Whether you’re starting a new shop or moving an existing one, selecting the proper building to fit your current and future needs is critical.
I rented a building for my first fab shop — and thought I had everything I needed — but soon discovered I made a mistake and in the end it took a lot of extra work because I failed to follow some simple rules.
The following are some of the things you need to consider when moving into a new building.
The size of the building is important. If the building is too small, you will quickly outgrow it. A small work space will also hamper production and may be considered unsafe if workers are constantly tripping over each other. We recommend you choose a building that is a minimum of 5,000 sq. ft. At least 3,000 to 4,000 sq. ft. of this area should be shop space, and save the rest for office space. This is important for several reasons. First, in our experience, many start-up shops will grow rapidly after its first year in business. If you don’t plan for this growth, you will quickly outgrow the building. If you signed a lease, you will find yourself stuck for the remainder of the lease. And if you own the building and have not planned for expansion, then you will also suffer.
In addition to the square footage, you should also pay attention to the elevation of the building. In other words, the building should be on ground level and not elevated above it. This is critical because stone slabs are heavy, and it can be difficult to move the stone into the building. A building with a loading dock is fine, as long as you have ground level access to the shop. We prefer you have a building with a concrete slab to support heavy loads.
Unlike many retail operations, the building’s location is not critical for the stone fabricator. This is especially true if you are in an area without a lot of competition. Walk-in or drive-by traffic is not a major concern. We prefer you are located in an industrial park or a similar area where trucks can easily move in and out. Since you will be receiving stone slabs delivered on large flatbed tractor trailers, you must make sure these trucks can gain access to your shop. When you are looking for a building, drive around the area and make sure that there are no truck weight-limit restrictions. If restrictions exist, look somewhere else.
PARKING AREA AND YARD
The parking lot and land surrounding it is just as important as the building itself. The area should be paved; gravel and dirt are not acceptable since it will make driving a forklift difficult and dangerous when moving slabs around.
If you plan on storing your slabs outside — you’ll need plenty of room for storage — make sure you also have the space to move the slabs around. We recommend you have an area that is at least 100 ft. by 100 ft. The more the better. If leasing the building, make sure the landlord is aware you will be storing slabs outdoors. This can cause major problems if they won’t let you store anything outside. Of course, if you plan on storing all your slabs inside, you will need a much larger building than what has been recommended above.
Make sure there is plenty of room for the truck to turn around and to unload the slabs. Check to make sure there are no power lines in the way, so that when the truck unloads the slabs there is no danger of hitting them. This could be a shocking experience, as well as potentially deadly.
The building should have at least 12-ft. high ceilings. You are going to have to lift the slabs up onto your saw table, and a ceiling height lower than 12 ft. will make it difficult to move.