What’s the single greatest productivity hack in any workshop?
It’s unbelievably simple. It’s tidiness.
It’s fair to say that in an untidy workshop it’s very unlikely to be staffed by highly productive technicians. (How much time is wasted every day searching for tools that, if they had been put away properly, a technician could have put their hands on immediately?) Unsurprisingly, like in life we know the most efficiently run workshops, with the most highly productive technicians, are also the tidiest.
The good news is it’s never too late to turn an untidy workshop into a tidy one, and improve productivity. In fact, if you’re looking for “a quick win”, introducing a tidy workshop (and front desk!) policy is about the quickest win there is.
Here are seven changes you can make to your workshop right now that will improve tidiness, efficiency, organisation and productivity.
1. Lead by example with a major clean-up
A workshop is a reflection of the owner’s (or manager’s) values, so any change or improvement must come from the top. If you’re not the owner or manager, talk to them to get buy-in for a tidy-up. If you are the owner or manager, then it’s up to you to set the new standard for your team.
Lead a major clean-up. Throw out “stuff” that has accumulated over the years, including personal things that seem to find a home in the workshop but don’t need to be there.
2. Get rid of space-wasting items and “projects”
Dead cars and “one day we’ll fix that” jobs must go. Just pushing old cars in and out every day is costing time and money.
3. Give every tool its own home
Get the apprentice or junior team member to spend some time drawing up a chart which shows where every tool and piece of equipment lives. Get everyone to agree to it and then put it up on display around the workshop.
4. Actively promote tidiness as a matter of daily routine
Tidiness should be every technician’s responsibility. Putting tools away is as much a part of a technician’s job as the ability to fix a car.
Write workshop tidiness into a technician’s workshop agreement and declare it as a key performance task. If the situation is really desperate, think about linking tidiness into a staff incentive program.
5. Promote care and responsibility for equipment
One big clean-up isn’t enough. You need to signal a total change of mindset to your team.
Show you’re serious about doing things differently by introducing a preventative maintenance schedule for all your workshop equipment and allocate the responsibility to staff members. Create a logbook of equipment with a maintenance schedule and a column for technicians to immediately note broken gear for management to fix or replace.
6. Introduce a cleaning roster
Cleaning should be a regular routine that is everyone’s responsibility. Introducing a roster for the sorts of little jobs that easily slip (from sweeping the workshop floor to washing the coffee mugs) will help you keep on top of things.
7. Keep customers away from the workshop
If customers are often found cluttering up your workshop floor, it’s time to tidy them away, too! Use insurance requirements as an excuse to put up barricades and signs to steer visitors into the office, where they belong.
Introducing tidiness to your workshop might be a big cultural shift, but the benefits will be worth it. Very soon your team will wonder how they coped working in the mess it was before!