November 18, 2020 5 min read

 Shop Optimization

SMW Huge Shop Build Out

Like most small business owners John Saunders is always looking for ways to increase efficiency in his shop. He began researching workstations specifically packaging tables. He found one that he liked, but it didn't fit their process exactly.  There's no reason to spend the time and money on a table if it doesn't meet the requirements. John decided to go the custom route and invited us up to Ohio to help him and his team with 5 different custom workstations. Read about the builds below.


Materials And Build Preparation

Red EMT Conduit


John found red conduit at his local electrical supply house which looked really cool and matched his branding. He ordered 150 sticks of it and had it delivered prior to our arrival. Along with the connectors we brought accessories like casters and end caps for the builds. For the table tops we used a heavy duty plastic material that John had left over from another project. They were rugged and looked great with the red conduit. Since we were on a time crunch we brought along this handheld band saw that is made for cutting metal pipes. It was super useful and saved a lot of time when building. The last thing we needed for the builds were our Mini connectors. We used them to model each build before actually building which allowed us to show the team what the finished builds were going to look like.They also gave us a plan and reference for building. After we unloaded the van we started working on the first two tables.


Custom Assembly Tables

Custom DIY Assembly Tables For Mod Vises


Two of Saunders most popular products are the steel and aluminum mod vises. They wanted a designated assembly table for each mod vise type. Each Mod vise type consists of four different pieces that are machined separately.The four parts are assembled with the necessary hardware and then put into pre shipment boxes for protection. This process was done at a large table and each piece was being pulled from different shelves in different locations in the shop.

Our first two builds were tables that had all the features needed to optimize the mod vise assembly process. These features included

  • narrow tops to keep the table footprint small
  • casters so the tables could be moved around
  • easy to reach bin storage for efficient assembly
  • packaging material storage underneath
  • holders for paper towels, anti seize, and the assembly tool

Other than one being wider than the other, these two tables had the same design and features. We showed the two assembly tables to the team and got their approval. They were happy with them so we moved on to the next build.


Fixture Plate Material Cart

Custom Material Cart For Fixture Plates


The next build was really unique to their process. Another popular product they offer are big fixture plates that go inside of CNC machines. Mod vises and other parts attach to the fixture plate and hold the materials being machined. These fixture plates are machined then brought over to a packing cart (we built the packing cart next). When they leave the machine they are still wet with coolant from the CNC and need a place to dry before being packed. It is important that the plates are protected from scratches and other damage while they are waiting to be boxed up. John wanted a drying cart that would allow the plates to be moved from the CNC to the packing area safely.


PVC Protection Over Conduit


We talked with one of the machinists who gave us some important features that would make the process even more efficient. We came up with a cart design that holds five fixture plates in total. One would rest flat on top to dry and then be moved to one of the four vertical slots for storage until they were ready to be packed. To protect the fixture plates while they were on the cart we used 1/2" PVC over top of the conduit and connectors. This allowed the cart to be sturdy and rigid to support the weight while still protecting the plates. Casters can support 150 pound each so we used nine in total for this cart. We kept the footprint of the cart small which also helps with the strength of the build. After this cart was finished we moved on to the next build.


Fixture Plate Packaging Cart

DIY Materia Cart


After the fixture plates dry they are ready to be packed. The fixture plates are wrapped with plastic then packaged into a pre shipment box. Each box is made up of an outer box and 2 inserts. The cardboard for these boxes take up alot of space and were being stored away from the packaging area which means they were having to walk away from the packaging area to get the packaging material.

The design for the packing cart was really simple, but made the packaging process a lot more efficient. One side was made for the box storage. There was a compartment for piece that made up the box. The pipes that the box pieces rested on were elevated off the ground about a foot to keep the box from hitting the floor.


Fixture Plate Packaging Stand


The other end of the cart had a stand for holding the fixture plate during packaging. We left the middle of the stand open so the plastic could easily be wrapped around the plates without any obstructions. We put 6 casters on the cart so it could be moved around.


Custom Packaging Table

DIY Packaging Table


The final project we worked on was the huge packaging table. We talked with John and figured out the important features that needed to be built into the table. This included

  • a large workspace for packing things like the fixture plates
  • box storage for all the different types of boxes
  • a shelf to hold a label dispenser and other accessories
  • holders for paper, shrink wrap, bubble wrap, and sticker rolls
  • a shelf for tools and miscellaneous items

To make sure we had a good plan for the build we made a model with Minis and showed it to John. After he approved we started building the table.


Box Storage


The base of the packaging table has box storage for large shipping boxes on the right and smaller boxes on the left. Right above the box storage we added a shelf that extends all the way to the back of the table. On the left side of this shelf we put the label dispenser and spray bottles. Above the shelf is the main packaging work space. We cut the workspace shorter than the shelf so the dispenser would poke out of the top and make it easy to use.


Label Dispenser Shelf


The top section has support pipes connected in the back and  front pipes that rest on the workspace. We left a few inch gap between the upper section and work area so large packages can be slid underneath when needed. We added a pipe from side to side that holds the paper, and then used shorter pipes to mount the stickers and bubble wrap. Above the packing materials we added more box storage. The whole table was put on 8 casters for mobility.


Custom Packing Table With Storage



We had a ton of fun with the builds and really appreciated the opportunity. John and his team loved the finished builds which made us even more happy. If you are also on the quest for shop optimization we would love to help. Feel free to reach out and ask questions about using Maker Pipe to maximize your process and make it more efficient. Be sure to check out the video we did about the trip below. Thanks for reading and happy building!