5 Easy Steps for Improving Your Fab Shop
Written By Steve King

Is your fab shop running the way it should? Is worker safety and job satisfaction a given?

Fab shops around the nation employ a few general principles that can be applied universally to improve operations and create a safe workspace. It’s a good idea to review your shop to see if it is operating as best it can.

Here are five easy steps for improvement:

  • Step 1: Reduce the use of tape measures: Each time a worker extends a tape measure on your shop floor, you run the risk of a measuring error or an incorrect marking. A tape measure means additional labor because each piece is measured and marked separately. Instead of a tape measure, use adhesive rules and tape measures attached to workbenches and tools. When making repeated measures and cuts, using a preset manual measuring system can not only cut down on time, but also add a level of consistency to the cuts.
  • Step 2: Improve your shop’s visual management: Nonverbal communication on the shop floor is essential to proper operation. For efficiency and safety, your team needs to be able to see what jobs are in progress, where it’s safe to walk and how to proceed with a job. Following a standard system for floor markings, job processing and other operations lessens the time it takes to finish tasks. Organizing incoming and outgoing materials are also improved with better signage and processes. Incoming materials should be sorted as soon as possible and stored in assigned slots. Outgoing material should be on pallets or in boxes with clear labels on the outside showing the job, product and quantity–as well as other standard information–on a label that can be read from 15 feet away when on a shelf.
  • Step 3: Create work cells: Designate and denote areas on your shop floor as specific work cells, areas where designated jobs take place. Each area should have its own tool board (more on these next) with the tools used primarily on that task. While work cells should be created based on the job frequency, individual cells can be adapted for each project as needed, giving the shop needed flexibility. Workers can be assigned to specific workspaces, giving them a sense of ownership of their spaces and an accountability to themselves, their coworkers and management. Work cells also promote camaraderie and teamwork among the people working together.
  • Step 4: Utilize tool boards: When created properly, tool boards are more than just a place to store unused tools. They can be a cue to order supplies, replace a part or requisition a new tool. With shadows or outlines for every tool or supply used in a work cell, a person can walk through the shop and see what tools and parts are missing and the status of supplies. By introducing a ticket and tag system, your tool board becomes more robust. It becomes the start of a system that ensures supplies and parts are reordered: when a supply on a tool board runs low, a tag behind that supply gets put into a requisition bin or inbox to inform supervisors supplies should be ordered, triggering the purchasing operation. In short, it’s a system that keeps itself ready to work.
  • Step 5: Introduce standards: If you want to keep your shop organized functionally and visually, there are two things that should be adhered to. First, the floor is not production space. Having workers assemble a piece or manufacture an element on the floor is not just a trip hazard, but path to workplace injury. Keep workspaces on tables for the health and safety of workers. Second, everything on the shop floor must be on either a pallet or wheels. Items on the shop floor must be easily moved. Stacking piping or sheet metal on the floor can be dangerous. Putting materials on a pallet or on wheels–whether that’s a cart, a dolly or wheelbarrow–allows people to move items around as needed.

Want to learn more on the 5 steps to improve your Fab Shop? Watch our webinar! Are you ready to start improving your shop? Contact your eVolve Materials rep today to learn how eVolve can help you.

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