Applying "Lean Management" principles to your hobby...

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Forum topic by poopiekat posted 12-23-2008 04:16 AM 1698 views 0 times favorited 8 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4389 posts in 3940 days

12-23-2008 04:16 AM

Having had a variety of industrial jobs over the past 35 years or so, both in and out of woodworking, I’ve had my share of those seminars regarding the virtues of the Japanese Style of management. ‘Japanese’ itself has morphed somewhat over the years, and the concept gaining ground now is called ‘Lean’. At this latest transmutation of Japanese methodology, there is a concept called “5-S”, and during this discussion, my thoughts drifted naturally to my home woodworking shop in the cellar. I never noticed that I have unneeded tools and junk littered about my workstation; a broken halogen worklight, jigs and fixtures never to be used again close at hand, fences to a router table and table saw, both of which I no longer own, wrong-length bandsaw blades on the pegboard, etc, etc…WHOOOAA!!! So I filled up a few plastic milkcrates full of absolutely unneeded items and packed them under the stairs ‘til next spring for a yard sale or whatever! Now…every tool I use is either on a shelf or a hook an arm’s reach from my bench, and I now have a dedicated wrench for every router and saw also within easy reach without taking a step. Gone is the Ryobi disc sander with the missing velcro pad, the cordless screwdrivers that don’t hold a charge, and the Bosch router that I love but needs a lower bearing. Out with all this stuff is one humongous cabinet that was simply eating up too much precious floor space in my 200 SF. Ditto the mismatched hunks of plastic laminate and other Habitat Re-Store treasures that I’ve bought without having a specific use for…
Anyway, what a difference it has made; just disciplining myself to return every tool to its assigned space immediately after using it, having dedicated wrenches, pliers, and screwdrivers attached to each machine instead of running to the toolbox every time I change a router bit or saw blade. I’ve labeled my drawers and plastic bins, and am making glass doors on wall-hung cabinets to replace the solid ones. Plus, I now pick up every offcut immediately after shutting down the saw that made them. I’m even vaccuming the floor just before closing down for the day. It really does make work easier!! Finally, Japanese methods make sense to me.

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

8 replies so far

View Justin Wright's profile

Justin Wright

11 posts in 3724 days

#1 posted 12-23-2008 02:39 PM

I work in the machine tool world during the day in both production and tool & die work. I feel very strongly about this method. I try to use it in every part of life. By reducing the number of steps you take to reach a wrench or blade you increase time for…(in my case family). With six children thats nearly a full time job by itself. I have changed the layout of my shop of 1500 sf. ten or fifteen times just to improve the flow.


-- justin@americanlogsandsiding

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Bob #2

3810 posts in 4227 days

#2 posted 12-23-2008 03:05 PM

I too am a fan of time and motion ergonomics .
I thnks it’s the pack rat in some of us that defeats the practice.


-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

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Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4168 days

#3 posted 12-23-2008 04:17 PM

In my shop, If I leave a tool down on the bench, it doesn’t take long until I can’t work. Thngs have to get put up.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

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Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4330 days

#4 posted 12-23-2008 10:13 PM

Thank you for the reminder! I’ll be working through shop organization in the next few days as we build doors for our cabinets, and with two of us in the shop (yay holiday break!) it’ll be really really tight; I’m jealous of your 200 square feet.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

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1130 posts in 4107 days

#5 posted 12-23-2008 10:56 PM

Thanks for your posting poopiekat; I must take at least some of it on board in 2009!

-- Res severa verum gaudium - True pleasure is a serious business.

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4389 posts in 3940 days

#6 posted 12-24-2008 02:54 AM

You guys are great, thanks for all the positive responses!! I know I have get more dynamic with my small shop space, I just didn’t ever focus on it before by developing the right attitude about shop layout. Before this latest round of training, I thought it sufficient to roll my eight pieces of equipment, all sitting on casters, to Rubic’s-Cube them all ‘til the one I wanted became front and center…then switch from planer to table saw, for example, and Rubic’s-Cube them all again.
My stepfather, now in his 80’s, built incredible furniture with a tool chest with about 20 tools in it, plus a junky old dunlap 8” table saw. The Depression taught him lessons about 5-S that I have yet to wrap my mind around. I can’t hope to do as well with a shop full of power tools…heh, where did I go wrong?

-- Einstein: "The intuitive mind is a sacred gift, and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift." I'm Poopiekat!!

View Topapilot's profile


172 posts in 4046 days

#7 posted 12-24-2008 08:44 AM

Oh yes! Get the mooda out of your gimba and achieve kaizan!

I must say that I do like my shop space neat, and I do get more accomplished when everything has a place. Over time, the minimum acceptable scrap size to keep has gone up and up; all my mobile tools are comming to rest in a ‘perminent’ location; and like items are all together.

Sometimes I see pictures of peoples shops and I just want to show up with a dumpster and a shovel…

View Bob #2's profile

Bob #2

3810 posts in 4227 days

#8 posted 12-24-2008 04:00 PM

Dentists and many surgeons use “tray” set ups the contain everything related to a specific task.
I have adopted some of that system in my shop and it does make it somewhat easier.
For instance, everything for hand made dovetails is located in a hand basket that stores beneath my bench.
My chisels are hinged under the nearest cabinet and drop down of use.
My most used hand clamps are directly above my bench within arms length.

I’m still working on it but essentially I would like my least used equipment the farthest from my main work area.
My not used in one year stuff moved to locatable storage or sold. Scraps stored outside if at all.

p.s. at last count I have accumulated 7 tool belts, none of which I wear in the shop as they catch on everything Either they get a new home or use or they will have to live in the garage.


-- A mind, like a home, is furnished by its owner

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