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Garage Addition: Top Features

If you want to get the most investment value from a garage addition, build in quality details, but don’t go overboard on creating a showcase car barn. The “Cost vs. Value Report” from “Remodeling” magazine has found that homeowners who sell stand to recover a higher percentage of their costs if they build a relatively basic garage, rather than one tricked out with finished walls, a decorative floor coating, and designer storage solutions.

The national average cost to build a midrange 26-foot-by-26-foot freestanding garage addition is about $52,382, of which you can expect to recoup about 65% at resale. With upscale finishes, the average cost jumps to $85,592 and the payback drops to 54.7%. But with a little planning, you can maximize the use and benefit you’ll get from a basic garage addition without adding too much to the price tag. Here are the top features to incorporate.

Layout and design

Roof: Most garage roofs are held up by standard trusses. They’re economical — about $88 each in a length that spans a two-car garage — but their design blocks the storage space you’d otherwise have in the attic. For just $25 more per truss, a total upgrade of about $350, you can switch to storage trusses, which are open in the middle. Or, for an upgrade of about $1,000, you can get attic trusses, which allow for a boxed-in upstairs that’s easy to outfit with shelves or even use as a bonus room.

Doors: Some garage plans provide for only the main car door and, in attached garages, a door into the house. You’ll be happier if you put in a standard door to your yard as well, so you can retrieve a rake without opening the overhead door. A basic pre-hung steel door costs around $140; add $40 for one with a window.

Windows: Try to include windows, which make the exterior more appealing and bring in natural light. That’s something you’ll appreciate, especially if you’re planning to use part of the garage as a workshop. Generously sized vinyl windows with insulated glass start at around $120.

Floor space: If you have room, build the garage wide enough to allow 4 or 5 feet of space between the car and the walls, which gives you clearance to open the doors plus plenty of easily accessed storage. Adding 2 feet to the width significantly increases usable space but may not add dramatically to the cost.

Storage solutions

The main feature that turns a midrange garage into a upscale version is the addition of a modular storage system, with upper and lower cabinets and a work surface. According to the Cost vs. Value Report, while such systems add substantially to the bottom line, they don’t necessarily boost return.

If you want to keep costs more in line with value, you can achieve the practical advantages of the upscale garage at a lower cost by providing simple storage solutions, such as shelves that rest on brackets screwed to studs. Or, if you build your garage with walls 12 or 13 feet high, you can use a few two-by-fours and sheets of 3/4-inch plywood to build a platform about 6 feet high over part of your parking area to store sports gear, holiday decorations, and other bulky things.

Workspace

If you want a small home workshop on the back wall, a simple 2-foot-deep countertop (standard kitchen depth) makes a good workbench, especially if you add a vise. For storage, recycle used kitchen cabinets, found through online listings or stores that sell used building materials. Or you can simply use the under-counter space to roll in boxes or bins on casters. You can also mount heavy tools on rollout stands.

Power and lighting

You’ll need to run electricity to your new garage. If the garage is detached, that probably means adding a 100-amp breaker on the house’s main panel, a trench to carry conduit to the garage, and a new sub-panel there. You’ll need circuits for outlets, interior and exterior lights, and an automatic door opener. You might want motion or daylight sensors for outside lights and a three-way switch for overhead fixtures so you can turn them on and off at different doors.

For general lighting, use energy-efficient fluorescent tubes; fixtures with 4-foot bulbs and plastic covers cost about $55 each. You need at least one over each car bay. For bright light throughout a two-car garage, use nine fixtures spaced evenly in three rows.

Walls and floors

To meet fire code with an attached garage, you’ll need to install 5/8-inch-thick drywall on the wall shared with the house, and a fire-rated door. Installing drywall in the rest of the garage is optional. Finished walls and floors are part of what elevates a midrange project to an upscale one, but they don’t cost as much as some of the other upgrades, such as a modular storage system.

Figure about $1.20/sq. ft. to install drywall, including taping and finishing; double that if you also want the walls primed and painted. If you want a finished look on the concrete floor, options include an epoxy coating (about $150 per car bay if you do the job yourself) or garage floor tiles. Those made of a rubber-polypropylene mix, such as Diamondtrax (about $4 per square foot), ease strain on your legs and feet, while tiles with small perforations, like the ones made by Tylon (about $2.50 per square foot), allow mud and water to drain through.

5 Tips to Design Workshop

Both guides include advice on what materials may work well in your workshop, how to push your students to see the bigger picture and how you can best adapt your workshop to fit the time you have to spare.

Based on the information in the guides, I’ve chosen my five ‘top tips’ that will help to inform the quality of your teaching when leading a design workshop, whether you teach primary or secondary:

1. Establish the context

This is crucial to the success of a design workshop as it is all about framing the background for your pupils, so that they can fully engage in and understand what you are aiming to do. Ideally, this means putting your pupils into groups and taking them on a field trip, so that they can identify design problems others may experience.

You should also take the opportunity to explain to them that during the workshop they will be learning a range of design skills, including user research, creating user personas and brainstorming.

If it’s not possible to leave the school, encourage your pupils to seek out design-related problems in the classroom or wider school environment.

2. Make clear that empathy is crucial to a good designer

Get your pupils to imagine what it may be like to be someone else experiencing a design problem.

To help your students understand the point of view of the people who are experiencing a problem, get them to talk to these people and find out what affects their point of view. Then have them create user personas, even if these are very simple, so that they can start getting a feel for how designers think.

3. Brainstorm together – it’s key to the process

Brainstorming is an important part of design as it can lead to unexpected outcomes and changes in thinking which can then impact on what is ultimately designed.

Keeping user experience in mind, get your students to work in their groups and brainstorm solutions to the problems they saw people encounter during the initial exploration process.

4. Get your students to refine their ideas through modelling

Get your pupils to create 2D or 3D models – this will be a useful way for them to try out and visualise their ideas. The models will act as a prompt to help them consider and examine how their design meets user needs.

Make sure you provide lots of different materials to enable the students to create their models. They will be able to see the creative potential in even frivolous seeming objects.

5. Highlight the importance of iterations and improvements

Having had the opportunity to step back and appraise their final designs, the students now need an opportunity to make improvements.

As they make their final improvements, ask each group to write down their thought process and communicate this to the rest of the class in a two minute presentation that will help them all give feedback to each other.

The class can then vote to decide which final product is the most user focused and the best response.

Auto Repair Safety

The following tips are provided to help you avoid the dangers of auto repair so you don’t injure yourself or someone else. Most of these tips are common sense warnings, but there may be some things you are not aware of that could pose a potential danger.

First and foremost, DO NOT attempt repairs that are beyond your ability. If you feel unsure about a repair, you should seek out a competent professional to do the work for you. Better to pay someone who knows what they are doing than to attempt to fix it yourself and screw it up. Many systems on vehicles today are very complex. Repairs often require considerable skill and expertise, not to mention special tools and equipment. A simple mistake could ruin sensitive (and expensive!) electronic components. So don’t tackle jobs that are beyond your abilities.

Know your physical limits. Do NOT attempt repairs yourself if you are not physically able to do the work. Replacing certain components may require heavy lifting (changing or removing tires, pulling a cylinder head, etc.), crawling under the vehicle, laying or working in an awkward position, reaching, bending, twisting, pulling, tugging, straining, jerking and motions you may not be accustomed to making. Use common sense. If you have a bad back, joint problems or lack the physical strength to do something, then DIY auto repair is not for you. Hire someone to do it for you.

Be focused. DO NOT attempt to undertake any maintenance or repair work on your vehicle if you are tired, not feeling well, tipsy, intoxicated, on medication or otherwise impaired. Exhaustion, illness, alcoholic beverages and even some medications may affect your judgment and perception creating a potential for injury or error. Save the beer for after the job has been completed.

GENERAL AUTO REPAIR PRECAUTIONS

 

  • Do NOT smoke when working on any fuel related components (fuel filter, carburetor, fuel injectors, fuel pump, fuel tank or fuel lines). Better yet, do NOT smoke at all. It is bad for your health!

 

car on fire

  • Have a fire extinguisher nearby just in case. The fire extinguisher should have a “B” (liquids & grease fires) and “C” (electrical fires) rating.

battery exploded

  • Do NOT smoke or get any sparks near the battery. Batteries contain hydrogen gas which is very explosive. If jump starting a battery, make the final jumper connection to the engine or chassis.
  • NEVER crawl under an improperly supported vehicle. In other words, never trust a jack alone to hold the vehicle up. Always use a pair of support stands positioned underneath the vehicle to keep it from falling on you. Make sure the weight ratings on the support stands is more than adequate to hold up the vehicle’s weight, too. Do not use blocks of wood, boxes, wheels or bricks for supports because these may slip or collapse and allow the vehicle to fall. For more information on how to safely lift and support your vehicle, Click Here.

car battery . fuses

  • Always disconnect one of the battery cables or remove power fuses for a circuit when doing electrical repair work (as when replacing a starter, installing a radio, fixing a broken switch or wiring, etc.). This will prevent accidental shorts that could damage the wiring or start a fire. This is also a very important precaution to heed when working under the dash of any vehicle equipped with an air bag. Crossing the wrong wires might set off the air bag (which could cause injury and is very expensive to replace).

air bag

  • Watch Out for the Air Bags!. If working on the steering column or under the instrument panel or dash, always disconnect the battery and wait at least 15 minutes before proceeding with any disassembly or wiring tests. Crossing, jumping or shorting wires in the air bag circuit could cause the air bag(s) to accidentally deploy and possibly injure you. Air Bag wiring is often color-coded YELLOW.

car wiring

  • Never disconnect or unplug any electrical connector while the engine is running or the key is in the “on” position (unless you are specifically instructed to do so as part of a diagnostic procedure in a shop manual). Unplugging connectors while current is flowing through them creates a voltage spike that can damage sensitive and xpensive electronic components.

alternator belt

  • Do not wear loose clothing, jewelry, rings, neckties, scarves or bulky gloves when working on your vehicle. If you have long hair, tie it back or cover it. These items may become entangled in pulleys or moving parts causing serious injury, dismemberment or death!
  • Watch out for moving parts such as drive belts, pulleys, fan and other moving parts when working under the hood if the engine is running. DO NOT lean over a mechanical cooling fan while revving the engine.
  • Watch outfor hot stuff. If the engine is running or the vehicle has been driven within the past half hour or so, the engine, radiator, exhaust manifolds, catalytic converter, muffler and pipes will be hot.

