There comes the time when it makes sense to modernize a maintenance facility and make improvements in safety, productivity and the environment. Shop equipment wears out, the equipment needs to change and new, improved equipment is constantly coming to market. Vehicle mix changes, and that results in adjustments to vehicle service and repair requirements. Not having enough space for all shop activities can severely impact productivity.
A shop update is the ideal time to consider all of the things that will increase both shop and technician productivity. This includes designing proper space allocation of tools, supplies, equipment, fluids, monitors and support services.
A maintenance facility requires order and discipline, says John Dolce, fleet specialist for Wendel, a nationally recognized architectural and engineering firm well known for its Transit Oriented Development initiatives, bus maintenance and multimodal facility designs. Almost every act needs to be sequenced for efficiency and to maximize productivity.
With good planning, a shop can also be “greened” by embracing environmentally-friendly architecture and reducing energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, he adds.
Because of funding limitations and priorities, organizations tend to make do with their mature facility by adapting staff and space to meet the immediate needs, but that can come at the cost of productivity and energy loss, Dolce says. With stimulus money now available for emissions reductions and a heightened focus on environmental stewardship, organizations should begin to look for opportunities to fund, build, expand or upgrade their facilities.
The first step is to decide whether to expand a present shop, reduce its size, relocate to another facility or build a new shop. Architect and engineering firms are experienced to efficiently and cost-effectively assist with these efforts, says Dolce.
Among the chief considerations are space and technician requirements. Not having enough space or technicians can be just as bad as having too much space and too many technicians because these are capital expenses, he points out.
Energy use is another key consideration in greening a shop, says Dolce. One way to reduce energy consumption is to, as shop equipment wears out, replace it with newer, more energy-efficient units that use less energy. This will result in a savings on utilities and fuels and will reduce carbon dioxide emissions which benefits the environment.
By shop equipment, he means not just tools and machinery like lifts, cranes, washers, lathes, steamers, a generator, welding equipment, parts cleaners and electronic test equipment. There is also facility management equipment and systems, such as heating, ventilating and air conditioning equipment, fans, ventilators, pumps, transformers and lighting.
An effective energy management plan begins with data collection and analysis, after which energy savings measures can be put in place, then monitored and controlled.
Dolce advises shops to perform an energy audit. Basically, an energy audit is an assessment of a company’s energy use throughout its operations. The audit will identify opportunities for energy savings, energy efficiency improvements and possible alternative energy sources.
An energy audit shows a shop how to reduce carbon emissions by reducing its electrical draw, he says. This in turn will reduce utility generation, and that reduces fossil and gas usage. Changes can be as simple as replacing light bulbs with more efficient ones or as complex as replacing electrical needs with solar or wind technology by rehabbing present facilities with cost-saving technologies.
“It is a complex process but not overwhelming,” says Dolce.
Immediate energy savings can be achieved by simple practices. For example, moderating summer and winter thermostat settings can make a real difference. Heating, ventilating and air conditioning are usually a building’s biggest energy costs.