Bricolage is a podcast for makers, made in the united kingdom by dominic morow with new episodes more or less every week!

Hackerspace Architect: Planogram

Hackerspace Architect: Planogram

Retail is dead. More of less. But when retail was king, a science was developed to ensure maximum usage of space for maximum sales. Even today, in super markets and other profitable bricks and mortar sales venues, such planning can garner not only the attention of the shopper, but money from the seller for good positioning.

Something you’ll notice about nearly any profitable shop is that they don’t use ALL the space available to them. Even though sometimes the stores are double height, they don’t stack them floor to ceiling with products and they don’t squeeze some of the products under the shelving units either. Take a look at this modern supermarket in Sweden from the 1940s:

Inexplicably there is room to walk between the products on offer. You can even get a child and a little cart down there, heck I recon you could probably drive a forklift truck down that aisle after closing. This counter intuitive idea of not filling 100% of the available space with the STUFF that might be needed in the space is a science that is well understood in retail. It was found that the shoppers could much better find the items they were looking for if they could literally see them, see they were good and reach them with their hands. Incredibly it has been found that not being able to find or see the things we’d like to buy, puts us off buying them. In fact it has been found that a cluttered environment, difficult to navigate and hard for the eyes and brain to quickly register where things are, can actually be unpleasant and actively put people off using a space, I mean shop.

In the glory days of retail and even today, for large companies, this layout or merchandising is ruled by a planogram. They look something like this.

In smaller boutique type stores with fewer employees and no chain of shops, the work of setting out is usually done “in house” and is much more organic and not always conducive to finding items. The bric-a-brac style of an Antiques shed can be appealing for encouraging a feeling of discovery in a customer, it’s a form of treasure hunting of course, but it’s not optimal for productivity and can occasionally cause landslides of stuff, breakages lead to loss of earnings and possibly injury.

Am I saying you should lay out a hackerspace like a shop? No, I am not saying that. I am saying and I’m not sure I repeat this enough, that when the resources are shared. When those resources are common and used by everyone, then we must think of those resources differently to how we alone might organise something. Having a plan and being able to revise that plan and lead through a plan creates a base for thinking about how to organise your hackerspace to benefit those who use it. It can help determine the best fit of tooling and the balance between workshop space, storage and clear work space. It can help you decide if to keep a tool or if to dispose of it. It can help you determine which tools to accept into the space, to save up for and which ones you might not be interested in.

How might you set up a planogram that works for your hackerspace? Consider creating a floor plan, top down of your hackerspace. Divide the plan into Sq meters*. You can then make a list of all the activities you wish to have in your space, such as electronics, woodwork, bicycle repair, storage, assembly workbench, desks to work out, kitchen with kettle and so on. These items could go into a spreadsheet if you like. They can form headings. Under each of these headings you can then list all the items associated with that. You don’t need to go crazy into detail. Starting out with a high-level finger in the wind is good enough.

*Bonus idea, you should be able to put a daily per month cost on your Sq meters from your rent combined with your costs such as power, heating, insurance and so on.

A spreadsheet to help organise the stuff in your hackerspace.

A spreadsheet to help organise the stuff in your hackerspace.

In the example above I’ve assigned 2 values to each item. In this case the items are tools, but the items could as easily be activities such as a lecture or class, a social meet-up, making tea, open night or even storage of a project.

I’ve called the effective space the activity or object takes up, the absolute unit. So in the case of the table saw, I’ve put 2mSq. You might be pedantically thinking that a table saw isn’t 2mSq and you’d be right sometimes. However I’m suggesting that for capital items, really important use all the time items like the table saw (as an example) you should round up to whole units. This is after-all a rule of thumb, and a rule designed to help a space not fill itself unhelpfully and dangerously full of stuff. This is a rule for the management of common resources and not how to jenga-tetris everything into a tiny matchbox to maximise hoarding and the acquisition and sanctuary of cruft.

As you can see above, objects and activities have an absolute unit, they also have a shared unit, that is the amount of space they effectively take up in the shared space. The shared space is the amount of space this item or activity needs within a workspace to ensure it can be used effectively and safely. In practical terms you might decide that the table saw, for instance, is such an important resource that it needs the full working space around it at all times and that the number of units it takes up includes clear working space. After all a table saw 1mSq would be pretty useful in a 1.5mSq room, you’d not get any sheets onto it for ripping down.

I’ve chosen a table saw as an activity/tool example because, hopefully almost anyone can understand that a table saw takes up a lot more space than the physical object. Likewise, every object, every one of them takes up more space than its physical self. They are like the opposite of a TARDIS they take up more space on the OUTSIDE than they appear to. For practical purposes it might be decided that, say, orbital sanders or which there might be a great number, practically count as having the same shared units. Or that a workbench in the woodworking area is in itself an activity and object that has its own absolute unit and shared units, which it can lend, to say, the orbital sanders, hammers and so on it the space.

This all might seem very complicated, but you’ve not seen anything yet, let me get onto levels. When I say levels, I’m starting to think about height. Yes that’s right, if you were thinking, oh I’ll just stack everything one on top of the other? Sometimes this makes sense. A shelving unit, for instance is a good way to maximise the Sq meter usage, upwards. A good storage cupboard or shelving unit can increase the space you can allot to an area. Some items are very suitable for storage in this way. We should think of these items, something like the way different cards do different things to the game in Magic- the gathering or how when you get to the edge of the draughts board you can stack your draughts up to make them more powerful. A slightly less powerful booster is a flat work surface. This has the benefit, occasionally of allowing you clear space, above floor level, whilst maintaining the number of units beneath. But beware! Storing stuff under stuff is not encouraged here.

Find ways to ensure your flat surfaces are NEVER used for storage. Workbench space is sacred and should ALWAYS be clear. Portable tooling should be stored on shelves, in boxes in cupboards, in cubbies, on the wall, under workbenches or on little bungees hanging from the ceiling, but never ever on a workbench.

How to keep a workbench clear? Methodology can include painting the tops of the workbenches or at least the edges in a distinct colour, let us say lime green. Items left on a green surface go in the trash. All workbenches are cleared at empty every day. No excuses. A clear rule. This might sound overly harsh, maybe it is. The behaviour that you are seeking to encourage is that NO ONE can own the workbench. It is a shared resource you are temporarily borrowing that resource from the common shared resources. Let’s put it another way. If you have 1 member and 1 bench, then this member can more or less own that bench. It matters little how long they leave stuff on the bench. If we have 2 members and 2 benches, it’s the same thing. The moment we have 3 members and 2 benches, a system needs to come into play. Oh sure, member number 3 never uses the bench, or sure you’ll move your stuff when member number 3 makes it clear they want to use the bench. You might not think it, but you’ve created confrontation, sure only a little one, but instantly a real power dynamic is created. If you occupy a bench and someone else has to ask you or wait till you decide you’ve done, you’ve created a tiny conflict and empowerment and entitlement politics are there, if you like it or not. Sure, it’s only a tiny trace of it and sure you’re all grown up and you can deal with it, however, be under no illusion. This is the start of managing the common resources.

I haven’t made a pretend planogram yet.

Today’s thumbnail is lots of tape measures.

Hackerspace Architect: Road Map

Hackerspace Architect: Road Map

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Hackerspace Architect: Why Are We Here?