Improving Shop Efficiency – A Total Overhaul

Improve Shop Efficiency - First day of Overhaul

Improving shop efficiency can turn frustration into enjoyable production with better results. I am in the midst of a total shop overhaul to improve the shop, organize it better, and create more floor space. If you are like me you are constantly striving to make your process more efficient and produce better results by trying to find better ways to do things. Typically as the process changes the shop doesn’t. Eventually things get so annoying that its time for a major shop overhaul. That is exactly where I found myself after the last one-on-one class.

For me there is nothing more annoying than to have to move things constantly while you are working. If you need to move things off the table saw in order to use it, it might be time for a shop overhaul or at the very least a reshuffle. When your work is moving along smoothly you feel better about it, you get better results and you work more efficiently, hence faster. Here are some of the things I considered before ripping apart the shop.

Improving shop efficiency is not just about making organizing and creating space. Its about creating a space that is safe and a joy to work in. This alone can up your productivity immeasurably. I spend a lot of time in my shop so I had better like it in there. That is why for me time spent getting the shop together is time well spent. Improving shop efficiency can improve the quality of your work all by itself simply because you are more comfortable while working. I always know when it is time for an overhaul by how tense I get while working. You should always be relaxed when working. Below are a few of the things I had in mind to improve shop efficiency.

Separate Shop Wood from Guitar Wood

Jigs and shop fixtures are not typically made of the same wood you use to make guitars.. For things like this you use plywood, maple, poplar, beech and things like that. To keep searches down to a minimum they should not be stored with the guitar wood. You may even want to consider storing them somewhere else entirely. It is unlikely you will be building jigs and fixtures very often so it won’t be a problem if you have to leave the shop to get them when you need them.

Evaluate What is on the Floor

If moving around in your shop is a problem, or you have to move things constantly to keep working, you need to evaluate what is on your shop floor. Get rid of whatever you don’t absolutely need. Move the must have things to a better spot. If rearranging your shop will help – do it. Changing your process typically requires  some new fixtures – make them sooner than later. Tripping over things in the is dangerous. It can also result in damage to the guitar you are working on.

Improve Shop Efficiency - Day 1- Other End of Shop

Day 1 -Other End of Shop

Wood, Fixtures & Jigs Should Be Stored on the Wall

This particular shop overhaul was mainly about getting things on to the wall and off the work surfaces and floor. There were simply too many things in the way to get a good flow going. The biggest problems in my shop were with work boards, sanding discs, fixtures and wood. Too many of these things were out in the shop when not in use causing bottlenecks at every turn. They all needed a spot on the wall.

Wood storage

Wood storage is a problem that is a bit different from the rest. There are a few factors to consider when storing wood:

  • Size and Weight – The wider, longer, thicker, heavier planks should go nearer to the floor. If you design your racks to accommodate the longest pieces you can use seldom used long pieces for support under the short stuff so you can fit more on a shelf.
  • Frequency of Use – Obviously the more frequently used wood should have easy access. The least frequently used wood can be stored away from everything else since its not likely this will be needed very often. So access does not have to be ideal.
  • Delicate Wood – soft woods like spruce and cedar tops need to be stored where other things will not accidentally fall on them. There is nothing worse than loosing a good top to damage.
  • Veneer –  I have an architectural cabinet used for drawings that I use to store already cut veneer. It works great for pieces 32 inches or less. The long sheets are now stored on the wall at a height that enables me to see it to select a piece before removing it from the rack. This is so much better than having to remove it from the box and unravel it every time you need a piece.

Rearranging the shop is one of my favorite things to do. It always rejuvenates me and gets me excited about working again. It feels like starting over. Try it and you’ll see what I mean. Get more helpful suggestions on setting up your workspace and improving shop efficiency.

Check back to see the finished shop…

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