What do you see when you go out to the shop floor? Tools everywhere? Materials and parts laying around? Team members milling around, having casual conversations? Work piling up?

You’re not alone. One of the things that makes running a shop so difficult is that you have to straddle the line between the office and the shop floor. After all, you can’t be in two places at once. At some point, nearly every shop owner and manager struggles with keeping the floor under control while also running the business.

The good news is that it’s not impossible to get your shop floor under control. It just takes some focused action on the part of you and your team. If you develop a game plan, you’ll likely have a clean, organized, and efficient shop floor in no time at all.

Here are three of the most effective ways to organize a messy shop floor. Try implementing them in your shop.

Rethink the tool bin.

Does this sound familiar? Your team member Joe needs a tool to complete a job, so he heads over to the tool locker to get it. After digging through an unorganized mess of tools, he realizes that the tool he needs isn’t there.

He then sets out on a walk around the shop floor, searching work stations for the tool and interrupting other team members to ask if they’ve seen it. He stops a couple of times to have casual, non-work-related conversations about last night’s football game and plans for this weekend. After a half hour has gone by, he realizes the tool is actually at his station, sitting under a growing pile of materials that need to be worked.

The tool locker is a staple in nearly every shop. But it should be reserved for those tools that are used sparingly by each member. If you have team members who are using certain tools on a regular basis, it may be a good investment to get them their own mini-tool locker at their own workstation.

You then make them responsible for keeping their own tool locker and workstation organized, rather than making the whole team responsible for organizing the common tool locker. When each team member has his or her own set of tools, you’ll notice less walking around, less clutter, and greater efficiency. The price of tools is a small investment to get big returns.

Make it a team effort.

It’s not your sole responsibility to find a shop floor solution. After all, you may spend very little time on the floor. To get the best solutions, you should ask your whole team for input. The people who are actually on the floor day-in and day-out can offer the most effective ideas.

An owner of a cabinet making shop in Philadelphia recently wrote in the New York Times about his novel approach to cleaning up the shop floor. He installed a giant cork board in the chop and provided a stack of index cards and thumb tacks.

The board is divided into three sections: Idea, Implement, and Sustain. Shop floor workers could write down organization and process ideas and post them on the board in the “Idea” column. Then, in  weekly meetings, they would review ideas and see which ones they liked as a team. The winners get moved into the “Implement” column. Once they’re implemented and become part of the daily process, they get shifted into “Sustain.”

You can use whatever brainstorming process you like. The key is to share with your team why it is so important that you get the shop floor under control. By involving them in the process, you’ll get better ideas and you’ll get more buy-in from your team members.

Get your process straightened out.

More often than not, a cluttered floor isn’t the real problem. It’s actually a symptom of a much bigger issue. A disorganized floor is often a sign of a disorganized shop.

Ask yourself: Why is your floor cluttered and disorganized? Is it because your team members are lazy slobs? Or is because they don’t have the process they need to route materials, tools, and jobs correctly?

Do they know when new jobs are coming in? Do they know how quickly they need to process jobs to avoid a bottleneck? Do they have a traveler that tells them when a job needs to hit each station and how long it should spend at those stations?

Having the right tools in place can take care of much of the clutter. Start with implementing a robust job shop software solution. Job shop software can help you better predict your workflow and identify bottlenecks. You can see where jobs are getting stuck, which may tell you why certain stations always seem messy.

For more information on how you can benefit from job shop software, contact us today. We would be happy to walk you through our E2 software and show you how you can use it to get your floor under control.