Get your shop together

By David P. Monyhan, ASE-Certified Cylinder Head Specialist
As seen in Engine Builder, June 2004

Get yourself a pedometer, attach it to your belt and at the end of the day see how many miles you’ve walked around your shop. You’ll probably be surprised. Now, step back and imagine how you can reorganize your shop to reduce the distance you’re walking every day. Not only will your legs and feet feel better, your productivity will improve.

The First Encounter

The front counter is your customers’ first look at your business. It should be well lit, clean and organized. Add some graphics to dress it up. Contact your parts suppliers to see if they have banners, posters, etc. that you can use. Make sure it has seating for your customers when they are waiting. I suggest that you display some of your finished work pieces for the customer to inspect. Add a card that describes what machining operations have been performed on a particular set of heads or engine. If you sponsor any local racers have them sign a photo of their car and hang it on the wall. Have coffee or water available for your customers. You may also want to have current industry magazines in a rack, especially if your shop has been featured in one of them.

Don’t let your front counter become a black hole of accumulated stuff that makes the place look disorganized. As soon as a job is checked in, it should go directly to the staging area for its intended department. The necessary labor forms, pricing schedule and basic inspection tools such as micrometers and dial calipers should be readily available to your counter people.
If you can afford it, have all of your front line people dressed in attractive, clean shirts screen printed or embroidered with your company name or logo. Your entire staff of machinists should be in uniforms as well. This will tell the customer that you’re a professional shop that does quality work.

Cleaning and Teardown

Is the teardown area well lit? Does it have a big metal tear bench? Where is the jet washer? Is there a rinse booth? How are all the customers’ engine components identified? Where do you store the cores?

Keep your cleaning and inspection processes in a separate area. This will prevent contamination from spreading into the machining and assembly areas. Clean, inspect, label and identify the necessary machining requirements.

Machining Departments

Take a look at the distance between related machines. Is the boring bar located near the honing machine? How about your pressure testing and crack repair stations? Are they arranged in a logical work order or are they spread at random? A little logic in your shop set-up can reduce the number of steps as the work pieces travel through the shop and can allow the use of lifting equipment or overhead hoists by more than one department.

Assembly Area

Make sure your assembly area is clean and organized. Are necessary tools and components in easy reach? Have an area to store finished work pieces for easy retrieval. Be sure to identify all finished work and protect them in plastic bags or heavy-duty boxes so your hard work doesn’t get damaged while in storage.

Okay, you’ve got your shop organized. You can’t stop there. You can have the most organized, cleanest shop in the world, but if your service is sub-par, your business will suffer. If you say a job will be ready by 5:00PM on Friday, then make sure its ready to go by 4:30. If you’re running behind call the customer right away and let him know what is going on. Never, and I mean never “tomorrow” your customers to death, as it will probably be the last job you receive from them. Also, if you discover that additional work needs to be done to a work piece, call to get approval before beginning the work.

Provide the customer with a check off sheet signed by the each department to show that each operation was quality check and approved by that department’s foreman. Don’t forget to supply the necessary related items for that job. You can increase your counter sales if your people remember to go through a check out list of related items the customers will need. All engine jobs need gaskets, gasket sealer, paint, belts, hoses, clamps, etc. You can actually increase your sales per job and insure your customers are getting quality support products for the job. Be sure to offer any torque specs or how-to information for reinstalling the job. And always say thank you!

I personally believe every shop in America should have an open house once a year. Invite your best customers as well as potential customers. Give shop tours – this is the time to really show off your shop, your employees and your company’s machining skills. Invite some of your suppliers to talk to your customers about why you’ve chosen to use their products in your engines. Have fun; offer some door prizes, like hats or t-shirts with your company name on them. Give away a free valve job as the grand prize. You will be surprised by how much goodwill one afternoon can create for your shop. People will tell other people about your skills and services and word of mouth is the best advertising you’ll never have to pay for.

If you have your shop together, your employees will work smarter and faster and your customers will be impressed, which will confirm they made the right choice in bringing you their work in the first place. Want to improve efficiency and profits? Get your shop together!

Remember, if you have more questions, contact the Goodson Tech Department at 1-800-533-8010 (customers outside the US & Canada, please call 507-452-1830).

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