NEVER open the radiator cap on a hot engine. Always allow the engine to cool for at least an hour before attempting to open the cap. Even then, use extreme caution. Place a rag over the cap, then loosen it slowly to the first detent or stop. At this point any residual pressure and steam should be released. Wait until all pressure has escaped before removing the cap the rest of the way.

Avoid electrical shocks when working around the ignition system. The normal battery voltage in passenger car and light truck electrical systems is only 12 volts and will not harm you. But the ignition system bumps the primary voltage up to 25,000 to 40,000 volts which can give you a nasty shock if you touch a spark plug wire, the ignition coil or distributor cap while the engine is running. On hybrid vehicles, the hybrid battery may contain up to 300 or more volts, which can kill or injure you. Do not touch any ORANGE high voltage cables unless the hybrid battery has first been disconnected. Also, wear Class 0 rated rubber gloves that can withstand up to 1000 volts.

 

  • Wear eye protection when working under the vehicle (to keep dirt and debris from falling into your eyes), when pounding or grinding on anything (to keep metal chips out of your eyes), when jump starting the battery (to keep acid out of your eyes should the battery explode), when working on air conditioning components (to keep refrigerant out of your eyes), and/or when doing anything that might pose a risk to your sight.

 

  • Wear ear protection when using loud pneumatic tools or when hammering, pounding, grinding, sawing, drilling, etc. Prolonged exposure to high levels of noise can cause permanent hearing loss.

dust mask

  • Wear breathing protection (an OSHA-approved mask, not just a cheap fiber dust mask) when spray painting or using other chemicals that give off aromatic hydrocarbons. A dust mask is recommended when grinding, sanding or sand blasting. A dust mask will NOT provide any protection against paint or chemical fumes. DO NOT use an air hose to blow brake dust off brake components. Brake dust may contain asbestos or other fibers that can cause lung disease if inhaled. Use a liquid cleaner to remove brake dust. When using aerosol products that contain VOCs or solvents (spray paint, throttle cleaner, brake cleaner, etc.), use in a well-ventilated area, avoid breathing the fumes and wear proper breathing protection. The best place to use such products is outdoors, or in a large garage with the door open, or with a ventilation fan that exchanges the dirty inside air for fresh outside air.

 

  • Do not open any brake lines or replace any components in a vehicle equipped with an “integral” ABS system (one where the master cylinder is combined with the ABS modulator, pump and pressure accumulator) without first depressurizing the system. This can usually be done by depressing the brake pedal 24 to 40 times while the key is off.

 

  • Use caution when opening any fuel lines on a fuel injected vehicle. The pressure in some systems may be as high as 80 to 90 psi when the engine is running. So do not open any fuel line while the engine is running unless your fire insurance and life insurance are both paid up. Residual fuel pressure can remain in the lines for many hours after the engine has been shut off. To minimize fuel spray, wrap a rag around the hose or line before loosening it, or relieve pressure in the line using a procedure approved by the vehicle manufacturer (refer to a shop manual for details).WARNING: On diesel engines, the fuel pressure inside the fuel lines between the injection pump and fuel injectors is extremely high when the engine is running (500 to 5000 psi or higher depending on engine speed and type of injection system!). Never start a diesel engine with a fuel line or injector disconnected.

 

  • Minimize distractions while working on your vehicle. This includes small children, pets, friends, spouses, in-laws or others who may distract you from your work. This will go a long ways towards reducing the risk of injury and making a mistake.

 

  • Tell someone if you are going to be working on your vehicle outdoors or if you are going to be working underneath your vehicle. Hopefully, they will know how to dial 911 should the need arise

 

  • Avoid shock hazards with extension cords & electrical tools. If you are working outdoors and using power tools, make sure the extension cord you are using is rated for outdoor use, that the extension cord and tools are properly grounded (a “ground fault interrupt” outlet is recommended), and that the cord has the proper amp rating for the tools you are using. DO NOT use an adapter plug to convert a three-prong grounded plug into a two prong plug.

 

 

 

Five Tips for Milling Rough Lumber

Milling rough lumber for workshop projects saves money, and it also opens up more creative possibilities than standard, pre-dressed wood. That’s why Art Mulder designed his block set around rough lumber. Success, however, demands more than just running boards through your jointer and thickness planer. Great mill-it-yourself lumber ultimately depends on careful craftsmanship, and the five tips I’ll show you here are the things they never put in thickness-planer instruction manuals.

Cross Cut First, Joint Later
Rough lumber isn’t just coarse to the touch; it’s also twisted, cupped and bowed to varying extents. These changes in shape are just what happens to wood as it dries after sawing. And if this isn’t enough, rough lumber also shows a surprising variation in width and thickness from board to board because sawmills aren’t exactly precision instruments.

Jointing and planing is all about making boards flat, edges square and surfaces smooth. You’ll do yourself a favour by cutting project parts to rough size before milling. The shorter a board is, the less material has to be removed to make it true, all things being equal. That said, never try to joint and plane lumber shorter than 12″ for safety reasons.

Allow Enough Extra for Milling
In theory, rough lumber is sold in increments of 1⁄4″, but in practice you’ll find 1″, 11⁄2″ and 2″ thicknesses are the most widely available. Rough hardwoods are available in 11⁄4″ thicknesses, and you’ll occasionally discover 13⁄4″-thick boards. Whatever you find, make sure you choose boards with enough extra thickness to let you mill down to the final part sizes you need. Depending on how long the final parts need to be and the actual thickness of the wood you’re buying (not all 11⁄2″ wood measures a full 11⁄2″ thick), you’ll need to allow for extra thickness for milling. Long project parts made from bowed wood, for instance, could need 1⁄2″ of extra thickness or more. The short pieces needed to build Mulder’s 13⁄8″-thick blocks, on the other hand, can be made successfully from rough wood as thin as 11⁄2″ if you’re careful.

Orient Cupped Surfaces Downward
Most boards have one concave side and edge, and these will mill best if you orient these surfaces downward during the first stages of the milling process. Concave surfaces offer two contact points and a more stable stance for the lumber as it passes across the jointer and planer beds. Convex surfaces, by contrast, are especially bad on the jointer since they encourage wobbling of wood and ever-increasing levels of inaccuracy with each successive jointer pass.

Dust Collection 
Improves Results
Most benchtop thickness planers use only the spinning action of the blades to eject shavings, but this setup isn’t always enough. It’s not unusual for shavings to build up around the cutterhead during heavy cuts, leading to pockmarked wood surfaces as the drive rollers press shavings down into the surrounding wood. Thus, a vacuum system is quite valuable as part of your milling setup. By extracting shavings mechanically from the planer instead of hoping they’ll just blast out completely on their own, you’re much less likely to have shavings build up in your planer, clog and cause trouble.
A dust system also keeps your shop a whole lot cleaner.

Mill in Stages
There’s no such thing as completely stable wood because lumber is always picking up and losing moisture from the surrounding air, depending on relative humidity levels. And here in Canada, the most likely stability problem you’ll face is caused by wood that’s too wet. Outdoor storage of lumber is the most common culprit. Even covered storage areas allow wood to pick up moisture that’ll lead to boards shrinking later when the wood comes inside during the heating season. To address this common scenario, give your wood time to stabilize in stages while milling. Instead of jointing and planing down to final size immediately, joint one edge and a face of each board, let the wood sit in your shop or some other heated space for three to four days, and then complete the intermediate planing.

Leave excess wood available for final milling steps in case some cupping, warping or twisting sets in. Although these changes are quite likely to happen when working with rough lumber, they are no problem as long as you allow for them.

Skill isn’t as mysterious as it looks. It’s nothing more than understanding why crucial details are important and how to put them into practice. Rough lumber is my favourite choice because it gives access to more interesting and varied woods, it costs less and it gives you creative control over thickness dimensions. Take off the training wheels and give rough lumber a try for yourself.

14 Ways to Apply the Business Model Canvas

When Alex Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur wrote Business Model Generation in 2009 they couldn’t have imagined all the different applications users would come up with for their Business Model Canvas. In this post I’ll give you fourteen very different but very practical applications of the Business Model Canvas that we’ve observed first hand from our global community of practitioners.

Over the years we’ve observed a lot of different types of people who are using the Business Model Canvas in a lot of different types of organizations. We wrote about those learnings in a previous post where we shared our recently published research report. We shared why organizations around the world are adopting the tool and provided some general ideas for ways they are using it. We expand on those useful applications below. We focus primarily on applications we’ve observed from within large organizations but entrepreneurs and startups will find these ideas equally helpful.

14 Business Model Canvas Applications

1. Strategizing

Strategic Planning/Development – One of the primary ways we’ve seen organizations use the BMC is in their regular strategic planning and development cycles. They use it to create a blueprint of their strategy. The BMC provides a very clear foundation and direction for the conversation at hand, whether done in a corporate offsite with the executive team or done around the board room table .

Retrospective/Outlook – When used as a strategic plan users apply the BMC to describe what they’ve done the past year and what they intend to do in the year ahead. If there are changes in the business model or entirely new building blocks to be developed then they would indicate that with color coding. An interesting trend here is that the BMC is increasingly used as a modern version of the strategic plan to co-create strategy with people from around the organization to boost alignment and buy-in.

Strategic Planning per Business Unit – In larger organizations we’ve also seen the canvas being used for strategic planning per business unit, because it gives you an overview of what the different business units are doing. The BMC works as a shared language across business units and provides you with a snapshot of your organization’s business model portfolio (cf usage 4).
2. Dashboard
Dashboard – We’ve seen a couple of teams and companies start using the BMC as a dashboard. They define a set of indicators for each building block of their Business Model Canvas that they want to follow. Then they define a performance threshold for each indicator. It’s on green if they are happy with the performance per indicator, turns orange if there is something to look at, and turns red if there’s a problem. For us it was interesting to see how some users hacked the canvas to “repurpose” it in a very very innovative way in order to follow the performance of their organization.
3. Understanding Competition
Understanding Competition – Another interesting way to use the BMC is to understand competition. By sketching out the business model of each one of your competitors you gain a better understanding of their strengths, limits, constraints, and what they can or can’t do. This increased understanding of your competitive landscape will allow you to act accordingly and design a better business model.
4. Portofolio of Business Models

Portfolio of Business Models – A particularly interesting area for application of the BMC is the idea of developing a portfolio of business models, ranging from improving existing business models all the way to inventing new business models. While product and brand portfolios are relatively well mastered in large organizations, business model portfolios are an entirely new phenomenon.

