CMU School of Drama

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Growing the business within the confines of a small shop

The Fabricator: A lot of small shops focus on growth and attempt to expand at their own pace. When they start to see significant growth, many, like ours, realize that being a “small” shop is exactly what might be holding us back. Having the skill to grow is a whole different ballgame than having the space to grow.

We currently are experiencing these growing pains at our shop and have been for quite a while. Sometimes you just have to make it work with what you have.


jcmertz said...

This was a problem I ran into working at the Scenic Route 2 years ago. The amount of work the shop had going on was greater than the available floor space. Practically, this meant that I never actually did any work in the shop but rather under a series of tents, large and small, set up in the lot around the building. While this worked for the summer, I couldn't help thinking how much more efficient the shop could be if it was set up to be used. Every morning I spent 20 minutes dragging 50' of air hose and extension cords out the garage door and to the tent I was working in, every evening I cleaned them back up. With the additional 20 minutes a day of maintenance to these lines (turns out air-lines don't like being continuously run over by a forklift) means that I was being paid an hour a day just to prepare to do my job. From a standpoint of workplace efficiently this is fairly horrible. That said, having too large of a shop can be a problem for efficiency as well. If you are all set up and about to start work, but realize you need one more tool, the 15 minute walk to and from the tool room really eats up a lot of time, especially if you have to do it many times throughout the day. This problem is compounded even more if you have multiple shop and inventory spaces in different buildings, only vaguely proximate to each other, such as at Tait. Where you have to send someone in a car back to the main building to pick up that part you forgot, and hopefully there is something else you can do in the meantime otherwise work just pauses for a bit.

Ben McCormack said...

This article leads me to ponder if production efficiency is directly related to a company's ambitious nature. I think there is an obvious conclusion involving a capitalistic market pushing the boundaries of efficiency ever closer to 100%. And to that obvious conclusion I propose a caveat- that in the chase of efficiency there is actually a loss of efficiency incurred. If a company intends to grow and takes on jobs that are larger than its capabilities then it will either struggles in the small space (lowering efficiency) or spend resources on expanding the business (which overall would be a loss in efficiency when comparing products produced with the man-hours involved). Though there would seem to be a payoff financially when the expansion into a larger space has paid for itself, it is inevitable that a company that continues to pursue more business will once again need to expand and once again experience a drastic drop in efficiency. This constant chase of new clients is not always guaranteed and leads to many shops having to close up. This is absolutely evident within the realm of the commercial theatre scene shop. It's is very uncommon to see shops last longer than fifteen to twenty years, though there always seems to be movement in regards to new shops opening up and other shops expanding. And if the overall number of shops at any given time is increasing over time then that shows signs of a healthy business market. But what does that say with regards to efficiency? I'm not entirely sure myself, but I am curious if ultimate efficiency can only be reached when a shop only accepts works within its means.