. Sometimes existing drains are not located in the ideal location. With the disposal laws we have it might be better not to have an open floor drain except for washing the shop floor. Moving a floor drain can be costly but could pay dividends if it makes the shop more efficient.
7. For years, using a 3-ft. minimum aisle space has been the standard. Bigger might be better but generally having a minimum 3-ft. aisle provides efficient work movement.
8. Analyze what it will take to provide air and electricity to all equipment in your new layout. Add up the power and air requirements to be certain you have enough for your shop now and in the future.
If you have a larger shop, you should take the time to do a layout electronically. There are numerous drawing programs available, but unless you are doing a very large complete building design a 2D program is all that is needed. I’ve been using a lower end program called “Auto-Sketch” from the maker of the Auto-Cad drawing program. It works extremely well for doing simple or very complex drawings. There are all the colors and layers you will ever need and it can automatically dimension anything. It also allows you to export the drawing in many different file formats including most of the .dwg Auto-Cad file formats for higher end use. If you want to print out a large size drawing of your creation, companies like Kinko’s can take almost any file drawing from a memory stick or CD and print it out on really big paper.
Be prepared for a steep learning curve if you have never used an electronic drawing program. However there is a big advantage once you have conquered it. The ease of making changes is about as hard as using a word processor.
When an electronic drawing is done properly it should have many layers in it. An example would be drawing the electrical or plumbing on separate layers. You can then view all layers with the complete drawing or just have any layer show up by itself. Print out any single layer and now the electrician, plumber or anyone else can do their work with just the information they need.
Any layout requires patience and understanding of how work moves through the shop. Whatever time you spend planning a layout will come back many times in efficiency, which will relate to better profits.
Lyle Haley has been in the engine rebuilding industry since 1961. He currently does consulting and equipment sales as “The Shop Doc” at www.shopdoc.biz where an overview of his experiences can be found. You may contact Lyle Haley via email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (763) 464-1286.
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