How To – Tips On Working Clean Working Smart In Your Shop

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    The old adage is true … walk into any shop and look for the guy for the most stuff all over him and you know you found the new guy.

    The fact is this is not only true for your local body shop but for any business.  You can go into any business and pickout the new guy by seeing who is running around but getting only the same amount of work done or less.

    Working clean in your shop makes the work go quicker. It saves you time while you work because you are not tripping over every thing and at the end of the day cleanup is minimal.

    One of the first things I recommend is that you find yourself a nice cardboard box.

    A 1×1 or 2×2 sturdy square box can really be your friend. While working on your project instead of running back and forth to the trash just drop parts in the box that you keep near you.

    And here’s the clue… If you are working on something and you lose a bolt or need to get a nut or clip out of the old part you won’t find yourself dumpster diving or head into a 50 gallon can sifting through nasty oily crap just to find one little screw.

    Now this is completely different then doing something like putting your lug nuts in your hubcap while you change the tire because you know you are going to reuse them. If you are removing and reusing parts you should have a better system then your magic cardboard box.

    Another tip is to place old parts in the boxes that the new parts came in. Now you can’t always do this and you probably won’t want to for larger items but it does make hunting down stuff that much faster.

    When I work on my own car and not someone else’s if I am removing a part that I know works but just needs to be replaced I keep the parts in the boxes for about a week until I know the new parts are going to be ok.

    Popping the old rotor and cap back in the new box or keeping your windshield wipers for a few days until the parts wear in is really not the worst idea. If something happens you have them to use right away … until you can get to the store for new parts.

    Clean While You Work
    If you are cutting a lot of lumber and making a lot of sawdust keep a broom near to push it away from your work area. Pickup small scrap and get it out from under your feet. You don’t want to be thinking about slipping when operating your saw and it tends to not only slow you down but tick you off as the day goes on.

    If you are working with paint, or cement or drywall compound … anything that is going to dry on your tools .. then keep a bucket of water so you can toss your trawl or brush in while you work on something else.  You can also throw brushes and rollers in a plastic supermarket bag while you go on break or eat.

    Its no fun taking time to clean a dried out brush in the middle of painting a room or picking up a trawl and having a little speck cause a scratch along your compound.

    Get the Right Attitude

    Never get in that idea that you can push it off to the end or let someone else take care of it because its below you…

    Often when you work you need a few seconds to think … use that time to clean up and organize your tools.

    Professional Shops
    If you work in a professional shop where you use your tools all day long on many different projects you should get useto cleaning them and putting them back in your box as you work.

    Most boxes will have an area on top or the side where you can put tools you know you will be using during your current job. Its good to keep a shop towel there so you can wipe down your screw drivers and wrenches as you use them. This way you aren’t grabbing for something thats going to slip out of your hands.

    Keep Your Hands Clean
    And while we are talking about hands and keeping your tools clean its not a bad idea to keep your hands clean by wearing gloves once in a while.

    You can pickup a box of rubber or plastic gloves that fit your jobs. Some gloves provide general protection while others are better for use around solvents.

    When you keep your hands clean then you can get in a customers car and move it or wait on people in your office without getting oil all over your paperwork.

    Its also good because many of the products we use all day can cause cancer. Even general motor oil can and if you expect to do this as a career its a good idea to learn that rubber gloves, dust masks and other health safety devices don’t show you are weak … they keep you alive to see your grand children.

    Final Note
    Work with your brain… keeping a clean shop doesn’t mean you are playing the roll of the Anal Retentive Cook Phil Hartman useto do on SNL …

    It means that you take pride in your work and the tools YOU HAD TO PAY FOR and it also makes your job easier.

    If you happen to go to a good shop whether its an Auto Body, General Car Repair, Plumbing or Electrical or wood working … take notice of the old guys.. Pickup on their style of work and you will notice they follow the methods I just told you about.

    The fact is they will do it in rhythm with their work and you probably won’t even notice.

    But one thing you will notice is when a car is on the lift .. there isn’t a pile of tools and old parts and crap under the car while they work.

    Then you will understand why the 20 yo kid is begging for breaks after breaking his neck all day and the old guy just keeps going like nothing new ever happens.

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