Determining optimal shop size for CNC fabrication equipment is a complicated issue that requires careful thought. While it is easy to measure equipment, shop size is more about production goals than it is about machinery footprints. Depending on your business, your contacts and your cash flow, the size of shop that works best will differ.
Managing Shop Space the Smart Way
Plan for Potential: For new companies it can be quite tempting to secure the smallest shop possible (3,000-5,000 ft2) as a means of saving money on rent. While 3D CNC fabrications systems like FROG3D® do have a fairly compact footprint and easily fit within a shop of this size, their production capabilities might not. That is to say, you will very quickly run out of the floor space needed to work on multiple large projects at the same time. Small shops mean small potentials. Not only does the lack of floor space severely limit the amount of business that you can take in, it also can necessitate a move to larger shop much earlier than you might have foreseen. Moving shop is a major expense and can be crippling to a new business. Therefore, while it might seem that choosing a small shop is a smart choice financially, in actual fact a small shop is rarely the best choice because if your business is a success you will quickly outgrow your space.
Ensure Room to Grow: A better bet for new companies is to look for a shop somewhere in the range of 8,000-10,000 ft2. While this will be more rent during the initial start-up phase, it avoids the costly problem of moving or using multiple shop spaces that almost always crops up if starting out in a very small shop space. While you most likely will begin with unused space, the majority of companies find that business picks up quickly and that having the extra space to start allows for both accelerated production growth and a longer period of predictable shop expenses.
Therefore, looking ahead is a key factor when it comes to determining the best size of shop in which to start out. Consider your production goals over a number of years and aim for a shop size that can easily accommodate those future goals, rather than the immediate reality. While a larger shop comes with higher initial expenses, in the long term this is a minimal risk when compared to the dangers of lost revenues, slower growth and expensive moves that occur when a shop is simply too small.
An alternative to committing to a larger shop space from the start is to look for a shop that has expansion potential. This might be in the form of an adjoining space that can be made available to you or the ability to enlarge the existing shop.
Minimize Shop Moves: Working between two shops should be an option of last resort. Not only does it bring a dramatic increase in the management requirements it also substantially increases transport costs as well as the likelihood of damage for projects being moved between the shops. This is not to say that you will not at some point move shops. Most successful companies will outgrow their initial shop space eventually. The goal is to minimize the number of moves- to one- and to have the luxury of planning the move on your terms.