A business model portfolio helps you understand and highlight with which business model you are making cash today and with which business models you’re going to make cash in the future. Beyond growth and cash generation the portfolio approach also helps you understand synergies and potential cannibalization between the different business models.

Increasingly, organizations are moving away from just managing product portfolios and brand portfolios towards business model portfolios. This is still a very young field of development, but it’s a very very promising one.

A good illustration of this business model portfolio approach is Nestlé’s use of it’s machine and pod technology. It all started with Nespresso’s innovative business model built around single portioned coffee. Today the same technology is used in its mass market coffee (Dulce Gusto by Nescafé), it’s tea business (SpecialT), and even for its baby formula (BabyNes). While they all use the same underlying technology all of these businesses have different business models with potential synergies and cannibalization.
5. Innovation
Design, test, and build new growth engines – This application is very closely related to the original intent of the BMC outlined in Business Model Generation and refined in Value Proposition Design. Here the BMC is used to prototype alternative business models and test them with the Lean Startup / Customer Development Process. We call this the search for the right business model and value proposition.
6. New Idea Template
New idea template – A lot of organizations use the BMC as a (sometimes mandatory) template to develop and/or submit new ideas. The interesting thing here is that then the ideas become comparable. This unifying lense or language allows you to compare all types of innovations ranging from process innovation and product innovation all the way to substantial business model innovation and the creation of new growth engines. Corporate incubators and accelerators in particular are huge fans of the BMC to manage the ideas of their different teams.
7. Understanding Customers

Understanding customers – An incredibly interesting and innovative use of the BMC is that of companies that use the Canvas to sketch out the business models of their customers. By better understanding their customer’s business model they can develop better value propositions and/or better explain their solutions in the context of their customer’s business.

For example, Ericsson, the telecom equipment manufacturer, uses a version of the BMC to better understand the network operators they are serving. Or, SAP, the German software giant, uses the BMC in their pre-sales process. Sales teams map out the customer’s business model in collaboration with the customer or as a preparation for sales meetings.

8. Alignment

Alignment/CxO/executive on boarding – While we always saw the BMC as an alignment tool, it was a surprise to us that leadership teams would use the BMC as an onboarding tool for CEOs or senior executives.

The first time we discovered this type of application it was more of an accident. We were running a business model workshop in a company that just hired a new CEO. He loved the approach because it gave him an immediate understanding of the entire organization in one workshop. Another organization in Asia started using the BMC systematically for every senior executive on boarding. They get every new hire to sketch out the company’s business model. In another case a CFO used the BMC to understand the business model he was getting into when he was starting a new job. He then got the entire leadership team to run an alignment workshop with the Business Model Canvas.
9. Strategy Diffusion & Co-creation
Strategy diffusion and co-creation – A very powerful way to use the BMC is in the context of strategic alignment across the organization. On the one hand it can be used for strategy diffusion or on the other hand – as I mentioned previously (cf usage 1) – for strategy co-creation to create buy-in. The canvas plays a very powerful role in strategy diffusion because it becomes the blueprint of your strategy that shows more concretely, more clearly how you’re going to implement your strategy.
10. Shared Language Across Functions
Shared language across functions – One of the biggest areas of application where we’ve seen the canvas succeed phenomenally is as a shared language across the organization. The Canvas is particularly helpful when applied across functions. People from marketing, technology, engineering, operations, finance, and so on can all work together around a BMC and have a shared language to discuss their ideas. Whether it’s new ideas on the table, new businesses on the table, or new business models that are going to be developed, the Canvas becomes the central, unifying tool to center the conversation. The Canvas doesn’t just provide a shared language to make conversations better, it also makes conversations more strategic, and in particular, it provides an outcome that can actually be implemented.
11. Alignment: Value side(Revenues) & Infrastructure side (cost)
General alignment – The BMC helps generally with alignment because on one piece of paper we have all the essentials of the blueprint of your strategy. In a previous post we shared The Business Model Theatre video and how the Canvas is made up of a front stage and a back stage. On the front stage, the Canvas very clearly delineates how you’re creating value for customers and how that allows you to generate revenues. On the backstage the Canvas describes what resources, activities, and partners you need to create this value and how that generates costs. The BMC makes it possible for everybody to have a shared understanding of what we’re trying to achieve as an organization. It makes explicit what the pieces of your business model are, what the blueprint of your strategy is, and guides everybody to work towards that end.
12. Investing
Investment decisions – Some organizations are using the BMC to make better investment decisions. Once you’ve sketched out a business model(s) and you understand the underlying business opportunity, you have a better understanding of where you should allocate resources. This is true both for improving existing business models to inventing entirely new business models. Of course we recognize that it’s actually easier to generate quick revenues from existing business models and harder to generate long-term revenues from new ones, but we need to allocate resources across the entire portfolio of business models. The Canvas makes business opportunities explicit and can serve as a guide to how those resources get allocated.
13. Mergers & Acquisitions
Mergers and acquisitions – One application that we really didn’t expect would come up is the application of using the BMC in context of mergers and acquisitions. The idea here is that you would sketch out the business models of two organizations and figure out if there is a good fit. If you do this for a couple of organizations within a specific industry you’ll better understand where there are potential synergies and opportunities for integration and where more differentiating factors will cause you to run into challenges. This application can be used for large and small mergers and acquisitions as well as in settings where an organization has an internal startup and wants to acquire or merge it back into the parent company or back into an existing business unit.
14. Exit Strategies (IPO,Acquisition)

Exit strategies (IPO, acquisition) – The last application we’ll provide here is using the Canvas in the context of exit strategies. When assessing the opportunity of bringing an organization to the market you can use the Canvas to determine where you are going to allocate the money, how you will create better value propositions, how you will acquire more customers, or how to decrease your costs and increase your revenues. If you aren’t going for an IPO and you want to sell the company and get acquired you will want to understand if and how your organization fits with other organizations. In this case you would apply the Canvas in the same way as we’ve seen with Mergers & Acquisitions (cf usage 13).

The Basics You Need To Know About Fixing Heavy Duty Vehicles

When it comes to heavy duty vehicles, they should always be fixed by a professional, and when it comes to fixing them, physical strength is a necessity. The parts on a heavy duty vehicle, such as transport trucks, dump trucks, construction trucks, cone crushers and more, are a lot larger and heavier than they would be on a regular car or motor. Whether it is an electrical or mechanical component that needs fixing there are plenty of things that you can do in order to know about fixing heavy duty vehicles.

Common Heavy Duty Vehicle Repairs

Knowing what the common heavy duty vehicle repairs are, and the basics of both how to know they’re broken, and how to fix them is important. Some of the most common truck and heavy duty equipment repairs include cab swaps and wiring, body conversions, fiberglass repair and frame straightening in the case of a collision. The modernisation of equipment means that repairing, cleaning and replacing parts isn’t necessarily as simple as it used to be, but most equipment and heavy duty vehicles are now able to have an easy to service design, meaning they are easier to maintain.

RMI Provisions

For heavy duty vehicles, RMI provisions were introduced by Regulation 595/2009, in order to ensure that the maintenance and repair of the vehicles are carried out in a certain way. When it comes to heavy duty vehicles, emissions are some of the most important things for people to look out for a test when fixing heavy duty vehicles. This ensures that the vehicles reduce pollution levels in order to minimise harmful effects on human health. Heavy duty vehicles often have to travel long distances, are often running for most parts of the day (or night) and so emissions coming from the vehicles need to be contained and reduced.

Basic Repairs

When it comes to fixing heavy duty vehicles, knowing the feel, the look and the sounds that come from broken parts of a truck or crusher is important. Whether that’s the brakes, steering and suspension, exhaust, heating and cooling, wheel and tyres or alternators and power-steering, there are many basics that you should make sure to know, so you can look out for them. Knowing the basics of a truck when it is stripped right back, is especially important when it comes to trying to fix them.

Having A Dedicated Service Repair Space

Heavy duty vehicles are large, and fixing them can be dangerous, so knowing the standard health and safety procedures when it comes to repairing them is vital. Heavy duty vehicles will require lots of tools to be able to fix, so knowing which tools to have is important. If a heavy duty vehicle is coming to you to be fixed, then it is important that you have a dedicated service repair space for it.

Whether that consists of lifts, or is just an area to keep it out of the rain and not block up the street, having a dedicated space is especially important when it comes to fixing heavy duty vehicles. Updated service and maintenance is critical to keep a heavy duty vehicle running, and so knowing how and where to fix them is important.

 

Budgeting For Your Car

When you’re thinking about buying a new car, particularly if it’s your first, don’t fall into the trap of only taking into account its price. Whilst the price does indeed make up a significant proportion of the overall cost of running a car, there are a number of other expenditures that you need to take into account when planning your budget. Not all of them will break the bank, but all should be considered to avoid any nasty surprises later on down the line. It would be heart-breaking to sell your pride and joy just months after buying her!

 Fuel

 The first and arguably most obvious expenditure is the cost of the fuel you’ll be filling your car with on a weekly basis to get from A to B. Fortunately at the moment petrol is quite cheap, although this hasn’t always been the case and there is no guarantee that prices will stay low in the long term – something to think about when planning your monthly budget.

You’ll need to work out roughly how far you plan on driving every week or month, taking into account both work and leisure trips. Take this number and divide it by your car’s fuel economy (usually given in miles to the gallon) and times this number by the average price at the pumps to work out an estimate.

 Insurance

 For young drivers, insurance can be as expensive as the car itself, with prices over £100 a month not uncommon. Unfortunately this is the case until well into your 20s so get some online quotes to ensure you have a hope of being able to afford. Some insurance companies offer reduced prices if the driver agrees to have a box fitted in their car which tracks their driving patterns. If the driver is careful and avoids driving at night then the monthly premium comes down.

 Tax

 Almost every car in the UK must be taxed with HMRC unless it has been declared off the road, in which case it cannot be driven. Paying the tax is simple (you can do it online) although failure to do so will lead to expensive fines.

 The amount of tax you pay depends on which band your car falls into, which is determined by the emissions it emits. Cars that emit less than 100g/km of carbon dioxide are actually exempt from road tax, with the price rising in relation to how much C02 the car emits. The top band, band M, is over £500 a year.

