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Machine Shop Aesthetics

Gabekeway

Plastic
Joined
Mar 6, 2017
I am gonna try to be concise though it's not my strong suit; I am an architectural designer (not a machinist) and my wife owns a machine shop. Her shop is almost 4 decades old, approximately 30,000sf and has about 50 employees. It is well run, well managed and reasonably clean/organized compared to the limited number of other machine shops I have seen but in my opinion it is still a bit drab.

There is no natural light in her shop (which just kills me!) and while lighting has been recently updated from fluorescent to LED it still seems a bit too dark to me. The floors are bare concrete and shows signs of wear, staining and cracking. The air is a bit cloudy IMO, though she assures me that she has it tested regularly and it is well within OSHA compliance. The building is your typical rigid frame steel construction; low slope 20ft ceilings, heavy clear span bents painted primer red with [dingy off-white] encapsulated insulation infill. The walls are the same though with corrugated steel panels from floor level to 8ft high. Machine layout is as required for her job-shop style; arranged in work 'cells' of 3 to 4 machines with central tables. Tooling organization is pretty good though in some areas a little mismatched/non-uniform as carts and shelving has been added over the decades.

Overall it's not exactly BAD but to my designer's eye it's just not GREAT. Certainly not a place that I'd want to spend 10 hours a day. As one may expect of an architecturally minded professional, I like spaces that are neat, organized, bright and uniform. I firmly believe that good architecture has a positive impact on productivity, employee morale and customers' perception. Having casually looked into this, I haven't found much insight on the internet pertaining to "machine shop design aesthetics" while I have seen a few images of incredibly clean and bright shops though no indication of exactly what they are doing to keep them that way over time and use.

I am not exactly sure what question I have either; do windows work well in machine shops? skylights? how to you keep floors, walls, lighting and machines looking new? can deep cleaning services be hired? are there newer/better ways to control air quality? how expensive is that? are there better lighting strategies to consider? high bay versus work cell lighting? does good shop design really impact employee morale? Does it even matter enough that I should propose changing anything, knowing it's all just extra cost/overhead? Any insights, examples, tips and inspirations are greatly appreciated. Thanks!
 
Having casually looked into this, I haven't found much insight on the internet pertaining to "machine shop design aesthetics" while I have seen a few images of incredibly clean and bright shops though no indication of exactly what they are doing to keep them that way over time and use.

Those pics were taken just after moving the machines into place, and before much work got done yet.

I hate painted floors, they look great until they don't, and then you wish you never did it.
(like a repainted machine)
And they are slippery all the time as well.

It's a job, not a coffee house.


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Think Snow Eh!
Ox
 
I love painted floors because they are soooo much less dusty, you will notice the difference the first time you sweep. Yes they are slippery when wet but if you have a spill get the mop and clean it up. As for windows I love them and my shop is full of them, but I also work from home so break-ins are virtually a nonissue. 20' ceilings are great unless you want to control the shop temps, which if you care at all about machining accurately is a must. Machine shop air is also a sick joke after a few hours of the machines running unless you have good ventilation. I ventilate all of my machines and any other areas that produce airborne things that I don't want to breathe through a filter, then a heat exchanger in the winter, then outside. After turning on my ventilation for 15 minutes the air in my shop is better than in my house, no smells and certainly nothing I don't want to be breathing. If you think drinking a glass of your coolant sounds undesirable then why the hell do you mind breathing the mist? If everything were purchased new now I would spend around 3k on my ventilation, if scaled up it could be less. You want a minimum of 150-200 cfm per machine that the door opens after every cycle, less for lathes that run by themselves, but 400-500 cfm is a lot nicer.

A better shop to work in will help with getting and retaining better employees, which will help with morale. A hot, or cold, dimly lit stinky shop covered in coolant residue is a pain in the ass to work at in every way possible. You can't see what you're really doing and it does affect the quality of the work done.

Anyway, we all have our opinions and those are mine.
 
