Your shop's layout contributes to your overall efficiency as a fabricator. Either a complete or partial shop layout change can be the solution to a variety of productivity issues you might be facing. Here are some factors to consider when designing a new shop layout.

  • Sometimes a movable table or machine can solve a space limita­tion problem. For example, a mov­able table with several small bench machines attached to it can be moved to different work areas as needed. The table could have a cleat turner, easy edger, slip roller, and bar folder.

  • Having more than one of the same tool or machine can save wasted time in looking or waiting for the one tool or: machine. For example, having two or three elec­tric hand drills can avoid a lot of time that would have to be spent looking for or waiting to use an electric hand drill. This can also apply to cleat turners, hand punches, and other small tools.

  • Quite often purchasing a few extra pieces of equipment can avoid tying up a larger machine. For example, you can use a four foot brake rather than the eight foot brake or power press for many operations. You can use a foot-operated squaring shear rather than interrupting people using the power shear.

  • Movable hand trucks or carts can eliminate carrying ductwork and fittings to the shipping area. Having a material drop-off rack arranged in an orderly manner near the shearing area offers two advantages: it saves time and it minimizes scrap.

  • Making an extra doorway in a wall or completely removing a non-bearing wall can sometimes save many footsteps.

  • Installing additional electrical outlets can sometimes eliminate the need to move from one work area to another.

  • If you have a large enough vol­ume of work, you should consider having a specific area with benches for mechanics who handle louvers, dampers, canvas connec­tions, access doors, and other sheet metal specialty items. In this way, all the materials and hardware they need can be conveniently lo­cated for them. These mechanics can then become very efficient due to the frequency of making these items day after day.

  • It may be economical and con­venient to have the receiving and shipping areas next to each other or combined into one. This is es­pecially true for a smaller con­tractor who only has one large door or who only needs one em­ployee to handle both operations. A larger contractor might find it advantageous to have them sepa­rate so that the trucks arriving know where to go and so that peo­ple performing the two different operations do not get into each other's way, causing delay and confusion. These areas might be at opposite ends of the building if a straight-line flow of work is con­venient due to the size and shape of the building.
These are but a few of the many ways you can improve your shop layout. As you begin to examine your present shop layout, you will think of other improvements you can make.