Regina Thomas 3m 701 #manufacturing
The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
No matter the size of your business, you need terrific tools to keep your production line going. For best results, your employees will need to be fully trained and have a safe space to store tools. Keep an eye on the manufacturing workspace for safety and efficiency.
If you have a furniture-making business and are great at design but not a skilled seamstress, make sure that you rely on your top stitcher to help you choose the best cutting tools and set up your fabric storage area.
If your business works with metals, you will need an inventory of cutting wheels for your saws, grinders, and threading tools. No matter your skill set, make sure you rely on those with more experience and history to choose the best tools for your business and to maintain them properly.
As an existing part of an industry, you will want to keep an eye out for businesses that are selling their stock and tools. For example, the furniture maker above may hear about an awning or fabric sign maker going out of business. You may need more detailed sewing machines, but that awning maker may have a layout table or another basic tool that could allow you to expand your shop. Keep an open mind.
Ask your crew leaders and top craftspeople to look at the tools going up for auction. There are many tools that should not be duplicated, due to storage or expense, but many hand tools and items that are prone to wearing out can easily be stored for later use.
Always make sure that your shop has proper storage. If you work with metals, you may need a dehumidifier in the area where metal is cleaned before welding, forming, or braking. If you have a woodshop, invest in drawer space that includes rubber matting to keep chisels from bouncing around and getting dinged, and make sure to place desiccant to reduce the risk of corrosion.
Getting good tools is no use if you do not have a way to store them safely and a regular cleaning routine to keep things picked up and dust-free. Finally, make sure everyone in the space has access to gloves, goggles, and headgear as necessary.
Every now and again you are going to need a tool that either does not exist yet or is so unique as to be prohibitively expensive. In this case, having a tool fabricator in your contact list is an excellent choice.
A fabricator can help you build custom tools for unique jobs. For example, your furniture fabrication shop may need to build a custom cushioned bench or seating area for a grand lobby. If the bench is to be square, you like to have the tools necessary to fabricate the cushion and the covering, but if you need to create unique angles, you may need a new stretch clamp to line up fabrics for stitching or gluing.
Often, a tool fabricator has to start with the design. They may also start with a sample product and reverse engineer the tool. If you need a new clamp for fabric, a unique stretching base for forming metal, or any other custom piece, try to get your tool designer the information as early as possible so they can prove their tool before delivery.
Anybody can make a mistake, but this can lead to damaged tools. If you have a few tools that have gotten damaged by overuse, inappropriate use, or have just worn out, keep them out of the way and use them as training tools so new employees get the hang of the grip and the methodology before they can go to work with the tools you need to keep your business running.
If your most skilled employees offer to bring in their own tools, make sure that they have a space to lock them away and be ready to pay for them if they are damaged or stolen. If these items are especially expensive, consider renting them from your employee to reduce the risk of loss.