 MOT, Servicing and Tyres

 In the UK the law requires drivers to have their cars checked on the third anniversary of its registration, and every year thereafter, to ensure it meets certain road safety and environmental standards. This test, the MOT, can be carried out at any high street garage and typically costs around £50.

 If the car doesn’t pass the test it’s highly likely to require repairs and potentially new parts. These are all additional expenditures on top of the initial cost of the test. For older cars it is not uncommon for an MOT and servicing to cost somewhere in the region of £100-£200 once the necessary repairs have been taken into account.

 The tyres on your car should also be replaced whenever they are damaged or the tread on them begins to near 1.6mm. Again, most good garages will offer this service, or alternatively you could find a local tyre fitting firm. A Google search for ‘mobile tyre fitting Oxfordshire‘ for example will put you in touch with one near you.

 Breakdown Cover

 Finally, whilst breakdown cover is not required by law, it is a good idea to have some form of protection should you have a breakdown or accident whilst out on the road. Breakdown firms will come out and sign you up on the side of the road if you breakdown without cover, although this is usually far more expensive than having pre-arranged annual cover.

 If you are hunting for a deal, breakdown cover is often offered by banks as part of their premium current account deals. Otherwise, expect to pay somewhere in the region of £30-£50 a year depending on the level of cover you opt for.

Budgeting & Planning for Automotive Maintenance & Vehicle Service & Repairs

Unfortunately vehicles need to be serviced and maintained regularly and this is becoming more and more expensive.
If you have a limited budget to spend on a vehicle, it is my advice to communicate with a service provider who can advise what needs to be done on the vehicle and prioritize the work.
It will cost less if more than one thing is being done on the vehicle in one day if you consider the following:
· Every time the vehicle is in a workshop you will have a problem with transport.
· You could benefit from a discount if you have a larger bill.
· You would normally pay less labour if you were to have brake pads fitted while the vehicle is being serviced.
· A dyna tune for instance is cheaper if it is done in conjunction with a major service.
If there was something which you thought may need attention before the next big service.
Pop into your Service Shop and ask if it would be safe to wait, if not, make an arrangement to repair it sooner.
It would normally be possible to have work done by your Service provider even if they contract the work out.
It would be easier to control and check if it is done that way.
You should work out roughly how many kilometers you will travel in one year and budget for a service every 10000km`s, e.g. If you travel 30000km`s per year your car would need to have ± 3 services.  You can then contact your preferred workshop for the cost of a service and calculate roughly what you would need to set aside each month for your vehicle maintenance.

Auto Repair Shop Business Plan

F & R Auto (F & R) is the desire of John Ford and Michael Ronald who together have 30 years experience as auto mechanics. Both have a dream of starting up their own company and offering better service to their clients than competitors.
1.1 Objectives

The objectives over the next three years for F & R Auto Repair are the following:

  • Sales revenues increase steadily through year three.
  • Institute a program of superior customer service through rigorous evaluation of service experience.
  • Hire three more mechanics.

1.2 Keys to Success

In the auto repair industry  a company builds its client base one customer at a time and mostly through word of mouth marketing. With this in mind, the keys to success for F & R Auto Repair are:

  • High-quality work.
  • Constant contact with clients so as to keep them informed about the state of their automobile and the repair job progress.
  • Knowledgeable mechanics that are friendly, customer oriented, and will take the time to explain to customer the intricate nature of our business and our work.

1.3 Mission

The mission of F & R Auto Repair is to provide high quality, convenient and comprehensive auto repair at low cost. The most important aspect of our business is trust. It is the goal of our firm to have 100% customer satisfaction in regards to quality, friendliness, time to completion and to discover new ways to exceed the expectations of our clients.

Company Summary

The company will be a partnership with John Ford and Michael Ronald each owning 50% of the company. The company will be a limited liability company registered in the state of Washington. The firm will have facilities on 1312 1st Ave NW in Ballard, a neighborhood of Seattle. The facilities will contain a two-bay garage, office space and storage space for tools, parts, etc. The company is seeking a  loan in order to finance the start of operations for the company. Each of the owners will be putting up some of their own capital as equity.

2.1 Start-up Summary

The data obtained for the start-up comes from research done in the Seattle area with other small mechanic shops who have started their own business. Inflation has been taken into account between the estimates of these fellow business owners (and when they started) and the current prices for expensed items. Much of the equipment to go into the facilities such as tools, air compressors, etc., are currently owned by the two partners.

Services

F & R Auto offers a wide range of services as outlined in the detailed sections below. It is ultimately the goal of the company to offer a one-stop facility for all auto servicing needs, including brakes, transmission, wheel alignment, etc. In this way the company can offer greater perceived value for the customer than many other shops which specialize in certain areas.

The industry is highly competitive with suppliers having a great deal of power in setting and negotiating the prices of their products and services to repair shops. In addition, because the customers see the service as undifferentiated and a “commodity” with little value separation between competitors, buyer power is also very high. Finally, the barriers to entry are moderately low, and the large number of competitors in this field, including substitutes (such as do-it-yourself work) mean that the pricing for such services are very competitive. The only way to have an advantage in this industry is a low cost leadership principal applied aggressively or to create higher switching costs through the building of strong business to customer ties.

F & R Auto will hire trained and certified mechanics who are able to prove they have superior customer awareness and interaction. It is the company’s professional people who will fulfill the firm’s contracts and goals. The largest part of the company’s expenses will be in labor costs.

3.1 Service Description

F & R Auto provides a wide range of auto repair services. These include:

  • Scheduled maintenance.
  • Wheel alignments, tires and rims.
  • Brake repair.
  • Comprehensive engine repair.
  • Transmission.

Each job or project will be on a reservation basis, although we will accept a small percentage of drive in repair work.

3.2 Competitive Comparison

The auto repair industry is highly competitive. Each company within this field has high capital costs, low margins, and a high intensity of competition.

Suppliers have a great deal of power in setting and negotiating the prices of their products and services to repair shops. This is due to the fact that the suppliers who absorb the greatest amounts of cash from repair shops are large auto part companies. These companies are more consolidated that the repair industry, have deeper pockets, an almost limitless number of substitute customers, and finally they are the single most important supplier to F & R’s industry. Therefore, these companies can set whatever price they wish to. Furthermore, labor is a supplier in this industry as well, and salaries for such individuals are well known and not very flexible.

In addition, because the customers see the service as undifferentiated and a “commodity” with little value separation between competitors (if they offer a suitable level of quality) buyer power is also very high. Additionally, the costs of our services are not cheap, and buyers are willing to search for the most favorable combination of price and acceptable service. The barriers to entry and exit are moderately low in this industry. Switching costs are virtually non-existent and the costs to entry and exist the market are low. The large number of competitors in this field including substitutes mean that the pricing for such services are very competitive. The only way to have an advantage in this industry is a low cost leadership principal applied aggressively to all aspects of the business or to build up customer relations to a point where the switching costs are raised.

3.3 Technology

The technological revolution in computers has enhanced our abilities to diagnose and repair our clients vehicles. F &R will remain on the cutting edge by instituting the use of computer diagnostic equipment in its shop. The company will continue to seek new ways to provide a better service through technology.

3.4 Future Services

The company does not have any plans to create further services at this time.

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Car workshops are facing multiple challenges these days. They have to be efficient and at the same time be equipped with powerful fittings and modern technology. You can find used high-quality car workshop fittings at competitive prices at DECHOW AUKTIONEN. Therefore, you can bring your own car workshop or hobby workshop up to date fast and easily.

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When announcing insolvencies, car dealers, workshops or transportation companies often use our online auction house. We auction the equipment and ensure a fast and smooth transaction for our customers and buyers through our online registration system. We provide honest descriptions, very good graphical documentation and always a wide array of products.

Top 10 Causes of Workplace Injuries

No matter how attentive and conscientious you are about observing health and safety rules on the job, the potential for workplace injuries is ever-present. Not only can these injuries put employees at risk of hospitalization — or even death — it also can impact insurance rates, reduce productivity, increase workers’ compensation claims and affect company morale. Team vigilance at all levels is critical in maintaining a safe environment and preventing accidents from happening.

Fatigue

If someone is pushed — or pushes herself — beyond reasonable limits to stay on top of workload, the results often are physical and mental exhaustion. This translates to impaired judgment, slower reflexes in operating machinery or motor vehicles, a delayed response to emergency situations and inattention to details and instructions.

Stress

Job security, finances, health issues and anxiety about personal relationships all factor into the stress equation. When an employee’s mind is too distracted by real or perceived threats, he is not only more likely to make mistakes that could cause injury but also invites an increased risk of a heart attack, stroke or hypertension.

Slips

Office kitchens and break rooms are common places for slips to occur because of the number of liquids that get splashed there and are subsequently not cleaned up. Linoleum, hardwood and tile flooring surfaces are particularly hazardous after they have been mopped or waxed. Another consideration is the type of footwear worn by employees.

Trips

Items left sitting out in a high-traffic corridor, extension cords that are not properly taped down and carpeting that has come loose all are contributors to tripping employees and sometimes causing more than just stubbed toes. Poorly lit hallways and stairs are danger spots, too, because they obscure the ability to see what is underfoot.

Toppling Objects

If tall pieces of furniture such as bookcases and filing components are not securely anchored, an earthquake could cause them to pitch forward and dislodge their contents, putting nearby workers in peril. Workplace injuries also can be caused by heavy objects such as supplies and file boxes that are stacked on high shelves and are shifted precariously to the edge each time they are put back or the structure gets bumped.

Hazardous Materials

Protective clothing, eye wear and gloves are mandatory for employees whose jobs require them to be around hazardous materials, chemicals and toxic waste. Slip-ups in these rules can result in burns, explosions, respiratory diseases, blindness and skin infections.

Repetitive Motion

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common occurrence for workers engaged in repetitive motion activities that put pressure on the median nerve, causing numbness and pain in the fingers, wrists and hands. Typists, key data operators and beauty salon employees are at particular risk for developing this excruciating condition.

Lifting

Many back injuries and pulled muscles that occur in the workplace are the result of picking up something that is too heavy, not bending the legs, not asking a partner to assist or trying to lift or hold a heavy object above the shoulders.

