Shop Layout Advice

Here are some useful tips on making scale mockups of a shop floor plan, along with advice about how to best use the available space.July 8, 2014

Question (WOODWEB Member) :
I just purchased a 3000 square foot building that I am remodeling. Iím wondering if anyone would mind giving me some advice on shop layout. I have a spray booth in a different location so I won't be finishing on-site. Some of the main tools I have are a 37" Timesaver, Brant 1500 edge bander, dual row line borer, door clamp table, two unisaws back to back, three shapers, downdraft table, couple smaller planers and various other smaller tools. I am looking for a used slider to add later. I also have a forklift that I thought I would park next to the overhead door. I thought that I could stack lumber and sheet goods across from the overhead door. There is a support post about 8' behind the dust collection room that I thought I could wrap my shapers around. I am open to any ideas.

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From Contributor O:
Draw the plan to scale on as large a piece of paper as you can find - 36x48 would work well. Then make scale pieces of each machine out of 1/4" ply, and 16' lumber on carts, etc. You can (should) even do a dust collection pipe run once you have a plan that seems to suit you. Push the lumber around and see what works. The type of work you do will influence machine placements so build a thing or two to see how it all works. I have done this for about seven different shops I have set up over the years, and have had no major regrets.

From Contributor Y:
For me it is all about flow of my primary products - nNo backtrack, minimal walking, tools where they are needed, not simply like tools with like tools. Buy an adequate size magnetic board or laminate and mark out the walls. Then out of magnetic paper I cut all my machinery, tables, carts, materials to scale, then place them where they go and then run the shop moving the materials through and watch my product flow. The magnets make it very easy to move things. I like 1/2" scale. I have done small 2,000 square foot to 20,000 square foot shops this way (about five shops total). When it looks good I then use dry erase markers and lay out dust collection pipe, air lines and electric. You can also draw out different product flows to look for potential resource conflicts and such. The big limitation to this is it is in 2-D. If you are very good in Sketchup you might gain some advantage if you were really trying to optimize vertical space utilization as well as horizontal.

From Contributor D:
I'm just re-doing my shop to simplify cabinetry work. I only do carcasses so it's a bit easier for me. When I'm done it will be CNC router, racking with dividers, boring machine and edgebander. The racking will have vertical dividers so that I can sort the pieces off the router into cabinets. Once all the components for one cabinet are done that cabinet can be end-bored, edge banded and assembled. No more sorting through a pile of parts for the five needed for one cabinet. Even though you are using a saw to cut the components I suspect that you will be nesting in some fashion rather than cutting one cabinet at a time, so this may work for you to. The guiding principle that I use is that you should put down a part where it can be picked up for the next process. Moving parts without adding value costs money.

From contributor L:
I've used a system similar to what Contributor O and J have proposed. There are always trade-offs. Do several and each time take a photo of the layout to preserve it. It's always hard to plan for the future but well worth it. It may cause some inefficiency in the present but be worth it when you add something later. I have used a sheet of white Celetex fiber board. By using push pins I can trace the travel of various parts/operations using colored string. For a larger shop I'd do roller conveyors.

From contributor V:
The layout of machinery is critical. At the same time planning for general lighting and spot lighting for task areas needs to be thought out to simplify electrical wiring. The same can be said of dust collection system. Locating the blower outside cuts down on noise and locating the storage high so that a truck can drive under it minimizes a dusty job.

From contributor S:
All good points. Consider parking fork lift in the doorway to minimize dead space. Layout for shared space on infeed and outfeed spaces of wide belt and the edgebander. I assume itís a one man shop so only one tool will be in operation at a time. Some shared spaces tools in/outfeed will be 90 degrees and some parallel. You will not regret following the suggestions to make a scale model and work through it. I just completed this on my own new shop (old one burnt 100% in massive forest fire two years ago) 40x80 x12 and I put a door at each end to allow work to go straight through. Try to make a logical flow to keep material handling to a minimum. You may need to put some smaller tools on rolling bases. Do you need a showroom for your work? Can any walls be moved? Analyze everything. Try not to rush - I spent a couple weeks (while building was going up) pushing my model and I made many changes to get to where I am. After you run a few jobs you may find some placement adjustments are needed, schedule a Saturday and do it. No layout is perfect in a small shop, but you can make it work so good luck.
Remember never place a machine because the power or dust collection is already there. Machine first and then add power and dust. Material flow/handling is the key.