Shop Layout and Workflow (with helpful charts/graphs)

Shop Layout and Workflow:


We have discussed all the big plans for the new shop, all the want to’s, and big plans. What we haven’t discussed is the actual layout of the shop and the hurdles I am having with figuring that out.


I am beating a dead horse here, and I know I am always talking about my limited time, but that is a major consideration for everything that I do. Time, efficiency, and workflow are important to me. Like the tired old saying goes, “Time is money” and as overused as that saying may seem, its is 100% correct. When I have a client make a 500 piece order, I have to know how long it is going to take me to deliver them, quote them correctly, and to get some sleep too!

There are volumes written about work flow and all sorts of programs and big long technical names of processes with long Initialized names to cover work efficiency, time managements, work flows and so much more. I have not read those volumes, or studied those courses. I have not had to submit reports showing how efficient I am, by writing a report about efficiency or some other redundant thing. I do however, pay close attention to things like touches per piece, physical walking steps between processes, where tools are placed, what steps can be batched and what order of production I need to be working on.

Obviously, those tasks I pay attention to are no doubt outlined in those volumes, I was poking fun at. I am simply making a point to show that each movement needs to have a reason while I am working.

For example: If it takes me five walking steps between each piece I am working on, and those five steps take five seconds to complete, on an order of 500 pieces, I will have used up a little over 41 minutes. If I can cut down those walking steps to, say three, and applying the same one second per step as above, then I am only using up 25 minutes, saving myself 16 minutes on a 500 piece order. Maybe not a lot of time, but that would equate to 960 more one second steps applied to additional 320 product pieces.

I think the math is correct up there, even if it isn’t, you get the idea. These are the things the run through my head when I am working on large quantity orders. From simple ideas like having tools within reach and put them back after you’re finished with them. Nothing is worse that putting your blinders on to look for a lost tool for 30 minutes that you become obsessed with finding!

All this to say, the layout of my new shop has been and will be a tricky task. I want to be as efficient as I can be and that means having equipment and tools placed where they need to be. Having casters on tables and equipment to move into place and neatly stowed away when not is use.

What I know for sure now. I have secured myself a 4’x8’ central working table. Its big. Its wonderful, and it’s all I’ve wanted in my shop for the past 8 years, but have not had the space to allow it. It already has a low bottom shelf. I will be adding another shelf about halfway up from the bottom shelf and below the top surface. I will add dividers along the bottom to allow me to store rolled up leather and the shelf above that will allow me to store sides of leather flat. The flat lay will be nice for the thicker saddle skirting that I use, which is notorious for keeping its shape when rolled up.

Secondly, I plan to make a pedestal/ small top table that is sturdy enough with a decent footprint to mount my Mighty Wonder hand clicker. I will add retractable caster on it to easily move it out of the way when not in use. I will build the height of the cutting surface to the height of my 4’x8’ table to easily use it as an in/out feed table. Of course this piece is in the development stage at the moment. It will need to be sturdy enough that it will not rock, lean, tip or move when using it. I hope that it will work out so I can keep it rolled out of the way when it isn’t being used and not take up valuable surface area on another work bench.

The next piece of work surface I would like to incorporate into the shop is a drying rack. I haven’t quite settled on a location for this, or if I want to give up space to do it. The idea is to build a sort of wind tunnel that I can load items into to dry quickly after stamping (vegtan leather needs to be ‘cased’ by wetting the leather to take a burnish from the stamp). Have a drying rack/wind tunnel would speed up the drying process which would allow me to move along to the next process on items. Currently I simply lay the items out on the 4’x8’ with a box fan or space heater aimed at them to speed the process.

For those of you who follow Don Gonzales and his leather work videos on YouTube, you’ve likely seen a similar set up in his shop for drying. That is what gave me the idea for a wind tunnel. DG’s videos also have me wanting to build a standalone oiling table and gluing table, but again, I’m not sure if I want to give up that much square footage for a single function work station.


Finally, tool and hardware storage are always on my mind for efficiency. I have taken yet another note from Don Gonzales, building a functional work apron and tool belt to house my most frequently used hand tools. As mentioned above, wasting time hunting for a hand tool, pencil, knife, or tape measure is a terrible habit to have, and we’re all guilty of it. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard other makers joke about cleaning their shops and now they can’t find anything. I hope to head that habit off from the beginning in the new shop.

The task at hand for hardware is to create dedicated and organized hardware storage. It seems, as of late, that I have boxes of split key rings and rivets scattered all over the shop. Having a permanent home for items like these, that are all clearly labeled is vital. Not two weeks ago I grabbed a misplaced and mislabeled jar of rivets and filled my hopper to get busy on key fobs, all to find out the rivets were the wrong length for the fobs I was working on. WASTED time! I had to tilt my foot press, remove the hopper cylinder, all while spilling tubular rivets on the floor, and pour them back into the jar they came from.


What a dumb mistake that cost me a lot of time. Time to unload them from the hopper, time to measure them, relabel, and place them back where they belonged. Time to sweep up the errant rivets that fell out while trying to empty the hopper.


That’s a lot of words telling you to be efficient! Just one more look into what is always going on in my head . And yet another way to keep myself accountable while building out the new shop!


Keep on keepin on y’all!


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