Workplace Violence

Despite increased security measures and limiting office access to individuals who have a legitimate reason to be on the premises, innocent victims are often involved when estranged spouses, disgruntled former employees or even total strangers with a vendetta show up with an intent to commit harm. Managers and workers must likewise stay sensitive to suspicious mail or packages, phone threats and evidence of any security violations.

Collisions

Opening a door too quickly or turning a corner too fast are the frequent setups for unintended collisions with co-workers. While it may not be with enough force to knock one or the other unconscious, the potential for injury escalates if there are hot liquids, sharp implements or heavy objects involved. Leaving file drawers pulled all the way out is as dangerous at shin level as chin level, especially if a co-worker won’t see it until the point of impact.

Shop Safety — Address Common Sources of Worker Accidents

Many business owners — be they manufacturing, body shops, cabinetmakers, or, yes, detail shops — can fall into the trap of believing they are doing the right things to manage and run a safe shop. They honestly and earnestly look out for the wellbeing of their employees and, with years of experience and years of accident free operation, often think they are doing a good job of running a clean, safe shop.

However, when a shop owner gets a visit from an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspector they learn differently. Many have violation issues. And while not blatant or reckless on the part of the shop owner, they are still violations of current OSHA requirements, and these owners often find themselves facing substantial fines. Some examples of these seemingly innocuous violations include failure to have a safety plan or proper eye-wash stations. But OSHA might also find that your shop hasn’t done the mandatory fit tests and medical evaluations on employees required to wear respirators. Didn’t know this was a requirement? It may or may not be in your state, but if you aren’t sure, it’s best to look into it and find out.

To make things a little easier for you, here are a few things you can do to make your shop safer and avoid OSHA violations and fines.

PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT

Eye Protection
If you’ve ever watched the PBS series “The New Yankee Workshop,” you have heard Norm Abrams talk about shop safety at the start of every show. And as he always says, “There is no more important piece of safety equipment than these — safety glasses.” He is absolutely right. Eye injuries can occur easily, and can cause irreversible damage. Debris can become airborne when a pressure washer or air blower is used. Under the hood, a blown battery, radiator cap, or hose can also pose serious eye damage. And most dangerous of all: chemical can splash into the eyes.

Approved protective eyewear — appropriate for each type of work an employee performs — is cheap insurance. Make sure every employee has one or more pairs that fit, and that they understand that wearing them is not optional.

Another issue to address is the proper equipment to deal with an eye injury should it happen. Proper eye-wash stations are a must. The type you need will depend on the chemicals and hazards your employees can be exposed to. Make sure you have the proper setup to mitigate injury from each and every type of chemical exposure.

Respirators
You should provide respirators if you use hazardous chemicals and conduct basic respirator training and fit testing as OSHA requires. Some respirators do not require any special training and can be put on and adjusted for use by anyone. Others, though, require getting fitted and the necessary physical checkup and approval by a licensed healthcare provider. Again, it will depend on what type of chemical and environmental hazards the employees are exposed to as to which respirator type you need. Also, if you are going to use respirators, you will need to implement uniform policies in reference to facial hair. To use negative pressure respirators, a clean-shaven face is required to make an adequate seal, whereas a positive pressure respirator may not require this.

If you cannot afford the appropriate respirators, and the associated fit testing and medical exams for the chemicals you now use, then you may want to consider adjusting the chemicals you use.

Gloves
Hand injuries account for more lost workdays in the automotive service industry than any other type of injury. As with eye protection, you increase the odds that the proper style of protective gloves are worn if you make them readily available.

There are several types of gloves needed. Leather or flame resistant cotton gloves should be used when working around hot metal (engine or exhaust systems). Rubber-insulated “lineman’s gloves,” rated at 1,000 volts, should be worn when working around the electrical system of a hybrid vehicle. Nitrile gloves that are at least 4 or 5 mil thick will help protect workers from contact with and skin absorption of chemicals and solvents.

EMPLOYEE TRAINING

Proper training on procedures will create awareness and prevention of potential injuries and hazards within the shop. Special areas of training that OSHA may focus on are:

Back Injuries
Most back injuries result from improper lifting. Give employees regular reminders about “good lifting” basics. Plant both feet shoulder-width apart, squat down with your back straight and knees bent, grip load with both hands, stand slowly letting your legs do the lifting. Never twist while lifting or carrying a load. Use a similar process to unload, bending your knees, not your back.

Blood-Borne Pathogens
Even dried blood poses risks when it is moistened, such as during interior detailing. Again, protective nitrile gloves (worn under heavier work gloves when necessary) and eye protection are critical. Have chlorine bleach and alcohol disinfectants on hand; these can be used on rags or paper towels to clean up droplets or spatter residue, and to clean eye or face protective gear after use. Disinfectant should be allowed to mix with any pooled spill for at least 20 minutes prior to clean up.

Safety Equipment
Provide training on fire extinguishers and other emergency equipment. It is never a good time to learn how to work an extinguisher when the shop is burning down.

Vehicle Operation
Make sure anyone driving a company or customer vehicle knows to walk around the vehicle to check for obstacles or problems with the vehicle before it is moved. Make sure they honk the horn before backing up and before entering blind spots on the property. An ounce of prevention here can be worth two tons of car-damage cure later.

SAFE WORKSPACE

Take the time to objectively look at your shop. Get the OSHA guidelines, either from the OSHA offices themselves or online, and review your shop based on what OSHA recommends. You may be surprised at how you rate. Some things that you should look at to help ensure that you are in compliance are:

Fire Extinguishers
Many fire extinguishers are rated to handle only two or three of the four types of fires that could occur. Shops should have extinguishers rated for Class A (wood and paper), Class B and C (flammable fluids and electrical), and Class D (special agents, combustible metals).

Many vehicles have magnesium-cast parts (engine blocks, wheels, etc.) and these are extremely flammable and can really only be extinguished with a Class D type of extinguisher. Water sprayed on molten magnesium will produce an explosive hydrogen gas.

Make sure appropriate extinguishers are no more than 50 feet away from any point in the shop, that signs clearly indicate where they are, and that they are inspected monthly and are easily accessible (mounted between 36 and 60 inches off the floor).

Keep a Clean Shop
Clean up spills immediately; ensure that the floor is clear of clutter; put used rags in approved storage bins; keep workbench surfaces neat and clear of clutter; and never stack anything in front of doors or emergency exits. Tripping, slips and falls, and hand injuries are caused by unnecessary items lying on the floor or on work surfaces in a cluttered mess. Excess chemical on the floor can not only lead to slips, but could lead to chemical contamination of employees’ skin or shop fires. Once a spill is cleaned up, dispose of the absorbent material in the proper container, and rinse out mops and buckets.

CHECK EQUIPMENT

Many injuries are caused each year by improperly labeled or used chemicals and tools that are faulty or malfunctioning. Ensure that you have a regular maintenance program for your tools and that you follow OSHA guidelines when dispensing chemicals.

Power Tools
Check for worn or frayed cords and plugs, and replace or have repaired as necessary. These can cause electrocution if not attended to. Provide training to employees on proper handling and use of tools (never carry them by the cord, or yank the cord to unplug it from the socket) and on reporting faulty equipment. Ensure that regular maintenance on tools is an assigned task within the shop, and if any are found that should not be used, ensure that they are brought off line immediately, marked, and then stored in a locked cabinet so they cannot accidently be used. Make sure buffers and other rotating equipment have guards in the specified positions.

Mark Containers
Most chemicals come in already-marked containers. Ensure, if this is the container that will dispense the chemical, that the label is always clearly visible and, if not, remark it. Also ensure that you mark secondary containers (like spay and squeeze bottles) with the same name and product information found on the original container from which it came, as well as the dilution rate. Follow the OSHA guidelines when doing this. This is a common OSHA violation,
and beyond that, can lead to injury. Also, never reuse previously marked secondary containers for another product. Multiple product use leads to confusion about what product is in the container, and mixing of potentially volatile products that can cause injury, and make it hard to treat those injuries.

Because of the types of tools and work involved in the detail business, you will never be able to completely eliminate workplace injuries or accidents. But, these steps will go a long way in addressing the most common sources of worker accidents and lost-time incidents.

Mechanics Workshop Safety

Whether you tinker in classic car restoration or own a full auto shop, safety in the workshop is always of the utmost importance. Keeping yourself, your friends, your assistants, your customers and any number of other people safe amongst the many dangers of motor vehicle repair is the most important principle in any workshop. So, to help you and yours stay safe, let’s review some shop safety tips.

Wear Proper Clothing

With the many moving parts that exist in every automobile, it is extremely important to wear clothing that fits properly. Clothing that is too loose can get caught in the car’s mechanics, while clothing that is too tight can restrict your movements and responses in dangerous situations. Instead, it is advisable to wear fitted clothing.

In addition, jewelry should never be worn when working with mechanical equipment of any kind, including when working with automobiles. Necklaces, chains, bracelets and earrings can all easily be caught in a moving part, and in some situations, the injuries caused by jewelry incidents may call for amputation or may cause death.

Dangling jewelry of all kinds should therefore be banned from the shop. Also, even simple wedding bands can be caught in machinery (although this is not as likely as with dangling jewelry), so a ban on all jewelry may be considered.

Wear Protective Gear

Drips, spills and splatters are common in auto shops, so protective gear is often the best way to ensure safety. Protective eye gear should be worn anytime a substance could injure a person’s eyes, and gloves should be worn when working with sharp materials, like newly cut or rusty steel.

Other protective gear that may come in handy include masks. Painter’s masks can help decrease the chance of inhalation injury during auto body painting, and a welder’s mask must be worn when welding, to protect the welder’s eyes from arc injuries. Additionally, simple inhalation masks may be suggested during some sanding and cleaning tasks.

Use the Proper Lifts

One of the very most important rules in any shop is to properly lift your vehicle. With literally tons of steel hovering above a worker, supporting a car during a suspension-based task can mean the difference between life and death.

Professional shops may wish to purchase heavy-duty lifts or create a below-ground mechanic’s room to better protect employees. Small shops and hobby restorers, though, may not be able to afford the best in safety gear, so ensuring that a simple jack and jack stand combo is of good quality and used properly is the next best thing.

Always follow the instructions on whatever lift you use, and if using a jack, remember to secure the wheels and put the car in park. Also, if working beneath the car, always use the jack stands to support the vehicle; never rely on the jack as support.

