Tooling & Production July 2005

"Shop Talk with Steve Rose"

The Author, Steve Rose

Organizing the Work Area

In my business of CNC training, Iíve visited many shops.  Iíve seen some interesting practices and some great ideas during my visits to machine shops throughout the country.  We recently presented a CNC training class in California .  This facility has implemented an organizational plan, which to me makes a lot of sense.

This company evaluated the time spent by each shop employee looking for tooling during a machine set-up.  Then, they implemented a company-wide process to easily locate items and then return them to their proper place.

Now this concept was of immediate interest to me.  If you didnít know, my favorite Beatles song is ďIím a loserĒ.  Donít give anything to me for safekeeping, anything I touch, I lose.  So techniques to reduce my ďlosingĒ tendencies must be of help.

The machine work area in this shop was laid out very well.  Each machine had a wooden pegboard on which was painted the outline of each individual tool.  The background was white and the outline of each tool was bright red.

When the tool was removed from the pegboard the bright red shape was a visible reminder that the tool was in use and needed to be put back after use.

The workbench by each machine had been given similar treatment.  Outlines of micrometers and dial calipers had been painted.  There was also space for additional measuring equipment that may be required.

I was impressed by an interesting, yet simple idea for storage of hex (Allen) wrenches.  A complete set of metric and inch Allen wrenches was fixed to the headstock of the machine with a large strip magnet.  Prior to fixing the magnet to the machine some enterprising person had spray-painted all the metric keys in red and all the inch keys in white.


This concept dramatically reduces the time the set-up staff spends sorting out wrenches. Generally both metric and inch wrenches are required at the machine (metric for the machine and inch for the tooling), so why not be able to easily see the difference.

What is it costing in real dollars when 3, 5 or 10 minutes are wasted looking for tools that should be in one place but arenít.  If your machine time is worth $60 per hour, you could be losing $3, $5 or $10 during the search for each tool.

At this particular company, these simple steps lead to a big improvement in finding things.  Additionally, and to every oneís surprise, people are now putting things away.  Tools and equipment are returned to their proper place after use.

These concepts are not only useful in the shop.  While visiting our California customer, a walk through their office revealed a neat and organized work space.  Any ďcommunityĒ or movable item in the office is outlined. For example staplers, tape dispensers and scissors were all shown by small tape outlines. 

Upon our return to sunny Cleveland , we implemented some of these ideas in our offices.  The stapler, which would often go missing, now has a permanent home and rarely gets misplaced.  That empty outline is clear proof that the stapler is missing and needs to be returned.

You can tell people to put things away in the proper place, but a quick visual reminder can be quite helpful.  Imagine, finding what you need quickly and putting it back after itís been used. 

For me, getting organized could be a long and winding road, but hey, maybe IĒll end up with a new favorite Beatles tune.