Friday, December 19, 2014

Kristen Hampshire


Squeaky clean

Shop Guide

An unkempt garage can signal company-wide disorganization and make daily tasks difficult to complete.

December 18, 2014

When a prospective commercial client suggested he’d stop by the headquarters of Cru Cutters to “take a look,” Chris Cook realized that efforts to organize the shop at his $3-million company were beneficial for productivity, security – and image. “He said, ‘If you don’t take care of your facility, do you think I’ll trust you to take care of mine?’” Cook recalls.

Interesting thought. “I never had a customer do that before – and there is a lot of truth to what he said,” says Cook, president of the Florence, Ky.-based company.

Of course, the main purpose for properly stocking and maintaining an orderly shop is to keep equipment and vehicles up and running, and to support the mechanics working in-house. It all comes down to maximizing downtime. When parts are readily available (and easy to access), machines can be serviced efficiently and return to the field where they generate revenue.

Cook found out that a well-stocked, orderly shop has fringe benefits. It shows clients you walk the productivity walk and can make or break your efficiency.

Stocking the shop.

“Organization and efficiency are the holy grail,” says Mike DePriest, owner of Longs Peak Landscape, a $3-million company in Longmont, Colo. DePriest stocks his shop for maintenance, irrigation and design/build construction services, and ensures that essential parts are available for the company’s vehicles.

“We have a pretty well set-up shop,” he says.

Here is the essential stock that DePriest keeps stocked for various divisions of the company.

  • Maintenance: DePriest says must-haves include extra blades, tires, trailer lights and consumables, including fluids. He also stocks hydraulic lines for snowplows and extra plow lights. “It is pretty much mandatory to have another crew’s worth of equipment on standby in case of weather or mechanical issues,” he says.
  • Irrigation: Longs Peak Landscape keeps a vendor-managed inventory of irrigation parts on hand. “We order early and pre-order heads, valve boxes, pipe and fittings that we know we will use,” DePriest says. “We take those out of inventory using a sign-out sheet.”
  • Construction/design-build: Frequently used materials include mulch, soil, compost, rock and some plant material. All this is stocked at the shop, DePriest says. In the future, he hopes to acquire a larger yard to increase storage capabilities and make that a bigger part of the business model.

DePriest says the firm spends a lot of money and time acquiring materials from suppliers. The more that can be kept on site (and used in a timely manner), the better.

“Our construction division has one guy who spends the majority of his week running materials, and equipment around between job sites,” he says. “The foremen of those five crews spend the first hour of their morning typically getting, loading, delivering materials to a job site too.

We also have a construction supervisor who is seeing job sites and is often bringing materials, and equipment between crews.

  • Vehicles: The standards include filters and spark plugs, “so basic service can be done any day without a trip to the parts store,” DePriest says. Extra tires for trucks and trailers are also on hand. “Our auto parts supplier delivers materials to our shop with a phone call,” he says.
  • Repair equipment: Stocking the shop with parts is one thing, but the area also must have equipment to do repairs. At Longs Peak, the shop has several floor jacks used for trailers and equipment. The company also has engine lifts, engine stands, tranny jacks and a custom workbench.

“You can drive a lawn mower or Dingo on it and work on the equipment from below, or at a more comfortable height,” DePriest says.

Of course, there are luxuries on the list that DePriest would like to acquire for the shop. Those include a commercial hydraulic truck lift, a commercial tire changer and an industrial sand blaster.

Smart shop storage.

Giving Cru Cutter’s mechanic a semi-private, secure and well-organized working environment with the tools he needs to complete his work meant investing in parts and shop equipment.

“We gave our mechanic the power, and tools, to make the shop his,” Cook says.

That has involved reworking the space to create a better workflow and rounding out the parts inventory including how it is arranged in the shop.

For one, Cru Cutters acquired a tool inventory system. The company purchased an initial inventory – nuts, bolts and other necessities – and based on monthly use, parts are replenished.

“It includes hose clamps and electrical fittings – a wide range of parts that keep us from running out every 10 minutes to pick up what we need,” Cook says. The investment runs $5,000 to $10,000, but Cook says it’s well worth it in saved windshield time and downtime.

Next, Cru Cutters moved to a bin system of organizing pieces-parts. All parts are stored in clear plastic bins rather than the old way of keeping them in cardboard boxes stacked on shelves. “Keeping parts in view is helpful, and it has improved the look of the shop,” Cook says.

Meanwhile, dedicated areas in the shop for cleaning equipment or changing tires keeps service processes organized at Longs Peak. Two blow-down cleaning stations at either end of the shop manage debris and dust. “We have and need a large compressor to keep up with all of the needs in our shop,” DePriest says.

Crewmembers are expected to clean up equipment daily, and those stations are also used for tire maintenance. Also, the shop has a dedicated wash station with a pressure washer.

Cook adds, “An organized shop makes us feel like we have our company in line, and that’s important when customers and suppliers come to our facility. It’s part of the whole image package.”

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