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How to Design Your Machine Shop for Maximum Efficiency

Author: Jim Carr

How to Design Your Machine Shop for Maximum Efficiency

If you’re a long-time listener, you know that I’ve been in the process of moving Carr Machine & Tool. This is the first move I’ve made in my career and probably the last. But why? Because I understand the power of branding and design well. I know that existing and future clients are going to be more sophisticated and they will want to partner with similar brands. I also want to attract and retain talent.


So I decided to invest in my business by building out a new shop that would be sophisticated, high-tech, and professional. To do that, I worked with the brilliant minds at IMEC, the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center.

Why investing in your business is important 

Why do I believe it’s important to invest in my business? This article lays out five reasons that I agree with 100% 

  1. Your business will grow: You need the vision, the roadmap, and people to help you make the vision come alive. 
  2. You (and others) will take your business seriously: Part of revamping Carr Machine & Tool was to attract higher-end customers as well as tracking and retaining my team. I have some interviews set for this weekend—I’m hoping they’ll love the new environment.
  3. You’ll feel less stressed: I’m probably more stressed right now but I know at the end of the day it feels good being here. We had our weekly production meeting yesterday, and one of my CNC Machinists said that he's happy to be working in an air-conditioned machine shop. He knows someone who works in a shop where it recently hit 108 degrees inside. How can you expect a human to work in those conditions?
  4. You can focus on what you’re best at: If you’re in a great environment and have the right tools to be efficient, it allows you to focus on the things you know you can get done. You can delegate everything else outside of your expertise to someone else
  5. You will save time: We save time, we save money.

How the infrastructure bill will be distributed to MEPs

President Biden recently announced support for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Framework. This will definitely impact manufacturing in some capacity over the next 5+ years. We do business for companies that provide infrastructure. ZENGERS works with a company that makes bearings for bridges—and that’s just one example. It will help the manufacturing community. Everyone agreed on this. 

Dean Harm works with IMEC (the Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center), which is part of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) National Network. It’s connected to the US Department of Commerce through the NIST organization. Dean’s job is to land as much grant money in his area as possible to help manufacturing companies. He advocates for people who will make good use of the money. 

What can IMEC do for you?

IMEC offers a plethora of services to manufacturing companies that goes beyond helping them secure grant funding. They have a proven track record of a 20 to 1 return on investment with anyone they work with. They define success and monitor the process to make sure they’re realizing those returns. Dean emphasized that if they can do that, the services you’re paying for don’t cost you anything, they pay you.

IMEC can add capability and capacity to an organization on a short-term basis for specific solutions or improvements. They give access to subject matter experts you wouldn’t normally be aware of—like Tim Maurer.

Design your shop to succeed

Tim will walk your shop floor to look at the existing facility and layout. Then he’ll look at the empty building and visualize what could be. He will measure the square footage, ceiling heights, wall locations, bay doors, air drops, electricity, and more. He’ll also get the footprint of the equipment and determine where it should go. He can input that into CAD and provide your business with the most efficient layout possible for your shop.

Dean notes that many machine shops need more space. So they either decide to knock a wall down, move to a different building, or maximize the existing space. IMEC will get precise measurements to make sure everything is right. If you’re off by 6 inches, it’s a big deal. So they get it right the first time.

Engaging with IMEC or your state MEP is a great opportunity to help with continuous improvement in your manufacturing facility. Learn more about the process—and how it worked for Carr Machine & Tool—in episode #282 of Making Chips!


— Jim

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