Staying organized

Everybody in our metal roofing trade knows our tools should be organized and well maintained. Still, I’m guessing I’m not alone when I say I struggle in our day-to-day practice of this science, with varying degrees of success.

I was raised to believe there is a place for everything and you keep everything in its place. Between tool boxes, tool belts, trailers, trucks, various jobsites and the shop, everything seems to have more than one place it could be!

When asked to write an article on organizing the toolbox my first thought was the request was like asking Brittany Spears to write an article on tutoring your children on healthy family values.

I went down to my pick-up and took an uncensored picture of my toolbox to prove the point.

Luckily for me, the foremen I rely on every day to get our projects done efficiently take a more serious approach to this discipline.

My primary job in this company these days is sales, with only a light dose of actual work on the jobsite anymore. My crews, however, are like finely tuned machines — organization is crucial to their performance each and every day. We are metal roofing and siding contractors and our crews are set up with trailers that contain the roll forming equipment and the tools of the crew. The trailers are pulled by four-door diesel trucks that carry the steel and the whole crew, so when the truck pulls into the site, the entire operation is ready to go.

The trailer contains tools, safety equipment, fasteners, ladders, sawhorses, a site-brake, sealants, etc. And all those items have their place. They are the items used daily, so all need to be present at the jobsite every day.

If they aren’t there someone will undoubtedly be running for it. The organization of the trailers is key to running an efficient jobsite. It’s very important to maintain that organization.

Personal toolbox
There is a mini toolbox on every man’s hips that contain the tools and fasteners that see the most use. Everyone’s tool belt needs to be organized and stocked to maintain a smooth running operation. Disorder means delays and delays cost money.

When you are up on a roof it’s irritating and time-consuming to come down for a chalk line or a pair of tongs. I have noticed that as time has passed my employees have tended to adopt larger belts with more pockets for this very reason.

(I even have noticed that some of the smokers on my crew have reserved a small pocket strictly for discarded cigarette butts — that’s organization!)

Most jobs require the same tools and fasteners, so preparing the tool belts becomes routine. For the right-hander, the fasteners go in the left pocket, most-used tools on the right.

Everyone’s toolbox
The largest toolbox is the shop itself. Steel, underlayments, fasteners and clips are all inventoried here. Larger shop tools such as brakes and shears are operated there.

Cribs full of less-used specialty tools such as welders, table saws, transits, concrete saws, etc., are stored there for those occasions they are needed.

Organization is crucial for knowing what is there and where it is so that whatever is there can be used when it is needed.

Start organized
So, how do we keep it organized? The first basic rule is that everything has to have a home and that everybody using that item knows where the home is.

The next rule is everybody has to buy into the concept of putting it back where it belongs. (Riding the guy who doesn’t usually works, eventually.)

Inevitably, however, the rule of entropy has a way of overriding all of our best efforts eventually and the place winds up trashed.

The guys come back to the shop and dump everything after a 14-hour shift and don’t clean it the next morning because they are facing another long shift. The dump trailers were both gone on tear-offs so the garbage gets piled in the shop for a few days. Pretty soon the place is gross enough to make you want to puke.

That’s when the place just has to get hoed out now — and a rain day can be just what the doctor ordered to get everything put back in order. It’s a way to keep the guys working and keep things organized.

Everybody benefits from working and organization.

Getting things in order is a valuable investment that will save you countless hours of time and money by making your workshop a more enjoyable and efficient environment.
We tradesmen live in a work environment that is in constant flux with our vitally needed tools and supplies in motion all day long. Our success in business has a lot to do with our ability to keep these supplies and tools organized and available for our immediate use. Every day holds countless reminders of how inefficient life is when we don’t have what we need at our fingertips.

Order and organization is a lifelong practice interrupted by moments of unbearable chaos and, of course, the resulting new resolution to keep it clean from now on.

Dan Perkins is the owner of Dan Perkins Construction in Ishpeming, Mich.

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