How to Save Space in Your Shop

What kind of space planning or space management protocols do you have set up in your manufacturing facility? If the answer is none or that you don’t know, don’t worry. The ideas of manufacturing space planning and management are relatively new ones for many manufacturing businesses, but they’re important ones that your company should understand and consider implementing.

What Are Space Management and Space Planning?

Space management is the overall strategy of how to organize your physical space, such as keeping executive offices on a higher floor or the sales department next to the marketing department. Space planning would be how the features of the area are deployed within the space as laid out, such as putting a rest area to one side of the assembly floor, having the marketing department space laid out as an open floor plan or having the conference room table be a circle instead of a rectangle.

Why Are Space Management and Planning Important for Your Manufacturing Shop?

There are actually many reasons that effective space management and planning can be important to your business. While saving space may be the primary objective, there’s more to be considered. Space management allows you to:

  • Improve the usage of your space: Whether you’re renting your building or you own it, space is money. The more effectively you use the space in your facility, the more cost-effective you’ll be. Space that you’re improperly using can be repurposed to help you avoid off-site storage costs, put off paying for a satellite facility or even open a new department that could provide cost savings in the long term.
  • Increase employee satisfaction: A cluttered, disorganized workspace is often bad for employee morale. It can make your workers uncomfortable and worse, overlooked by management. When you plan your space with employees in mind, they feel more engaged in your process and your business and will likely work harder and better to help the company succeed.
  • Find out what’s happening with your space: It’s quite possible that some areas in your facility are underutilized or improperly utilized right now — areas that you’re potentially not even aware of. Finding out what’s happening in those spaces can provide tremendous insight into how your company operates. Your space management plan will uncover any of these “leaks” very quickly.
  • Improve workflow: Ideally, your new space management system will create a streamlined, lean design that will make it easier for work to flow through your facility. Everyone should know where everything and everyone is and how to find what they need at any given time. Spaces should be organized so that departments that need to communicate with each other frequently are closer together and those that may conflict are far apart. The overall effect should be a manufacturing facility that runs like a — you guessed it — well-oiled machine.

How Do I Save Space With Space Management?

If you’ve never saved space before, how do you get started? You can take a number of approaches. The first thing you want to ask yourself is whether you’re going to proceed with a greenfield plan or a brownfield plan. In a brownfield plan, you reorganize and restructure your existing facility. In a greenfield plan, you start with an entirely new facility.

The advantage to the greenfield plan is that you can start fresh without having to break down any physical property or systems already in place. The disadvantage, of course, is that such a plan can be considerably more expensive.

Once you’ve made this decision, you can:

  1. Try space management yourself: Get together with the management professionals in your country, pull out the paper and pencil or Excel spreadsheet, and just figure out where everything should go.
  2. Use space management software: A number of quality software programs on the market are specifically designed to help you plan out your space and implement your new space management plan.
  3. Hire a professional: You may want to bring in a professional industrial designer who can listen to your goals and help you generate the best space management system to achieve them. It may cost a little more, but it could save you a lot in the long run.

Whether you use one of the above methods or a combination of some or all of them, taking the time to put a space management plan in place for your manufacturing facility can pay great long-term dividends. For more manufacturing tips and facility management ideas, keep visiting the Global Electronic Services blog.

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