Four shops discuss how to improve facility layout and workflow.
Rieger: We started in 1975, with 1500 square feet that was sublet in the back corner of a company that produced vacuum equipment for the space program. As the space program wound down and as we grew up, we took more and more space within that building-moving from 1500 to 3000 and so on up to 15,000 square feet within the same building, over the course of about 25 years.
It was an old building when we moved in, and that’s why we went there-it was cheap. But after 25 years it had become quite run down, and that was beginning to have a serious impact on us. We had power beyond anyone’s imagination-because the former company had to run vacuum chambers the size of a large room-but it was all so old that we were having equipment breakdowns just from power problems. We had water issues as well-we had very low water pressure-and mechanical systems were in constant states of disrepair just from age. You can fix it all you want, but you can never get it to work quite right when you’re in a building like that.
Couple all that with the fact that we began life as a photo lab, but we were no longer a photo lab. So what worked for us previously-small cubbyhole rooms and small passageways, etc.-had become completely unworkable.
We carefully looked at the options. Do we gut the place and rebuild it? But that has its own massive problems of dust and debris, and temporary workflows, etc. We came to the conclusion that rebuilding something from the ground up would distract us too much. So what we did was build a brand new building, fitting it out exactly as we thought the right design would be for an industry like ours in total flux-meaning almost completely open space.