Automobile restoration and repair is one of the most pleasurable jobs and hobbies for countless men and women. If you are in that number, remember to stay safe, watch your clothing/protective gear and lift properly.

7 Tips on Finding a Good Mechanical Workshop

Finding a good mechanic for your car is just as important as finding a good doctor or dentist for yourself. You want someone honest and someone who will have the best interest of you and your vehicle at heart.

With car repairs becoming quite expensive these days, it is more important than ever to find a mechanical workshop that offers quality at a fair price.

“So who can I trust?”

  1. Get recommendations – Ask family and friends to recommend a workshop where they were treated well and were happy with their work.
  2.  Look for a professional appearance – A clean, organised workshop indicates a professional attitude. That attitude usually carries over into other phases of the business, including their repairs and job pricing. Business websites and social media pages can help you determine appearance through photos, reviews and information.
  3.  Look for membership in or approval from consumer organisations – Most reputable shops are members of an organization or association that provide consumer arbitration in the event of a dispute.  Organisations such as the RAA also ensure that all approved repairers guarantee their workmanship, maintain a fair pricing policy and follow their code of practice. The repairer is regularly audited and must also maintain standards in equipment and qualifications to remain accredited.
  4. Check for training and certificates – Look for training certificates and certifications. These demonstrate that the technicians are maintaining their technical competence and keeping up with developments in technology. Although they don’t prove competence, certificates show an attitude of pride and professionalism; just what you would expect from an honest workshop.
  5. Ask for a detailed, written estimate – After checking your car properly, the mechanic should have a fairly good idea of what is wrong with your car. They should be able to provide a written estimate that specifies what is wrong and what it will cost to repair.
  6. Avoid low ballers – Workshops in a similar area generally experience similar expenses and costs. So when one shop offers you a price that is remarkably lower than the others, be suspicious. There is a good chance that the price will go up a lot before you get your car back, or you will get a repair that is less than satisfactory. Also ensure they are quoting on the same repair – for example there is a significant difference between a second hand unit, a rechecked unit and a fully reconditioned unit. If you are not sure don’t be afraid to ask!Car Mechanic
  7. Warranties – Before having any repairs done, make sure the business will put a guarantee or warranty on the work to be carried out. You don’t want to be stuck paying twice for a job that wasn’t done properly the first time. An honest workshop will gladly advise you of the warranty on the repairs and will stand behind that warranty.

Lighting and Electrical Layout

Lighting and Electrical Layout for the Ultimate Workshop

Electrical Wiring

Unless you’re an experienced electrician, it’s advisable to leave this part of the project to professionals. However, you should know your needs and be in on the planning and supervision of wiring and lighting installation. Here, electrical specialist Ricky Clowers offers expert advice for a successful electrical installation.

As with the functional design of the workspace, a good electrical plan begins with a diagram. Knowing the location of your large pieces of electrically powered equipment, as well as your key workspaces, is vital in determining where best to place electrical outlets, dedicated circuits, receptacle heights, switch boxes, etc.

Larger pieces of equipment such as table saws should be powered via dedicated circuits. In one workshop, a 20-amp dedicated circuit was installed near the location where the table saw would later be placed. Each additional piece of large equipment also had a dedicated circuit. The outlet installed on each of these was a GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) circuit. The GFCI receptacle is equipped with a measuring device that will shut down the power to the circuit immediately in the event of a short, reducing the possibility of electrical shock. Once tripped, the GFCI receptacle can be reset easily with a switch on the front panel.

Note: The GFCI receptacle is a safety device designed to reduce hazards to users and is not necessarily designed to protect equipment.

Consider the total number of ordinary electrical outlets you’ll need, and keep in mind this rule of thumb: It’s hard to have too many outlets. In other words, people typically find that they eventually need more outlets than they first anticipated. In the case of our model workshop, nine receptacles were installed in addition to the dedicated circuits. The nine receptacles are in three circuits, with three receptacles on each circuit.

Consider also the best height for your receptacles. It may be beneficial to install workshop outlets higher on the wall than is typical in a home setting. This eliminates the problem of limited access to outlets when work surfaces or equipment are placed along the walls of the workshop. Higher outlets are also more convenient for plugging in and unplugging small power tools, which is something that happens frequently in a workshop.

It’s usually best to wire overhead lights so they are on a separate circuit from the wall outlets. In that way, if a power overload from a tool trips a breaker, the lights will remain on since they are on a separate circuit.

The breaker box for the workshop should have the switches clearly labeled to indicate which switches control what circuits. Some workshops have equipment that requires 240-volt outlets. Applications with this higher voltage requirement may include air compressors or welding equipment.

Lighting

Adequate lighting is critical in a workshop setting. Think about your general lighting needs first, then about specialized needs for specific areas. There are a number of lighting options available.

  • Fluorescent overhead fixtures are generally a good choice for overhead lighting. Fluorescent fixtures are inexpensive, easy to install and energy efficient, and they put out a lot of light. Mounted overhead and away from walls, they cast a nice, even light down over the entire workshop.
  • Undercabinet lighting is not just for the kitchen anymore. This type of lighting can be placed underneath shelves and cabinet bottoms to illuminate a very specific area of work surface. This type of lighting is ideal in smaller areas for detail work.
  • Track lighting is another good choice for overhead lighting and is best suited for illuminating particular areas of a room. Flood bulbs can be used to light a larger area, while spot bulbs can focus concentrated light on a smaller space. An advantage with track lights is that individual lights can be redirected into different areas should you decide to rearrange your workshop.
  • Portable floodlights are handy for specific jobs. Directional, height-adjustable and very bright, they’re perfect for putting plenty of light in awkward or out-of-the way places. They’re also ideal for working on your car.

The Design Workshop in Action

So, now, with your program in place, yourself in a good place, all of the logistics well organized, and having met some of the participants, you are ready to bring everything together, and your preparation will help you get the best out of both other people and yourself during the design workshop.

  • Start with a bang! Smile, move, laugh, engage people, and help set the tone for the time you have together. At the beginning of the workshop, it is critical that you not only present the program and its planned activities, but also help people to realize the type of environment, or culture, you’ll need to create for the workshop. It is essential to get people into a zone where they can do their best work—and, in some respects, to feel that something is different from the day-to-day work they do at their desk.
  • Get people up and moving about the space. To do great collaborative work, people need to move about during the workshop and get away from their desks. Sometimes this requires taking a break, and sometimes you just need to get people up and stretching.
  • Share the joy. There will be joyous moments when small teams are working on problems together or engaging in discussions to develop their ideas. That’s great! But you also need to aggregate everyone’s ideas, bringing them together to create a larger pool of goodness. It’s your job to share the joy and bridge it into the overall journey.
  • Play a song—or ten. It’s rare to hear music in workspaces. Music can be a nice way of creating breaks during the program—relaxing participants and relaxing yourself. Music can also set the tone for different parts of your workshop like design, storytelling, and reflection.
  • Clean up your design spaces. Desks can get messy as drinks, Post-it notes, old designs, workshop materials, phones, pens, and papers accumulate. Before you enter new stages of the workshop, ask everyone to clean things up. When people take various ideas and bridge them into new designs, it’s important that spaces be clear of clutter, so people can start afresh and focus solely on their designs.
  • Surround teams with data and insights. Each team should be actually immersed in their insights, which they’ve captured in words and sketches on whiteboards, flip charts, and Post-its, so they can refer to them as their design moves forward. You should also remind them to get up and look at their previous work and bridge it back into the final workshop deliverables. These collections of information and insights should be something other teams can use, too.
  • No technology is allowed! We often sit in front of our computers all day—and when we are not doing that, we are checking up on things on our mobile phones. A workshop is a time for people to focus, reflect, and hopefully, work toward creating something better together. Tell people to turn off all technology, put it away, and keep the tables on which they’ll create their designs together clear of distractions.
  • Use the room well. You have an entire room available for design. Use it! Move around the room, get people to move with you. Step away from your own computer and display screen. Use the wall space to pin up flip-chart paper, so you can document the story. Visualize ideas through words and diagrams—always have your markers at the ready!—both to help get people on the same page and to tell the overall story. Move people into different spaces to gather around different designs.
  • Orchestrate the day. Every moment, activity, and learning should move the group toward its final deliverable.
  • Feel the vibe. Know when it’s time to take a break; to intervene or step back and let the team discuss, argue, or ideate; to stop discussions and offer an opinion; to let the team take a break or push them harder.
  • Check on progress occasionally. Time is a constant and important factor during a design workshop. You need to check how well you are working against the overall program and whether you need to give the team more time to work on an activity or you’ve given them too much time. As appropriate, ask quietly or loudly how they are progressing.
  • Take notes. We sometimes forget key moments, so it’s important to log critical observations and insights that may be useful in documenting a design. Keep a small notebook and pen handy.
  • Create a video recording of the workshop. As people walk through their designs, it’s their moment to shine and show all the great work they have accomplished—often in a very limited amount of time together. Capturing both the story of the designs and the movement and interactions in and around the designs provides a way of sharing with the greater team—both those who are actually present and those who are not participating in the workshop. It also reduces the amount of documentation you must create after a workshop—documentation that can be open to misinterpretation.
  • Feel the buzz. As the design workshop is coming to a close, you’ll hopefully start to feel the good energies and friendships coming together. For some, this may be their first time participating in a design workshop and, if you have done your job well as a design facilitator, everyone should feel a real sense of the group achievement and hard work that is coming to an end.
  • Wrapping Up
As the workshop comes to a close—as you collect the goodness from around the room, in the form of designs, sketches, insights, and ideas—take a moment to thank everyone for being part of the journey with you. Acknowledge how their ownership of both the process and the deliverables they’ve created has brought them to a greater understanding and appreciation of what it takes to create delightful and meaningful user experiences for their customers. – See more at: http://www.uxmatters.com/mt/archives/2011/08/the-design-workshop-bringing-it-all-together.php#sthash.6qB6VuWN.dpuf

The Design Workshop: Bringing It All Together

One focus of user experience design is designing consistent experiences or touchpoints for customers. Beyond merely achieving consistency, an important motivation for UX designers is creating delightful and meaningful experiences or touchpoints for customers—something they will remember and tell others about in glowing terms. Making this happen is hard work, requiring not only an understanding of what people need, but having the right people to develop the organizational structures and operational realities to see its realization through.

