Innovative Shop Design

How to create a maintenance facility for maximum functionality and productivity

The design, layout and organization of a vehicle maintenance shop are very important. Shops ought to be set up in a way that allows for maximum functionality, safe and ergonomic working conditions and overall productivity, plus includes any environmental initiatives.

The first, and most critical, step in creating or redesigning a shop is the planning phase, says Don Leidy, principal of Maintenance Design Group, LLC. This encompasses asking probing questions and doing research.

A Denver, CO-based specialty consulting firm, Maintenance Design Group assists owners, architects, engineers and other professionals with the planning and design of transit, public works, utility, school, private and governmental operating and maintenance facilities. It is recognized as one of the leading firms in the United States in the planning and design of operations and maintenance facilities.

Understanding the shop’s current and future needs is crucial in designing the ideal maintenance facility, Leidy says. The reasons for new construction or remodeling are as varied as the individual maintenance facilities. Downsizing or increasing services, the passage of new laws and regulations, the introduction of alternative fuels and company-established green policies can all necessitate change.          

Management’s expectations and requirements for a new or remodeled facility are also key, according to Leidy. Management’s vision of the new facility will shape the final design.

“A facility in southern California will have different needs than a facility in upstate New York, so each shop ends up being highly personalized, Leidy notes. “No two facilities will work the same way.”

Those involved with the design of a shop need to do their homework, stresses Leidy, who has worked on more than 500 maintenance facility projects since1976 when he started working at RTD, the public transportation agency in Denver.

The people  on the project are some of the most important people on the design team and must be able to see the big picture, he says. They should visit other shop facilities and talk to other fleet and shop managers. They also should keep staff members and any other concerned parties informed and find out what their expectations are for the facility.

Good planning early on is essential to having a successful design project that comes in on budget. Equipment selection, shop layout, utility requirements, paints and finishes, etc., all need to be considered early on in the process, explains Leidy. “The earlier in the design process innovative and sustainable concepts  are identified, the more likely they will be accepted as an integral part of the design.”   

“After construction has begun, additions will require a change order, and change orders are expensive. A compressed air line included as an integral part of design may cost $200. During construction, the same air line could cost as much as $1,000.”



The second step in designing a new or renovated maintenance shop is building consensus, as this can make or break a project, notes Leidy. Managers should get the stakeholder group, everyone who has an interest in the project, involved in the planning and design process - whether it’s the staff, a board of supervisors, county commissioners, council members or the public. “Including everyone in the planning meetings not only educates key players about the process, but encourages buy-in or acceptance of the new facility,” he advises.

By way of example, Leidy points to the design and building of a maintenance facility in Aspen, CO, that Maintenance Design Group was involved with. “The neighborhood surrounding the project site consisted of multi-million-dollar homes, and the home owners were very concerned about the aesthetics of the project,” he recalls. “To put their concerns at ease, we invited the public to attend all design review meetings. They were included in the entire planning process.

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