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7 Tips for Improving Your Fab Shop and Complex Fabrications

Prefabrication and modular construction are driving MEP and Industrial contractors to invest in fabrication and spend millions on equipment and machines to work on large complex fabrications. They are also investing considerable resources in new technology to develop highly skilled workers to be more productive.

Organizing your fabrication shop floor and workflows is equally crucial to a successful project as this becomes ever more critical with increased complexity. An adequately organized fabrication shop benefits the company and its customers in the following ways.


Increased Employee Productivity and Shop Output

Companies producing large complex fabrications for industrial, Aerospace, and healthcare industries may require quality data packages (QDPs) outlining material tracing and specific workflows. Operators searching for parts and tools creates unwanted operational inefficiencies and can interrupt machine setup or materials handling. Workers’ time running around looking for parts or devices can have ripple effects, resulting in poor delivery rates and missed deadlines. An essential function of proper project management involves managing a fabrication shop’s layout, organization, and workflow.


Improving Product Quality

  • When a work area is well-kept and organized, accidents are less likely to occur, with can result in dinged-up finishes or damaged materials. And when finishers, welders, or assemblers have immediate access, they can more easily focus on the job rather than stumbling over misplaced tools or parts.
  • Integrated technology to hardware and tools such as saws, etc., improves the accuracy of products worked on and reduces waste.


Increasing Employee Safety

  • Manufacturers often say that safety is their top priority, so having an organized production floor should be the top priority. According to OSHA, the top U.S. work-related injuries result from trip and fall accidents. Therefore, an excellent way to minimize injuries in manufacturing is to ensure a clean work area, accessways, and aisles.


Improving Employee Morale & Growth 

  • Great companies equip employees for success, and it’s no different for improving your large or small fabrication shop. Certification training programs are one of several ways to invest in employees. Your company can design programs that cover all aspects of success in the shop and continued education.
  • Establishing protocols ensuring an organized, efficient, and safe work environment can impact employee morale. For example, workers can get frustrated, and their quality of work will suffer if they continuously search for tools (both physical and technology) they need to do their jobs.


Differentiating Your Services

  • A well-organized fabrication shop reflects the professionalism of a company and can differentiate your capabilities to handle large complex fabrication projects. In addition to equipment and abilities, an organized fabrication shop should be a priority for potential prospects to see on facility tours.
  • Utilizing shop production tracking technology demonstrates your team’s ability to meet client requirements.


7 Tips for Optimizing Your Fab Shop and Complex Fabrications

Below are best practices for optimizing your fabrication Shop and improving its organization for better business outcomes.


1. Centralizing Tool Centers

Placing machining tools and other frequently used components in central locations offers convenience and efficiency. However, this may vary depending on the fabrication processes tied to the tool’s point of use. After careful evaluation, it may make sense to move tools and other items closer.


2. Improve Workflows in the Shop

In a perfect workflow, materials move through the fabrication facility in a single direction and do not cross paths with other products during production. However, a fabrication facility’s capacity or layout can hinder throughput. Nevertheless, when raw materials arrive and finished products are delivered to the loading dock, there should be a logical and cohesive workflow to minimize excess transporting through stations.


3. Minimizing Outsourcing

Depending on the project, completing all fabrication processes in one facility creates substantial efficiencies for delivering high-quality products to the jobsite. For example, suppose painting and finishing services for metal fabrication require multiple vendor facilities. In this case, this can cause potential delays requiring truck loading and hauling them to another facility and back to final assembly and shipping. The idea is to have a one-stop shop.


4. Training Fab Shop Staff

Providing a new employee training program on organization and protocols must include cleaning the workstations and starting and closing expectations. Workspaces are vital to productivity and should remain clean, organized, and prepared for the next shift.


5. Employ Lean Principles (5S)

Most manufacturers practice lean principles on varying levels to help maximize productivity and reduce waste. These steps are procedures and might not be visible to customers, but they make a significant difference in results, so promote using them.

Lean principles such as 5S are designed to keep workplaces clean, safe, and well-organized to reduce waste and optimize productivity. They include:

  • Sorting determines the cadence for going through tools, parts, and other components to assess their proper use and eliminate non-essential items.
  • Set-In-Order determines the frequency of items being used and by whom and arranges them logically by plotting paths for everything in the process.
  • Shine ensures your fab shop is consistently clean and removes messes and clutters regularly. Create protocols to prevent accidents from occurring.
  • Standardize tool placement and labeling procedures without deviations.
  • Sustain helps drive consistency and mitigate variances should staff regress and not follow required protocols.


6. Streamline Equipment Setup Procedures

Equipment and workstation downtime impedes productivity, so minimize setting up equipment and workstations so your team is focused on the production and value-added services. The ultimate goal is to set up as quickly as possible without sacrificing any quality or safety. Consider utilizing standardized tooling and quick-change clamping and review areas where you can improve prep cycles. One example is using error-proofing and automating processes that minimize variances.


7. Encourage and Facilitate Employee Engagement

The best ideas often come from those on the shop floor dealing with daily issues. Encourage employee participation to help increase efficiencies. For example, meet with staff regularly to collaborate for improving workflows or organization. Many fabricators are adopting technology in the fabrication shop, so it’s critical to encourage group participation, adoption, and communication to ensure success. One way to encourage participation and adoption is to incentivize creativity, recognize employees, and reward them with a financial perk.


A strong organization of your fabrication shop represents your company’s ability to win new business and handle large and complex fabrication projects. These projects have robust specifications and tolerances, but applying these best practices will help your team do more high-quality difficult jobs and win more business.

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