An important component of success in designing meaningful experiences is inviting team members into environments that foster a culture of collaboration, creativity, and openness, in which it’s safe to critique, there are good energies, and team thinking helps you to move beyond your product of today toward a roadmap of possibilities.

Part of our role as UX designers is to facilitate people’s being the best they can be as individual contributors. Taking this further, our role is to be the conductor who is able to see and nurture moments, as people look beyond their own role to see how they can add to the overall project. To break down silos! We liken this to a quartet, in which each player works from the same piece of music, knows his or her own role, and has an instrument to play, but knows when to listen to the music director.

The Scenario

You have one month in which to plan and facilitate a design workshop for people you have not met before. The workshop participants come from various parts of an organization and have different levels of understanding about both what the workshop requires and what user experience is.

The Challenges

“Political dynamics may exist that you’ll need to manage and possibly push against, in the early stages of the workshop, to focus people on your workshop goals and its deliverables.”

What are some challenges you may face before people even arrive for the design workshop?

  • They are involved in lots of projects. People are busy and work on many projects. This means participants’ attention may be diverted, as they deal with timelines, email messages, and work deliverables.
  • They don’t know you. If it’s the first time you’ve run a workshop with a particular group, this is probably the case. This means you’ll have to find ways to build rapport quickly.
  • They don’t know each other. If people are coming from different parts of an organization, this is also probably true. People will be focused primarily on their own jobs and responsibilities.
  • English may not be their first language. If people are coming from various parts of the world and your first language is English, you’ll need to adjust your approach to ensure clearer communication all around.
  • There will be politics. Pre-existing, legacy political dynamics may exist that you’ll need to manage and possibly push against, in the early stages of the workshop, to focus people on your workshop goals and its deliverables. You must handle this carefully—though sometimes brutally—all at the same time.
  • The room may not be ideal. If you haven’t booked the room yourself, it might not have all of the right elements to help you and participants do your best work.

Planning: The Rehearsal

“What must you instill in yourself, the participants, and even stakeholders who cannot attend the design workshop to help you create some magic together?”

So what do you need to plan and prepare? What must you instill in yourself, the participants, and even stakeholders who cannot attend the design workshop to help you create some magic together?

  • your program—As you design your program, define not only the activities of the day, but the underlying goals you would like to achieve for each activity, including how you want people to feel. Each activity should bridge nicely to the next—not only in terms of their deliverables, but also as parts of the journey you and the workshop participants are taking together.
  • yourself —Not everyone has the energy or the skillset to both facilitate and orchestrate a design workshop experience. Before stepping into the room and meeting the participants, you must both prepare yourself and envision how you’ll perform on the day of the workshop. What type of presence do you want to convey to help your participants create the right atmosphere and enable them to do their best work together?
  • the room—You should speak to your project sponsor to understand what you’ll have available to work with. In previous workshops, we have been able to use multiple whiteboards and place flip charts around the room to help document stories, quotations, references, designs, and key moments, so by the end of the day, the available surfaces of the room were covered with people’s contributions, and they were surrounded by their collective output. This kind of setup makes it easy for one of us to take photos and capture everyone’s contributions as the design workshop progresses. And these photos form one part of our deliverable.
  • the people—You need to form a deeper understanding of who will be participating, their work experience, whether they have been exposed to UX design before, the role they play on their team, and the benefit they propose to bring to the design workshop.
  • the tempoYou need to understand what other commitments you have and how this impacts both your preparation and the facilitation you’ll need to do on the day of the workshop. Does it inspire you? Does it distract you? Are you able to open yourself to new learnings throughout the workshop, as your refine your facilitation skills?
  • your partner—It’s challenging to be the only person bringing it all together. So, ideally, you’ll have some help. A partner can provide help distributing materials, offering perspectives, keeping you on time against your planned program, roaming the room to help small breakout teams with design problems, and generally, offering support.
  • the rehearsal—If time allows, go in the day before to meet some of the people who will be attending the design workshop. Take this opportunity to share some knowledge and remove some of the mystery about who you are. Remember, people may not know what to expect, so might naturally be fearful about what you have planned. You may have only a limited amount of time to win their hearts and move them toward collectively doing great design work together.
  • the deliverable—You should have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve on the day of the workshop. The workshop’s deliverable should be a beacon toward which you can focus participants’ efforts at every point during the design workshop, ensuring you stay on the correct course.

From Idea to Execution: A Product Design Workshop

Recently some of my colleagues at ThoughtWorks (@TheSubversiveBA, @JessicaKeeney) and I ran a workshop at Harvard’s Women in CS WECode Conference. The conference turnout was 350 amazing and talented young women from high schools and universities in Boston and nearby states. Our three-hour workshop was designed to share some techniques for turning a great idea into a product concept that is ready to start developing.

Part 1: Who are you designing for?

Starting with an idea, “a mobile app for closed group communication,” we gave each of the small groups a different Persona to design for. First we asked them to brainstorm the attributes of their persona, such as their name, age, background, personality traits and interests. Then we used Empathy Mapping to get them to step into the user’s shoes and think about what they See, Hear, Do, Think and Say, and their Pain Points. We chose to give the groups “extreme” personas — an Athlete at the Winter Olympics and a Protester in Kiev — so that their thinking would be stretched by unfamiliar users and scenarios.

Part 2: Building empathy / Understanding the user

Usually Personas are created and validated through User Research in the field. However since it wasn’t possible to do this in the workshop, we used another technique instead. Body Storming is a way of brainstorming user scenarios through role play. Participants build empathy for the user by putting themselves in scenarios the user may encounter and seeing what it feels like to experience those situations themselves. This exercise is a good way for teammates and other stakeholders who otherwise don’t have the opportunity to directly observe users to build empathy. After each 2-3 minute round of Body Storming the groups captured their ideas for the app based on the scenarios they had explored. This resulted in the teams coming up with product feature ideas that were shaped for their intended Persona and their particular contexts of use (the Winter Olympics and a protest in Kiev).

Part 3: Defining the core product features

Inevitably when building a product, teams are constrained by time, money, resources, etc and can’t build everything they want to at once. We introduced the participants to a game called “Buy A Feature” which is one way of getting diverse stakeholders to agree on a product’s core features and prioritize their importance. Buy A Feature gives stakeholders a fixed amount of money to spend which is much less than the total cost of all of the features they desire, and then forces them to negotiate and make trade offs to collectively decide which ones they will “buy” (ie build).  This collective decision-making exercise can help to settle on a minimum set of core features as well as gain clarity around a shared product vision. Having reached this point, the teams had now turned an initial idea into a product concept which they could then start developing and testing.

At the end of the workshop the teams compared the different feature ideas they had come up with based  on their unique personas. They explained why they had chosen certain features based on assumptions about their users and how those features would satisfy their particular user’s needs and contexts of use.

It was an absolute pleasure to attend and run a session at this first – and highly successful – inaugural event. There’s obviously a huge demand for “women in tech” conferences for those who can’t attend Grace Hopper. We are all looking forward to coming back next year and seeing it grow!

Design Studio Workshop: Adding Up the Benefits

Few user experience activities bring as many benefits to the team as a one or two-day design studio workshop. When you add all these benefits up, it’s hard to argue why you shouldn’t be regularly building these workshops into every project.

If you’ve yet to participate in your first design studio workshop, you’re in for a treat. It’s an opportunity to bring a team of smart folks together to work through the details of a design challenge or two (or three). It’s a great way to quickly move a design forward, while also getting everyone on the same page for where the design is going and how you’ll get there.

How We Run a Design Studio

There are many different flavors of design studio workshops and everyone has their own favorite way of doing them. Over the years, we’ve developed one method we (mostly) stick to and it works every time.

Any workshop starts with some detailed preparations, and ours is no exception. First, we invite the team members and create working groups of three to five individuals.

During the setup we’ll need to gather our supplies and choose the design challenges we’ll focus on. Sometimes, the design challenges are obvious next items, the team is wrestling with. Other times we’ll want to use a KJ Technique to identify the top project priorities to tackle.

Starting the Workshop

On the day of the workshop we usually start with a short introduction, followed by a warmup session where everyone taps into their memory on how to draw simple pictures with pens and paper.

Then we divide into our pre-assigned working groups, quickly go over the design challenge we’ve assigned each group, and get them to start sketching ideas. We have each person take 8 minutes to draw as many small designs as they can think of on a 6-up page template (pdf). After the 8 minutes, we have each person describe their sketches to their group-mates, then draw more 6-ups for another 8 minutes.

We repeat this two or three times to generate lots of ideas for each design challenge. Once they’ve got their quick sketches done, we take a moment to post them on the wall and reflect on what we like about them.

Each participant then picks an idea they’d like to flesh out more, grabs a 1-up template (pdf), and starts to draw in a little more detail, this time for 5 minutes. More sharing of each diagram, and repeat two or three more times, either continuing with the same initial idea, or switching to another one they’d like to flesh out.

Now, we are about 3 hours into the workshop and, for each design challenge, we should have generated 15 to 25 starter ideas and honed in on 5 or so really interesting ones. After a lunch break, we dive into the ideas behind the sketches, with an informal critique session we call Good and Bads. Here the group members identify some of what’s inspiring about each idea.

Stepping Back To See the Big Picture

All along, we’ve been taping our ideas to the wall. Now, we’ll sort the ideas by a user’s journey timeline. For example, for a shopping site, we might have the steps of finding the product, deciding if it’s the one we want, putting it in the shopping cart, and checking out. We’d organize our sketches under those categories. We can now see which steps we’ve neglected and which ones we have made good progress on.

Then it’s time for a little show-and-tell, where each group presents to everyone in the workshop, again discussing what’s good and bad about the ideas they’ve worked on. This gives folks a chance to point out the similarities that have emerged across groups. Typically, really interesting new perspectives become obvious at this point. Lots of “Aha!” moments should happen now.

Returning back to our teams, the groups continue to flesh out their ideas with more 6-ups and 1-up sketches. They fill in the gaps and integrate some of the inspiration they got while looking at the other groups’ work.

We round out the workshop with a discussion of what we’ve learned, the good ideas that have emerged, and where we want to take the design next. We talk about what we’d tackle in future workshops and next steps for everyone.

A Ton of Tiny Benefits

What we love about the workshop is all the little tiny perks that come from going through the process, starting with the preparations. People love to be included in coming up with design ideas. So being invited to participate is an instant team bonding activity. When we form our working groups, we always match up people who don’t normally work together, which makes that bonding work even better.

