Organise your workshop for efficiency

An orderly work environment means less time wasted looking for things and less chance of distraction, which leads to higher productivity and job satisfaction. Plus, it can be psychologically beneficial to start your day with the feeling of competence and control that comes with a well-organised workshop, rather than creating a sense of overwhelm as things literally pile up around you. Clutter can also be a safety hazard – accidents can happen because equipment is badly positioned, and disorganised work areas are a contributor to ergonomic problems. Never mind the scrap you might be losing into nooks and crannies that could be turned into cash!

Organise your workshop for efficiency

If the thought of tackling the ‘organised chaos’ in your workshop in one assault seems like a daunting task, you could approach it as an on-going project, dealing with problem areas incrementally. If you’re still not convinced that it’s worth your time, famous metal artist Mark Zirinsky reports the following results from an intelligent reorganisation of the workspace: “our defect rate decreased from 4% to less than 0.5%, our average cycle time went from 20 minutes to 8 minutes, and the assemblers went from a 1/2 hour break in a day to 1.25 hours per day. Our production went up, costs went down, everyone was more relaxed, everybody was happy”.

We’ve outlined a few steps below to help you optimise your environment for faster and more enjoyable work:

Anything in your space that feels distracting, obsolete or unwanted should be removed. Items that have never been used – or are not scheduled to be used for the foreseeable future – should be at the very least be put into storage or moved to a part of the workshop where they’re completely out of the way. A great way to decide if larger equipment items are worth keeping is to figure out what the floor space under them is costing you. Especially if you’re planning to move them into storage for a year or more, selling them now and replacing them when you do need them may work out cheaper. Make an appointment to repair or service any out-of-commission equipment that is gathering dust, or decide whether a replacement item could be better value for money. Even décor that no longer represents your brand faces the chopping block. If it isn’t inspiring you and serves no immediate purpose, chuck it. Note that throwing stuff away is just the first step – don’t confuse decluttering with actually putting efficient systems in place!

It’s ideal to have orderly zones in your workshop, dedicated only to the tasks that happen there. A coffee machine right next to the bench could be perfect for the solo jeweller, but might be more distracting than you realise if you’ve got several staff members regularly interrupting that work zone. You can demarcate these areas simply by the kind of furniture or equipment that’s there, or reinforce the idea by painting the walls a different colour or putting up a screen. Equipment and supplies should be located appropriately in the immediate area where those types of jobs are being done, and tools and products that are regularly used should be easily accessible. Any hazardous materials should ideally be stored out of high traffic areas, and if your workshop does not have adequate ventilation, it’s highly recommended to remedy that as part of this exercise by planning for an extractor installation or moving that work zone under a window. If your office space is combined with your workshop space, consider separating these. Motherboards can short circuit when enough minuscule metallic dust in the air accumulates in your computers.

If you’re still using physical paper to document your employees and track purchases and sales – consider moving to a digital system and do away with the need for filing cabinets and all manner of stationary. There are many verified and trusted cloud storage services, as well as the option of keeping your info on CDs or hard drives. You’ll want to schedule regular backups regardless – so if you’re busy or forgetful, an automated cloud service is your best bet. Get into the habit of scanning or clearly photographing any invoices or receipts that you’ll need to use for tax purposes. This can be done immediately via an app on your phone or as a batch task you can do weekly. Should you ever be in the unpleasant situation of a SARS audit, they will not accept slips that are illegible, and the ink on many types of store receipts fade within a year or two. Make a habit of going through your folders from any years that are no longer eligible to be audited (this is 5 years from the last tax year-end) and keep only important legal or financial documents, as well as purchase records for warranty or insurance purposes. These should also be digitised and emailed to your insurance broker or business partners. Shred and recycle the rest.

Aim to keep your workbench as uncluttered as the left one, not the right:Organise your workshop for efficiency

Many creative professionals reportedly work better in a cluttered space – but we believe that the only items on your workbench should be tools you use every day. The more clutter you need to navigate, the slower your work. Plus – it’s much easier to keep your refining batches properly organised if you can do a clean sweep of the work surface every time you switch to a different metal, without cross-contamination risk from filings etc that may have gotten caught under trinkets and coffee mugs. If you must have clutter to feel productive, try keeping this confined to wall mounted pinboards or any surface other than ones on which you work with precious metals. On the flipside, just because your workshop looks tidy does not mean it’s organised. If you’re prone to dumping all your tools into a box or drawer at the end of the day, consider a drawer divider or segmented toolbox so you can see the item you’re after at first glance, and make a habit of putting things back in the correct place! Labelling is a necessity for all companies of more than one employee, but even work-alone jewellers benefit from having one less thing to think about when keeping the space tidy. Avoid tool storage that requires regular reaching, straining or twisting as repetitive motions like this lead to injury long-term. While you’re optimising the rest of the space, investigate more comfortable ergonomic chairs or even consider sitting on an exercise ball. We can’t stress enough the importance of putting a system in place to properly separate your scrap for highest returns on your refining. Download our poster here to print and display in your workshop until it’s become second nature.

Storage ideas:

  • Wall mounted pegboards or shelves – go floor-to-ceiling if needs be
  • Put drawers or shelves under every work surface (with separating trays inside)
  • Transform cabinets or trunks into wheelie storage trolleys by adding casters.
  • Spice bottle racks that spin on a Lazy Susan type base are great for keeping handy access to small items like findings on a flat surface, especially useful if you’re running out of drawer space
  • If you’re determined to completely overhaul your tool storage and enjoy instant access to all your tools at a glance, check out Adam Savage’s high density, mobile tool organiser. He claims to be able to work so much more efficiently this way. Plus – stop losing tools and wasting money buying replacements!
  • Here’s another video of a compact jeweller’s workspace for your inspiration – although we’d definitely recommend a way less cluttered workbench!

Organise your workshop for efficiency

Best of luck with the overhaul! We hope you create a space that’s inspirational, productive and easy to maintain.



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