Our shop is in a 100+ year old factory building. When I started it was bare concrete floors, no windows, dingy, dirty, no air conditioning, poor lighting. About 5-10 years ago they redid it completely. Put in a ton of windows and sky lights, all new lighting, AC, epoxy floors and so on. It is a way way nicer place to be now. Does it improve the bottom line? I would guess so, but it'd be awfully hard to measure.

I've noticed that shop and site aesthetics seem to vary greatly by industry. Some are happy to have everything look like an industiral wasteland, where as others (like the medical device industry) have beautiful facilities that look like expensive private colleges.
 
I've seen the difference it makes first hand. Of course everyone is different but...
In this case it was nothing major. A rearrangement of a couple machines, changed/added storage, deep clean, added lighting, designed and made new custom work tables to fit the needs of the shop. A lot less grumpiness after that. Painted floors are nice when new and can remain that way depending on what work is being done on them but when they go bad, it sucks. I would not consider it for most machine shops.
Windows make a huge difference. Everyone likes natural light!
 
My shop is located in a 1950s era building. Lots of windows, which I really like. It was recently updated with new LED lighting. To me, you can't have too much light.
Concrete floors covered in epoxy with a "grain" and it's held up well.
The thing that really sold me, besides the ample windows, was all the fans in place. Even in 90F weather, a nice breeze comes through.
 
My shop is located in a 1950s era building. Lots of windows, which I really like. It was recently updated with new LED lighting. To me, you can't have too much light.
Concrete floors covered in epoxy with a "grain" and it's held up well.
The thing that really sold me, besides the ample windows, was all the fans in place. Even in 90F weather, a nice breeze comes through.

Ceiling fans?
 
Big fan of epoxy floors.
I prefer flat over grain added with a smal exception. Grab a concrete sander and add leather to the bottom. Pour water and sand on the floor and scuff it up a bit.
Shiny is nice. But sooo slick. (Hazard IMO)
Grit is nice but stuff does not slide well on it./can trap some yuck and guck

Sanded will give a uniform full look.
If you prep correct and don’t beat the floors by dropping things it will last (quality product)
The 2 part we used at the old shop is 10 years strong and looks great.
No hesitation pushing/slide a 2000lb pallet around with the forklift. Holds up. It’s already scuffed so it won’t show or damage.

Cleans up real nice too.


Natural light. Great unless it reflects off of things.
I work at home now and need to close the garage door to see the lathe monitor in the afternoon.

Clean/organized is culture setting. Hard to measure but pays off IMO.
Attract and retain the people that appreciate it.
 
Doors, windows and skylights are great but watch out where the sun shines. We had two machines side by side, one had a row of windows up near the roofline blasting it with afternoon sun, the other machine was always in its shadow. The one getting the suntan required considerably more effort to maintain tight tolerance features on. We opted to run the special projects on the shaded machine and when we had to do critical work on the sunny side we would tape up black plastic sheeting over the windows.
Granted the machines were the size of a building (rather, they were the building) and a constructed from a combination of concrete, steel and cast iron so variable CTEs x a lot of inches = not insignificant expansion.

Fresh air and clean light certainly make a big difference in a quality-of-life way, and might impress customers, but I've also noticed that employees have a tendency to whine when they see money being thrown at "not important" things (like the air they breathe, or being able to see?) as opposed to giving them a raise.

Care to share more information on your ventilation/heat exchanger setup @DavidScott ?
 
Ask the employees before making changes. You admitted to not being a machinist, things that you think would be great may irritate the troops doing the actual work. I've seen so many downright stupid things done by management because it looks so nice. Some of those "looks so nice" things can be detrimental to the whole operation.
 
Windows are nice. Where I was setup before I had no windows at all, and no outside view unless a bay door was open. At my new setup I have windows all along the south facing (sunny side) of the shop. Natural light is nice to have all though some days I get the feeling i rather be outside then in the shop working.
 








 
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