How To Build A Best In-Class Fab Shop
Written By Madeline Casey
There are several factors that make up a successful business; and while different industries may take different steps to reach success, there is one characteristic that all businesses in all industries should strive to have: organization. Yep, even in the construction industry. While organization may not be the first thing you think about when you hear the word, “construction,” after reading this article, you’ll realize just how much an organized fabrication shop can improve your company as a whole.

Andy Bauman has been in the MEP industry for over 40 years, and has worn many hats in the industry. He has been a field electrician, general foreman, field manager, field superintendent, and is currently a fabrication manager at Cleveland Electric, where he is committed to building a best in-class fab shop. In a recent interview with Bauman, he explained that the fab shop is an innovative engine that has been common for a long time, but is starting to get more recognition. “The industry is getting software, procedures, and people who can help. There’s a lot more out there to help you build these things.”

While working at Cleveland Electric, it had gotten to a point where Bauman knew the company needed to get more organized and efficient. So, he began the journey of improving the fab shop at Cleveland Electric. With the help of eVolve MEP, Cleveland Electrics was able to transform their fab shop into a clean and organized space with no clutter and where everything had a place. You can see the before and after of this process here.

Benefits of Having A Best In-Class Fabshop

There are many advantages to improving your fab shop, one being efficiency. A fab shop should be a structured outlet designed to efficiently organize material and easily send it out to contractors on the field. Having a best in-class fab shop will create a more efficient system that helps your company. Another benefit of having a best in-class fab shop is safety. Because the fab shop is operating in an organized and efficient manner, it won’t be necessary to have as many people working in the shop. And as a result, Bauman explained that, “the less people you have on a jobsite, the safer it is.” To go along with this, improving your fab shop leads to more organization, which allows you to complete the same amount of work with less people and save money in the process.

In regards to having less people on the team, Bauman pointed out that “this forces companies to get everyone in the office working together. It gives you the opportunity to organize your whole process from start to finish; and this forces you to get organized.”

Steps To Building A Best In-Class Fab Shop

When it comes to successfully building your fab shop, the whole system has to work well in order to produce effective results. Bauman explained that you have to spend money, clean up the shop, and get it organized so that it can be used properly. If you don’t do it properly, you’re not going to save money. But when the whole system works well, the results will speak for themselves.

You may be thinking, this all sounds great, but how do I do that for my company? 

Bauman suggests hiring a third-party to help with the design of the fab shop. “A third party can really help you come up with a design, talk you through it, come up with ideas, and listen to your ideas.” Getting a third-party to help you design your fab shop will not only take the pressure off of you, but partnering with external people who have experience will also help you convince management to buy into the plan.

It’s important to note that getting buy in from management takes time and effort. But once management realizes that an improved fab shop gives contractors the opportunity to save money, get more jobs, and do more with less, they will be more open to buy-in.

Next, you have to clean your fab shop. Declutter and organize your shop, replace lighting and brighten it up. Fix anything that needs to be fixed, and strive to make your fab shop look like a place you’d want to work in. Bauman explained that all of this plays a big role in the morale of your fab shop. “Once there is a place for everything, the morale of the shop gets so much better.” Improving your fab shop can also improve the attitude of your contractors, because when you have a best in-class fab shop, your contractors get a better place to work; and they become proud of where they work as a result. “When contractors are excited, they build better things for the field, which makes the field happy.”

Once your fab shop is organized and decluttered, it’s important to maintain that organization. To do this, Bauman stressed that you’ll need to establish rules. “You can’t effectively build things in an unorganized shop.” You need to make sure that your fab shop is solely a fab shop and that it is kept clean and organized.

Once you’ve completed these steps and created a successful fab shop, you may think that’s all there is to it. But when it comes to building a best in-class fab shop, Bauman explained that you’re never done. “When you say you’re done, you’re making a mistake. I don’t think you’re ever done. You have to continue to work on it.”

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