I hear it everywhere I go, “we are too cramped”, “we need more space” and “if we had more room we could get more done.” It is my opinion, from the many shops I have visited that we are suffering from “Murphy’s 3rd Law of Space” — we accumulate at least 25 percent more “stuff” than the available space we have to put it. You know it’s true; just look at your garage, closets, basement or attic at home! The simple solution is to just clean up! The problem is that if that’s all you do, it won’t last and pretty soon you will be back where you were, a cluttered mess.
What you need is a process to help you get cleaned up and stay that way. (Gee, I think I learned about processes at the ISSFA Shop Process Optimization Seminar!) The clean-up process is driven by the 5 S’s.
Systemize everything that you have. Do you know what you have? Sort it into things you “must have” and use every day, things that are “nice to have” and use occasionally and things that “you have” but rarely, if ever, use.
Shine the things that you use every day. Clean them and make sure they work correctly and safely. These things should be kept close to the work location and be easy to use. They are the things you use everyday to make money! Take care of them and organize them in a way that makes the job easier. They could be stored on shelves or racks behind or above the workstation.
Store the things that you use occasionally. You need them well maintained and ready to use when they are needed, so take care of them, but keep them out of the way of the “everyday” things. They could be stored on shelves or racks under the workstation or in that out-of-the-way corner. (I’ll tell you how to get that corner back in the next 2 S’s.)
Scrap the things you rarely, if ever, use or to be more blunt, “Scrap the crap.” Okay, it’s the hardest S of the bunch. A reality check, if the only reason you picked something up in the last six months was to move it out of the way, why do you have it? Remember, this started by you saying you needed a bigger shop to grow your business. If you have not used it in the last six months, sell it, give it away or throw it out! Almost every fabricator I know has a mountain of sink cutouts and small cutoff pieces somewhere that they are too cheap to throw away. Turn the scrap pile into give-a-ways to prospective customers. How many old countertops do you have sitting around because someday you will find somebody to sell them to? How long have they been sitting around already? Which is more money, the cost of moving or the profit in that old material you have sitting around? How many of you have a rack full of old broken routers and sanders that you will fix “someday”?
Sustain it! You have taken the time to get cleaned and organized and for awhile, you might keep it that way and be more productive. It will take discipline but you need to keep after things. The tendency will be to let things slide as you get busier; don’t let that happen! Look at the difference a little cleaning and organizing can do!
Second Shift, A BONUS 6th S
Another way to get more work done in the same space is to use the space more often. Weigh the cost of moving to a different facility and the cost of the work you might lose in the move against the cost of adding a second shift. Adding a second shift will save you the cost of the additional tools for the extra people you will hire for the larger facility. What you will need to get is a quality foreman whom you can trust. This will be the same process you would go through to select someone to handle the shop operations when you decide to move into a management position at your company. As you grow you must develop ways to both delegate responsibilities and trust your associates.
Good Luck and Happy Cleaning!