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Visually Segmenting Your Shop

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Segmenting your shop can be an effective way to organize workflow and help eliminate bottlenecks. Part of the process for segmenting a shop floor includes creating physical separators—taping or painting the floor and creating signs to demonstrate the separation. 

That’s what James Greer helped implement at the five-location Collision Works of Oklahoma in metropolitan Oklahoma City, where he serves as COO. Since then, Greer says segmenting the shop has increased throughput and helped improve communication between departments. He explains the process of taping a shop floor as part of the segmenting process.

A couple years ago, we redesigned the shop floor two of our locations to maximize the flow. To do that, we segmented the shop. We wanted it to be very easy for technicians to visualize how vehicles were supposed to move through the shop, based purely on how the floor tape was laid out. 

There is a place for everything and everything is in its place. I want it to look like a manufacturer. Segmenting your shop keeps your clutter down, keeps the aisles clear and keeps the flow constant. Technicians don’t have to go and search for equipment because they know where it’s going to be at all times. If you have those boundaries on the floor, it holds the staff accountable. 

Before you actually tape the floors, it’s very important to do your due diligence in mapping it out. Make sure you do all of that preparation up front and have a drawn-out floor plan. We worked with our paint rep to decide the flow of the shop and we created a floor plan based off that. 

When we did this in one of our locations, it was new, so we didn’t have anything in the way when we put the tape down. However, when we did this in our existing location, it was in operation, so we had to take everything out of the shop to do this. We found that to be the most effective process. Obviously, that is quite a project, so it’s important to keep that in mind and plan a time to do that.

Besides the floor plan, you just need a measuring tape, floor tape in various colors and at least two people. You want to tape off everything that touches the floor in the shop. 

  • We started by mapping out all of the stalls. We used tape measurers to keep everything symmetrical and used two people to make sure the lines were straight and the tape was going down properly. We also color-coded each area. For the body stalls and aisles, we used black-and-yellow checkered tape.
  • Next, we mapped out where our equipment goes. We created sections for the frame machine, the welder, the computer system, the A/C unit. We also hung signs for each piece of equipment so there was another reminder of where the specific piece of equipment should be kept.
  • Then we taped off our parts department using red tape. We used red because all of our parts carts are bright red; it’s an easy visual. For the parts department, we have a border line, and nothing from the body shop gets moved past that line. 
  • We also created rows for all of our parts carts. All of them are now lined up in rows, numbered one through seven. To easily identify which cart belongs to which car, we use a hat system on top of vehicles to designate the row that part cart is going to be in. For example, a hat with the number seven will find the corresponding parts cart in row number seven. 
  • Every segment of the process was taped off, from the disassembly area to the paint shop. Even items such as garbage cans or brooms were taped off so they would have a place. You never want anything out of place.

After we taped everything, we tested the system. We pulled a few cars in and drove them through the shop to see how it would actually work. After doing that, we made some tweaks. The tape typically has about eight hours of time when you can still pull it up and move it, so changes can be made. 

Testing the flow out is very important. The idea is not to set this floor plan in place and then find out it’s not practical once vehicles enter. 

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