Engine of More: The Road Map
Moving away only a little from the previous work on 5S, I want to mentioned an idea I’ve been half-baking and formulating around how to manage the flow of tools into a space. Why do you need to manage the flow of tools into a space? Aren’t ALL TOOLS GOOD? Yes and no. I’ve noticed a tendency within hackerspaces to, sort of hoard. A hackerspace, subjectively, is a place to use working tools, not to hoard broken ones. To a degree, this is mission dependent. I think mending, refurbishing and redistributing broken tools could be a fine mission for a hackerspace to have. But is it the mission of your space? Let’s assume it is not.
What I’ve seen often, is one member, often a useful and respected member, really likes restoring, collecting and finding older tools. This is especially good when you really want something like a big old green Startrite bandsaw and the one you can afford needs work. I’ll not go into detail on this idea, but if this is part of the way your hackerspace receives tools, then consider setting aside a special area and assets for this sort of work. Seems like a luxury, but having a spare, finite asset for the storage and restoration of future tools could create a ratchet to ensure that “new to us” but not yet working tools don’t constantly appear and start cluttering and confusing the workspace. I’ll put it another way, as I’m not going to dwell on this. Having people restoring tools in your space is good, don’t let them take the space over as a sort of elephants’ grave yard. Common arguments are “they don’t make ‘em like this any more!”, and it’s true some of the older tooling is amazing and if you have the talent and space at your hackerspace to allow it, consider having a tool-team with it’s own dedicated storage and workspace.
On the other hand, if you are getting started, then you can play sandbox! Get all of your members together, if you have any, and write down and then rank the tools you’d like to have. You can start this pretty high level by breaking it into categories. I’ll suggest some categories here.
Desktop Rapid Prototyping
Spray painting, airbrushing and screen printing
Large Scale CNC
Motor Vehicle Bay
The above list should make some sense. Even if you feel there is some overlap or duplication or something missing, between the group (or on your own) you can at least make a list, even if the list is going to change and evolve (which is most certainly will and should). Have a think about each section, try to rank them? Are there 2 or 3 that everyone agrees is essential? Choose one of the categories and now try to list all the tools you might want for that category. I chose desktop rapid prototyping
Small Desktop laser cutter (A3 bed, 40W tube)
Dremel multitool workbench with assessors
Hot Glue Gun
Selection of hardware, nuts/bolts/washers etc
Selection of hand tools screwdrivers/saws/pliers/snips/spanners etc
Bench top pillar drill
Tap and die set
Cutting mat and scalpels etc
Electronics kit soldering/desoldering/multimeter/scope
Depending how much space you have, you will now need to make some decision, how much space within your hackerspace will you assign to each tools. You might choose to have a multi-purpose configurable area, with some of the tools put away and taken out as needed. Whatever you decide, each tool and operation takes up an amount of space.
Here’s a thought exercise, think about how to divide one room in the hackerspace up into useable units. You could make this as simple as floor space and Sq footage. If your room is 100 sq foot, say, give the room 100 units. Now assign each of the above tools a number of units. You could go further and give each a number of units when stored and another number when in use. Let take the example of the assembly benches*, if they are actually also used for the storage of projects and for the laser cutter, they are essentially useless. Try to remember this is mostly a thought exercise, but thinking in this way as a group could help everyone understand the finite nature of the space.
*flat work bench top workspaces or “tables” as they are sometimes known, usually, in 99% of the hackerspaces I’ve been into (including my own workshop at home) become wide shelving rapidly. Having clear, open and available workbench space is essential and should be one of the key focuses of anyone wanting to run a hackerspace.
If long before a new tool was purchased, it had been a-signed some units of space on a plan, then once it arrives, the understanding of where it goes and how much space it might need has been long considered. Anything new and shiny taking the eye of the membership should then be fed into the same system. If we momentarily think about 5S, then we can also make some plan that will allow the group to consider who will maintain the tool and how it might work in relation to the other items in the space.
Though this idea needs a lot of work from me, I call this idea the road map. Essentially the roadmap is an agreed, though constantly adapted, plan or schedule of the tooling and infrastructure that will go into the hackerspace. The purpose of it is to ensure order in the space and a reasonable structure for the acquisition of new tooling and work areas, or the ordered abandonment and removal of those that have proved less suitable. Imagine again for a moment, the notional idea of assigning each physical space at the hackerspace with a volume and a tally of what volume of that space is in use. This tally SHOULD include how much empty space this area should have.
Empty space in a hackerpace is very very very valuable. Not because it can be filled with cruft, which is often the thinking when I make this statement, but because it allows for flexibility and for the actual, timely construction of projects, the running of events, meeting up and reconfigurable usage. I will revisit this topic later. Ideally I’d like to make a super easy system or flow chart or something that can be applied and a low-effort process (rule of thumb) that can be quickly adapted to make doing this method so sensible that it is considered to be “the path of least resistance” in terms of hackerspace, space planning.
As ever, thoughts are welcome.
Today’s thumb is from the Re:Makery in Brixton. It shows two rooms being built for members to rent as workshop spaces (or they may have been textiles rooms, both were in progress and looked similar).