Organization helps us make the best use of our time and resources. In our offices we utilize technology such as computers, cell phones and state-of-the-art scheduling programs to keep things moving efficiently. Technology is also helpful in organizing our personal lives, but how can we keep our shops organized? We have recently learned how shop flow programs can beat the drum of production, but not being organized in the little things can also cost you thousands of dollars. Yes, literally thousands of dollars. How so?
Consider the information on this Web site I found concerning the price of not being organized, www.thegosystem.com. They have a calculator you can use to find out how much money you lose in downtime. I entered in a factor of 10 employees at an average of $12 per hour, based on 30 minutes of lost time per day from disorganization. The result was that this lost time would cost up to a staggering $14,400 each year. Unbelievable! Just 30 minutes of unproductive time per employee each day can cost you a bundle. Now, let's consider what types of things could be costing you a small fortune.
Is there a lot of searching for materials in your shop? Do you have to send people on reconnaissance missions to find sinks, glue, sandpaper or hand tools? Do your installers vans resemble an archeological dig gone wrong, with tools buried under the rubble? Then you are likely hemorrhaging money while your workers are searching for their supplies. Organization is vital in correcting these problems. Try some of these suggestions.
Let's start with some really simple, but important things. Are all your sinks clearly marked? When your sinks arrive at the shop, they should be marked with the customer's name next to the model of the sink, then stacked so you can easily read the information on the box. Then, there will be no time lost rummaging through boxes looking for the right sink.
Is there confusion about what type of glue to use on a project? We use a lot of glue not made by the manufacturers so time can be wasted looking for the correct color match. In our shop we made up reference boards so we could cross reference sheet colors with vendor's glue we use (see Figure 1). Put a board in the shop where everyone can view it and take back some of that wasted time.
What about sandpaper? Having one place in the shop for it and sorting it by type can be helpful. Another idea is storing it in a kiosk style cabinet (see Figures 2 and 3 ). Having the sandpaper right at hand and easy to find sure beats searching through boxes and is a big timesaver, too.
An organized toolbox is a must for each employee. This will help keep down the costs of replacing lost tools. When things aren't organized, tools have a way of going missing. Can you even count how many new tape measures you have ordered in the last year? You might be surprised at how much money you are spending on the little things and it all adds up.
Let's now consider what I think is the most wasteful use of time and money in a countertop shop — sheet stock outfall. In many shops the outfall is left leaning against the wall. You pay a price for this kind of disorganization. First, you are unaware of what you actually have for stock. Also, your fabricators probably spend substantial time searching through that stock to find what they need. The clutter of this outfall can lead to even more shop disorganization.
An easy solution would be to make an outfall rack. As the outfall pieces go in, tag them with a color and part number. Try keeping a pad near the rack to inventory what you have and update it as needed. You may even want to go a step further and make an excel list to track the stock. It is also helpful to have one person designated to keep an eye on the rack.
We should also consider how to keep our vehicles organized. A lot of time can be wasted looking for tools in a disorganized van. Making tool racks will help. Each tool should have a home and be returned to it each day. Not only will the installer know where everything is, but so will his assistant. It may take a little time to set up a van in this way, but the time saved in day-to-day use will quickly make up for it.
I don't think anyone would dispute that an organized shop is a valuable thing. It will definitely minimize the needless waste of time, thus saving you considerable money. Working in a clean, organized environment will make showing up for work each day a pleasure, both for you and for your employees.
About the author:Jon Olson is the production and operations manager for Sterling Surfaces in Sterling, Mass. He has been a solid surface fabricator since 1982 and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.