If you have the advantage of designing your welding shop before anything is in it – you’ll be able to design a smooth-running, functional, and efficient place. Choose the right equipment and layout and you’ll save energy costs, increase space, and provide a more ergonomic and pleasant place.
Space vs. Efficiency
Consider the space of individual booths within your welding shop. There should be ample room for comfortable work and room for supervisors and others to pass through the area. Finding the right balance between spaciousness and space-efficiency may be tricky.
If the shop is very large overall, you may have wasted walking time between stations. Too small and there will be no room to pass from work tables, to welding booths, to cutters, grinders, hydraulic presses and cooling tanks. If welders have to work in cramped quarters you may suffer occasional collisions between welders and/or equipment. Consider too, if equipment needs to be replaced, will you need to move several booths or welders to get old/faulty pieces of equipment out?
Applying ergonomic principles to welding reduces space and proximity issues while decreasing likelihood of injury. A streamlined and comfortable environment leads to logical work flow and efficiency. Many experts recommend a booth size of 7x10 feet to accommodate worker and occasional visitor or helper.
In cramped spaces – choose your equipment very carefully. A tight floor plan means equipment with a smaller footprint may be well warranted. An inverter, for example, takes up 20% less space than a rectifier type unit.
Your Shop on Paper
An architect can provide you with an initial drawing for the shop layout. Use a copy of the cut-to-scale drawings to sketch in people. Mentally walk through activities and imagine people in the space and how they will use it. Doing so will help you design a space optimized for productivity and efficiency.
Once the primary welders and equipment are drawn in, consider the additional tools needed to perform each task. Add space for storage of supplies and personal protective equipment. Take note of walking distance to these places in relation to the frequency of which they will need to be visited. It may seem insignificant, but if you have to make trips from one end of the shop to the other, multiple times in an eight hour day, those trips add up!
And don’t forget cutting stations and other work areas. Grinders that have their own booth will reduce noise and mess. Weigh the cost of equipment in relation to how it will be used, if it will save time, travel, and/or space. Don’t forget to consider storage of welding gases, fume extraction, and cleaning.
You’ll likely need to consult with an electrician to discuss service to the shop. Multiple power sources should be written into the plan. Electricity is one of the largest expenses in a welding shop. Select a power option in terms of volts and amps that will support the number of welders, cutting machines, grinders, and presses that will be used. Prices and efficiencies should be weighted. The exterior wall is prime real estate for electrical service, so keep that in mind when laying out booths and equipment. Make sure the architect is aware of this, and the room needed for the main power box and individual circuit breakers.
Do you have the option of a main gas manifold system? This would allow drops to each welding station and cutting location. Consider which gases will be used where. You’ll want to consider acetylene, oxygen, argon, CO2, water, compressed air. Lines need to be adequately spaced and room needs to be allowed for servicing flow meters and regulators.
Fume extraction should take place from each individual booth. A flexible hood will allow positioning directly over the work to remove fumes. Heavier-than-air gasses like argon and CO2 should be collected close to the floor. A third level of extraction would be near the ceiling to remove the higher fumes. Vaporized metal fumes would be extracted from downdraft tables at the plasma arc cutting machines.
Take the time to design your welding shop before anything is in it – you’ll be able to design a smooth-running, functional, and efficient place. If your shop is already running, consider which steps you can implement to improve the current layout. When you need to replace equipment, choose the right equipment. Wise choices in equipment and layout result in reduced energy costs, increased space, and provide a more ergonomic and pleasant place.
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