Efficiency Tips for a Too-Small Shop

When you have plenty of work but not enough space to work in, how can you adapt until you're ready to move into a larger shop? May 15, 2014

Question (WOODWEB Member) :
We are building frameless cabinets in an 1,100 square-foot shop. Vertical panel saw, edgebander, forklift, etc. and a 4x8 CNC router on the way. We've added a spray booth above the office, and a storage mezzanine. We have plenty of work, but we don't have enough bench space for the two-three cabinetmakers who will get it done.

I've looked at moving, but I think for the next six months or so we need to keep our noses to the tablesaw. Also, the next step up in terms of commercial real estate is at least twice as expensive (there are so few small warehouses that it's actually more economical to lease 4,000 square feet than 3,000). Any tips on how to get a lot of work done in a small space?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor S:
Keep it clean and don't keep anything around that you really don't need. No piles of stuff that might come in handy someday. Can all of your cut parts be ready and orderly for an all hands on deck assembly party just prior to delivery? Rent or buy one or two of those old tractor trailers, but those can become time consuming if you are in and out of them - put that stuff you just couldn't get rid of in there or if its watertight the finished goods.

What can be mounted to walls of hung from the ceiling? Warehouse racks might help but they end up needing aisle space for the fork. Is the flow set up to move through the shop without backtracking or crossing over too much? Benches have good storage below and are multi-purpose, build in router table, flip up wings when needed, movable? No original thinking here but some things to consider.

From contributor X:
Create a system where you cut, sand and finish all cabinet parts before assembly. Don't build anything big (cabinet boxes, drawer boxes, etc.) until you are close to your delivery date, otherwise you will be cramped for space and your work efficiency will go down the drain.

From contributor D:

Maybe you could rent a storage unit in your area until you get it figured out. Build them and finish them in batches and move them out.

From contributor C:
Storage marts, etc. work for finished products. Trailers and ocean containers work great.

From contributor H:
We have been using outside finishers for 34 years. Get rid of junk and use applied end panels whenever possible. Where are you going to fit the CNC?

From contributor K:
The inefficiency of trying to do that much work in that small a space are costing you more than what a larger space would cost.