Taking Care of Your Shop

March 17th, 2014:

In the business we are in we make quite a lot of prototypes and do quite a bit of testing.  This work requires lots of tools, materials and space.  Although a nice prototype is very rewarding it can also create a lot of mess or take up quite a bit of space.  All of this activity takes place in “The Shop”.  If you are working in The Shop it is actually “Your shop”.  This means anyone who enters the shop takes on responsibilities.  Those responsibilities are for the proper keeping of the shop environment so it remains an efficient and safe place to work.

First: A word on safety.  Before we talk about your shop, we need to pay attention to safety.  Everyone in the shop is responsible for safety.  For those who are not familiar with the safety of a certain situation it is their responsibility to ask.  Don’t be that person who is to proud to ask and then go hurt yourself.  For those who do know proper safety it is your responsibility to speak up and correct any unsafe situation at once.

Now a couple of simple shop rules:

A place for everything and everything in its place.  This is a good one.  It means putting things exactly where you found it.  Example: An Allen wrench that came from a set should be returned to the holder it came from.  Not just tossed in the draw it came from.  This keeps an area neat. The next time one looks for something it  makes it easier to find something whether it is a tool or material.

Leave your work area cleaner than when you found it.  Yes dust and wastes end up under benches, in corners and settle on top of shelves, tool boxes etc.  Take the time to clean up after yourself thoroughly.  If you follow this rule your shop will never be dirty.

Respect the space of others.  We all need space to work on our projects.  No one project is more important than the others that it should take up all available resources.  Plan ahead and make sure you will have the space you need for a project.

If projects need to go on for longer durations, that is fine.  Things can remain setup up if you clean up after yourself daily and put away tools that are not being used.  Materials should be gathered neatly in the project space.  Ongoing projects should be labeled with a simple sign and name so that others know who to query about the status of a tool etc.

Replace what has been destroyed or consumed.  Things break and get used up.  That just happens.  If it does make sure to reorder the item so it will be ready for the next person needing to use it.

That is about it.  Only four rules which if followed make for a productive shop.  Your Shop.

A note on tools.

Proper tool storage:  Tools and equipment need to be stored appropriately so they stay in good condition.  Here is an example:  A Wood chisel – pretty simple tool right.  If you have ever handled a sharp chisel you know that with very little pressure you can remove skin from your finger very easily.  A sharp chisel is a pleasure to work with.  You look at the edge and think “I could split an atom with this thing”.  Well not quite but the edge is so sharp it goes to nothing.  Do you know how easy it is to bend or dull nothing?  Being made of tool steel you might think it will stay sharp a long time.  Well that is not the case.  It takes almost nothing to bend nothing.   When you drop that chisel in a tool draw without the protective cap on it, as soon as it touches anything else that is nearly as hard, the tip has been dulled.  The protective cap not only protects you but also protects the tool so the next time you want to use it, it is sharp and ready to go.  Make sure you store your tools properly.

Proper Tool Usage:  Sounds simple right?  Example: Side Cutters.

If you look at a few samples of this type of cutter you will usually find some to be damaged.  In general they were most likely used to cut a material that they were not design for or was too large.  It would be best to use the proper tool for the job (i.e. A cutting wheel for cutting hardened steel). If you are not sure what the right tool is, ask for advice.  This will save some dollars in your tooling budge from having to replace ruined tools.

- Phil Bussone, Principal Mechanical Engineer, Goddard Inc.