Time and money are closely related factors on any job. In solid surface fabrication, sanding and routing are key processes where time and money can be lost. I'm not talking about methods of sanding and routing (that's a whole other story); I'm talking about dust collection at the source.
Many companies fail to consider dust collection when calculating costs. In fact, most readers of this article probably don't know how many hours a week are spent cleaning up. Additionally, what about the hours the install crew spends in hanging up plastic for an installation? Or how about the time that's spent on the jobsite cleaning up after the job is finished? And finally, what about the effects of inhaling all that dust on employees' health?
Companies fail to realize how many man-hours are spent sweeping up the shop at the end of the day and the number of hours installers spend preparing a house for a solid surface installation because they don't recognize these hours as costs. As the following real-life example will show, failing to recognize these hours as costs can get really expensive!
Not too long ago, I was at a shop that didn't use dust collection, and so I asked the shop foreman how long it took to clean up after a day of fabrication. He had to stop and think about it for a moment and then told me that cleanup took about a half-hour. When I asked him how many guys were involved in the cleanup, he told me that all 10 of his crew handled it. That meant the shop was spending five man-hours a day cleaning up and didn't even realize it. When I asked the foreman why they didn't use dust collection, he told me it was "too expensive and besides, the guys don't like using vacuums."
If we look at the actual dollars involved in this example, and assume the cost of labor to be about $60 per hour, the shop in question was spending $300 per day in cleanup time alone. Now, for you skeptics, we'll be conservative and say that a dust collector would save about half the time in cleanup. (In the real world, however, my experience is that a dust collector in this situation would save 75 to 90 percent in cleanup time.) So, using our conservative estimate, a dust collector would cut down labor cleanup costs by about $150 per day. At that rate, the dust collector would quickly pay for itself and then continue to save the shop money on a daily basis.
That's just shop cleanup; imagine how much money you'd save if you used dust collection on the jobsite. Think about it, no more plastic to buy and hang on every job. That's two guys you are paying to hang plastic — how much money are you making hanging plastic? Or, more importantly, how much money are you spending hanging plastic?
talk about the first reason why this particular shop owner didn't use a
dust collector at the source: Dust collectors are "too expensive."
Shop owners and foremen only tend to look at how much money they need to pay for the dust collector/tool today — out-of-pocket cost. What they should be asking is how much this is going to cost in the long term. As the example above clearly shows, the out-of-pocket cost is quickly covered in labor cost savings and eventually the tool/dust collector pays for itself many times over.
Another expense factor in dust collection is the amount of money that should be spent on the tool itself. Most dust extractors range in cost from about $100 to $600. While some may be tempted to buy the least expensive tool, other factors which should be considered are the length of the warranty, expected lifetime of the tool, the effectiveness of the dust extraction, the filter system, bag capacity, suction power, portability, tool triggered or manual, wet/dry capabilities and the list goes on. Chances are, when all product features and benefits are considered, the most expensive tool can often be the least expensive to own in the long term.