Store Smart, Hunt Less: The Best Ways to Organize Your Construction Contractor Shop

When you or your workers waste time looking for material, tools, or equipment, dollars are flying out the door

If you’re organized, even a small shop can be a comfortable size. If you’re not, well, then a shop of any size will get crowded.

Have you been in your shop and heard, or said things like this?

  • Has anybody seen the box of washers?
  • Do you know where the shop-vac is?
  • What happened to the long, flat-head screw driver? I was just using it.

If you have, stay tuned, I’ve got some ways to help you move from the contractor’s dreaded “treasure hunt” to an efficient and serviceable shop even Ben Franklin would approve of. Because you know . . . when you or your workers waste time looking for material, tools, or equipment, dollars are flying out the door.

Organized + Systemized  

Whether your construction contracting shop is used for storage only or also includes some amount of fabrication it makes sense to have all the items in it organized in a handy and useable way.

Here are three goals to keep in mind as you go about the task of organizing your shop

  1. Providing a safe environment
  2. Managing inventory
  3. Being able to find what you need when you need it AND seeing to it your workers can find what they need – without needing you.

Buy In to tackle the organized shop project

If you’re a one-man operation, then the only person you need to get to Buy In is you. And that may be a bit tricky. Remind yourself of the outcome before and during the process. You may even decide to reward yourself with a new tool or some other desired item when the shop is all organized and living in all its glory.

And, if you see you’re going to need some help with this organize-the-shop project, you’ll need to see to it the others working with you understand why this change and the labor involved will make a difference not only for your company but also for them. You might start by reminding them of the third goal as mentioned above, “Being able to find what you need when you need it AND seeing to it your workers can find what they need – without needing you.” You may also consider a small bonus, or a gift card for dinner out, or a shop-wide we-did-it party at the completion of the organizing venture.

Need more info? Check out this article from Entrepreneur about getting employee buy in.

Depending on the size of your shop and the number of items in it, this project may take only a long Saturday, or a few work days. It may also be such a big project it will need to be divided into several parts and completed in stages. This is where you’ll find the next step to be vital to conquering the messy shop blues.

Organize an organizing plan

Unless you’re ready to add more space to your shop by adding on or moving to a larger facility you need to deal with the square footage you already have.

Start by looking at the layout. Do you have a blueprint or schematic of your shop you can check out? If not, grab your tape measure and get busy.

Having a plan or even a prioritized list saves you the effort of stopping, deciding what’s the next thing to do, and then rebuilding momentum each time you move on to a new task.

Determine the necessary components

Begin with or establish new places for your stationary tools

Then consider all your options in these areas

  • Go vertical with a multitude of shelving and rack options
  • Think of using overhead ceiling racks
  • Determine your need for specialized holders (such as a wire spool holder)
  • Bring in component drawer sets or toolboxes

If you set up your storage system with some empty cubbies, empty drawers, and empty shelf space, you’ll be buying yourself some time before having to re-reorganize.

The principle organizing principles to consider

  • Know the difference between a want and a need (You know what I mean.)
  • Sort by category (the category that makes the most sense to you, for example by job type or by tool type)
  • Store like items in the same area or space (for example, all fasteners in one storage area)
  • Keep larger and heavier items low (and on wheels when that is an option)
  • Make it easy to get to (only one barrier layer – no drawers inside closed cabinets, for instance)
  • Store items closest to where they will be used (get multiples of the exact same tool, if it will be used in several different places during any given day)
  • Keep frequently used items most easily accessible (Think “coffee cup” and you’ll know what I mean.)
  • Consider developing “ready to go” boxes for items you will transport frequently
  • Remember – getting rid of something makes room for the future

Now get to it

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could push the do-over button? Well, depending on the size of your shop you may actually be able to do something pretty close to that. If your shop is small the first step may very well be akin to pushing the do-over button because you can take advantage of the option by moving everything out of the shop space. Ah, now you can do-over by following the steps below before moving items back in.

If your shop is larger or if you need to organize in stages because of time limitations, you can still use the same formula

Set aside the time necessary

  • Put it on the calendar
  • Remind others involved
  • Stick to it

Clean out the entire shop or a designated space in the shop

  • Sweep and clean
  • Make any facility repairs necessary (including painting if you choose)

Sort

  • Group like items together
  • Arrange items by function or frequency of use
  • Label what goes where (Skip this step at your own peril.)

Get rid of the junk

  • Toss it
  • Donate it
  • Sell it
  • Notice how much more space you have (and smile)

Put your material, tools, and equipment in the “smart” places they belong

  • You probably won’t get everything perfectly right the first time
  • Tweek it in about a week after you’ve discovered the weak spots

Finally

Rinse and repeat until you have all spaces and areas clean, organized, and functioning well

This is one in a series of articles concerning pieces of the organizing puzzle for your construction contracting business. You can go here to find more.

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