I’m All Out of Options

Not only is my shop considered a small business, it’s quite literally SMALL.

If you made a list of my complaints when it comes to my daily work tasks; the lack of space would probably be at the top of that list.  We currently occupy a 2500sq ft. space.  It is basically two units of a six unit strip mall.  I feel like it is just too cramped and every task is complicated by size.

I absolutely HATE having to move things, in order to access other things. One of my ‘therapy solutions’ is to cook. I love food, and it is nearly a spiritual experience for me when I zone into the kitchen to create a tasty masterpiece. But I HATE digging through our pantry, having to pull three things off of the shelf to access that one thing I need, only to have to do it all over again to put it back.

That is how I feel here at my shop. For example; I have a client that provides me with pre-printed, pre-cut sheets of paper. These are called ‘shells’ in printer’s terms. They print them in another city, at a larger shop, on a larger printing press. Only the art that stays the same on every sheet is printed during this process.  This would be the logo, addresses, bar codes, etc. They print these in large quantities, cut them down to a size that will fit on my press, and pallet them up for me. By running a large volume in one run (we are talking hundreds of thousands) they get bulk pricing and it brings the total cost of the project down.

The pallets are then stored in one of their warehouses for me to go and get one at a time as needed. I bring the pallet to my shop, and run the individual pieces with all the art that does change depending on the order in smaller quantities (1,000 up to 60,000 or so), cut them to the finished size, package them, and deliver the final product.

This allows me to provide quick turn around time since I am local, often next day service, but is also the most cost-effective way.  However, it requires me to be able to bring in, and house, at least three full pallets alongside ALLLLLLL of the other paper I need to keep in stock. For only 2500 sq ft. that is quite a feat to preform.

Everytime I need to bring one of these pallets in (and I should mention that the double doors they enter in are conveniently placed directly across the entire shop from their final resting place) the process begins:

First I work on removing the old pallet, sweeping up underneath to make sure there isn’t any broken chunks of wood that would cause the breaks of the pallet jack to go on full lock once hit.  I then work my way towards the double doors moving any obstacles in the way in order to ensure a full 4 foot wide path.

Usually I have carts, padded standing mats, rugs, machines, boxes, and more that need to be moved out of this path only to obstruct another path. It isn’t a quick process to say the least.  Once I’ve reached the double doors I have to swing them both wide open and use chalks to keep them that way. This means I have to find the two chalks that somehow always walk away from the spot that I’ve left them.

Once outside I put the old pallet on the stack for deliveries, and cut away the plastic wrapping that encases the new pallet. Now, I am finally ready to move in the new pallet.

These pallets, on average, weigh about 3,500 pounds. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to push, or pull that kind of weight on your own; but on an unassisted pallet jack it is not an easy thing to do. Especially when building code dictates that the entry to a level door must have a slight incline away from the building for drainage.

And so I grab the handle, jack it up high enough to not get high-centered on the kick plate, and try to get as much momentum as I can walking parallel to the door before I suddenly turn at a right angle, and with all my might, make the pull into the doors.

Usually, I barely have enough strength to get the last set of wheels over the kick plate.
It is typically at this point that I realize I have taken just enough time to find the chalks, cut the wrapping off, and get the pallet into the door, that someone has come along and moved things back into MY path in order to open up THEIR path.

So I proceed to put everything back to where I had it a mere 5 minutes before.  I can now, very slowly, pull the pallet through the building, barely missing corners, as I make right angle turns. It is like an orchestrated dance as I do my best not to plow this 3,500 lb. tank into a $3,500.00 piece of plastic-encased equipment, while still trying to keep just enough momentum rolling in order to save what strength I have left after pulling it through the doors.  In several spots I have mere inches to spare.

I am finally able to make the final turn before pushing it into it’s designated parking space. Again, I have strategically arranged the equipment in my shop allowing just enough space to make these maneuvers. So it is a very slow, and methodical process, often needing two or three corrections before it is placed and slowly let down to settle on the floor.

Finally, I follow the path back through the shop, again, replacing all of the things that I have removed, folded over, or pushed aside so that normal operations can resume.
It gets me so wound up when I consider that what should be a quick grab, pull, and place process takes upwards of 20-30 minutes because of all the preparation, searching, and re-placing that has to be involved every single time.

I know that we have completely re-arranged the shop at least 3 times, and done many, many more remote re-arrangments as a result of this problem.  I continue to stand, ponder, pick a different angle, and ponder some more; trying to squeeze some sort of revelation on how to create more space.  But it is all to no avail.

The solution is clear; we simply need a bigger space.  What we have fit into a 2500sq ft. space is, quite simply, a miracle.  We are getting by, yes.  But in my eyes it isn’t safe the way it is right now.  It isn’t effective the way it is right now.  And it isn’t efficient the way it is right now.  All of these things translate into $$$$$ to me.

So the solution:  well, I don’t have one yet.  I have looked into building, after building, after building.  They are either too expensive, just not made for heavy and large equipment, or need too many modifications to meet the criteria for my business, making them too expensive.  It seems that my business has enough unique needs that it won’t fit into just any space.  And then there is the size issue.  Everything is just barely too small, or way too big.

So I continue to look because I am a problem solver.  But as I battle this problem I can’t help but realize why it exists to begin with.

When we moved into this space, we were comfortable.  Everything fit, and everything had it’s place.  What that means is that over the last 7 years we have outgrown our own cloths.  Now in human terms, this is a depressing fact.  Having to go buy new jeans because you current ones feel like they are going to separate your body into two every time you sit down is a sad reality that your high school body is gone forever.  But in business terms, it is a sign of health.

So to me this sign translates into three things:

1. I have larger jobs at a larger volume than 7 years ago

2. Not only do I need a larger space, but I’ll be able to afford to move into a larger space once the right one is found

And most importantly: 3. Both of these translate into ‘I must be doing something right’

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