Figuring out which design challenges to focus each group on is usually a learning experience. If we need to use the KJ technique, we come away with a new list of priorities that can drive work beyond the workshop. Even if we’re working off an existing agenda, composing the writeup for the design challenges helps with many future design activities.

The warmup at the workshop’s start reminds everyone (especially the executive stakeholders we’ve invited) that everyone can draw simple sketches. We do a series of practice sketches of shapes and simple scenes to get everyone used to the pens and paper. Frankly, we could just stop here and we’d see a marked improvement in people’s communication of design ideas. Reminding adults they can draw is really empowering.

Bringing Ideas Into the World

The 6-up sketches are a great way to get everyone to put different ideas out there. It avoids the trap that teams fall into when they attach themselves to the first design idea that comes along. Because we force people to come up with 15 to 25 ideas in a short period, they see their first ideas isn’t their best one.

The points where everyone shares their work-in-progress are often inspiring. They see an idea spawn further ideas, which in turn, spawns additional ideas. The energy in the room after the 6-up exercise is palpable. It’s fun to be exploring all these possibilities.

When refining an idea with a 1-up, the participants takes a stab at problem solving. For the non-designers in the room, this is an eye-opening experience. It lets them refine a design idea at a level of detail they’ve probably never thought about before.

For the experienced designers, they learn the perspectives of others. Their group-mates’ perspectives cause amazing epiphanies to emerge.

Moving the Needle

Once the sketches go on the wall, it becomes clear to everyone just how much they’ve accomplished in such a short amount of time. Placing the sketches into the user journey sequence makes it clear which parts of the experience the group often ignores.

One outcome is often a realization that more research is required. While this adds a bunch of work that wasn’t previously planned, by conducting the workshop early, it can save a lot of problems down the road.

As the workshop concludes, the team now can see the dominant design ideas that have emerged. The team will have some more work to do, but because of the workshop’s efforts, they will have significantly moved the needle towards a substantially better user experience.

Benefits of Repetition

The benefits don’t stop with a single workshop. Teams that conduct regular workshops start to see even more benefits emerge.

Each subsequent workshop will involve others who have never participated before. Those folks then learn about the design process and gain a shared understanding of what the team is working to accomplish. This makes the entire organization more design literate.

Later workshops can tackle more difficult problems at greater detail. Once people are familiar with the process, it’s fast and efficient to work through a design challenge and generate great solutions.

We know we’ve succeeded when a team starts to automatically schedule multiple design studio workshops into every project, knowing these will jumpstart and boost the project through the inevitable challenges they’ll face. That’s when we know we’ve made a change in the organization, one that empowers them to create better designs.

Five Quick Tricks for Designing Better Flyers

All of us, it seems, are asked to create flyers for some event at some point in our lives and many of us find ourselves having to make flyers on a regular basis–whether we like it or not. After all, flyers are used to advertise neighborhood watch meetings, church events, work parties, upcoming workshops, local cooking classes, community festivals, and so much more. The unique thing about flyer designs, though, is that they are usually produced by organizations or people who aren’t willing to or simply can’t spend much money, if any, on the design.

While this is completely understandable, the unfortunate thing is that many flyers are designed by people with little or no design experience and they end up looking awful or simply not enticing enough to be read. The good news is that designing a flyer well doesn’t need professional design experience. For those of you who feel like document design isn’t your strength but you have to create flyers on occasion, here are five quick tricks to make them just a bit better.

Quick Trick #1: Don’t Center Align Everything!
Perhaps the biggest design faux pas made when creating flyers is to simply hit the “Center Align” button in Microsoft Word and type everything down the middle. There are a couple problems with this. First, center-alignment shows a quick an obvious lack of design experience and it shows little creativity. Secondly, though, center-alignment is harder to read. When you have various bits of information (like the title of the event, dates, times, places, and information about the event), much of it gets lost visually if it is all aligned down the center. Also, we are trained to read with a hard edge (typically on the left side), so we follow information easier when there is a clear hard alignment on either the left or right side.

Quick Trick #2: Use One Large Focal Point
Avoid the common pitfall of trying to add in all kinds of cute little items. Say, for example, you are holding a workshop on workplace safety. You might find an image of a hard hat that you think represents the message of the event. Rather than putting a hard hat in every corner, though (maybe for a sense of balance), just use one large hard hat and design your information around it. Regardless of what your main image is, though, make it the focal point. Find one really large and appropriate graphic or photo and keep it the center of attention. Avoid really busy photos and avoid putting text on top of a photo.

Quick Trick #3: Use the Bleeds
In case the term is new to you, “bleeds” refer to when color or ink runs (or bleeds) off the side of the page. Bleeds create a visually more interesting design and they show the viewer (even unconsciously) that the designer doesn’t feel constrained by the edge of the page. When you have a photograph or a shape or icon of some kind and you place a portion of it off the page, the overall design looks stronger. Don’t hesitate to try even running some large text off the page, as long as it is still readable.

Quick Trick #4: Think CRAP
Graphic design whiz (and author of the Non-Designer book series) Robin Williams has a catchy little acronym to keep simple designs in line: C-R-A-P. Contrast. Repetition. Alignment. Proximity. Think through each of these principles when you design your flyers and they will almost always be better. Contrast suggests that anything that is different should be SIGNIFICANTLY different. Two different fonts should be obviously different. Two different colors should be obviously different. And two different font sizes should be obviously different. Repetition suggests continuity. Use only two fonts and use similar shapes and colors throughout. Alignment suggests that everything should be aligned to something. DON’T just throw things on the page arbitrarily. And proximity suggests that like items should be clumped together. All the location information should be together; all the details of the event should be together; all the contact information should be together (and none of them should be mixed!)

Quick Trick #5: Use Typography Well
You may not be a typography whiz, but you ought to at least know a few things:

1. Times New Roman is boring and cliche and isn’t really a good typeface for a flyer.
2. Using just one typeface usually isn’t great, but using more than three is a disaster. Usually, you’ll want one typeface for headings or titles and one for content. Make sure each typeface looks significantly different from each other (use a serif font and sans serif for the best and safest effect).
3. Avoid “hated” fonts. Right now, the two most hated fonts are Comic Sans and Papyrus. Trajan Pro is quickly rising in the charts. Even if you love them, know that many people don’t. Don’t find yourself traveling down the cliche path. Your design will suffer for it.
4. Don’t be afraid to use really large font sizes for titles (even using 100 pt. can be good).
5. Organize type size by order of importance. The more important the information is, the larger the typeface should be. Avoid too many different sizes, though. Four different sizes for one page probably ought to be your max.

10 Steps to Plan a Workshop

Are you interested in hosting a workshop to build the capacity of your local organizing group and fellow activists?  We make our curriculum available for anyone to use with one caveat: organizing a workshop is tough work, and requires good facilitators and training.  It can also be a very worthwhile use of your time to build your team, and develop new skills to make your work more effective.  We hope that the following guide will set you up for success if you’re planning to host a workshop in your community.

1. Design your workshop

OK, this step has a lot built into it.  Its important to get together with your team that wants to organize the workshop with you right at the beginning to answer the following important questions to guide the vision and organizing of the workshop:

  • What are our goals of the workshop?
  • Who do we want our workshop to reach?  How will we get them there?  How many people?
  • What skills and sessions are most important to our participants?
  • How long of a workshop do we want to/can we organize?
  • What is our budget for the workshop?

Once you have the answers to these key questions in place and a basic vision, it’s time to start reaching out and nailing down the details.

2. Choose a venue

The primary factor in selecting a venue is likely going to be where you have affordable or free access. If you do have some flexibility or choice in the matter, we have a few recommendations to consider:

  • If there is an available and affordable venue, being away from the city in a natural setting can go a long way in providing focus, quiet for reflection, and inspiration to the group.
  • If you’re organizing a multi-day workshop, we recommend trying to have people stay overnight in the same place together, as evening free time often becomes important bonding time.
  • Finally, most workshops benefit from having slideshows or powerpoints or videos displayed during the workshop, so having a projector, sound system, and microphone is pretty important.

3. Choose Your Dates

We often find workshops have some of the best results when there is a clear, short-term trajectory for the group’s work following the workshop. By timing the workshop to be 2 – 4 months prior to a major campaign or event, you can provide a powerful opportunity for collaboration following the workshop that will help cement the bonds formed by participants.  The only other major thing to consider is to choose dates that work for your target audience, to make sure you get the people there that you want to reach.

4. Recruit Great Participants

Ensuring highly motivated participants in your target audience is possibly the most important step in organizing your workshop – here are our recommendations for making sure you get great participants:

  • In our experience, anywhere from 15 – 40 participants can be a good size. It’s enough people to have a diversity of perspectives and quality discussions, but still small enough to have more intimate experiences and develop real, lasting relationships and bonds in the group.
  • We recommend using an application process and establishing clear criteria as to whom you are seeking for the workshop (people totally new to the issue or people with some proven leadership experience already, etc).  Be sure to reach out far and wide – this is a great recruitment opportunity!
  • Seek to get a diverse set of perspectives into the room – it will make for a richer and more educational experience for everyone!

5. Designate facilitators

Having effective, energizing facilitators are key for running a successful workshop.  Here are some recommendations for considerating your facilitation team:

  • You’ll want more than one facilitator so you don’t get totally exhausted. For small groups (15-20 participants) 2-3 facilitators is sufficient. A couple more is also usually fine especially for large groups, though you want to be sure that facilitators don’t overwhelm the group dynamic.
  • It can be helpful to make sure facilitators don’t have logistical considerations on their plate as well – this will distract from their ability to be able to prepare sessions appropriately.
  • It can be important to have at least one facilitator with workshop facilitation experience.
  • Make sure your facilitators know they are responsible for keeping the workshop on time, for preparing and covering all the material and group exercises, and making sure everyone participates.  Be sure to check out our facilitation tips as well.

6. Organize the logistics

Making sure things run smoothly is an important part in setting participants up to focus on learning and bonding with their fellow organizers.

  • Food: Providing food on site will enable participants to focus, and keep them from getting hungry and distracted.  Meal times are also a valuable, informal team-building time and it is usually best to have group meals together.  Providing tea and coffee to keep people awake, and for breaks is very helpful as well.  Make sure to ask people about food allergies!
  • Travel: Make sure you know when people are arriving and communicate to them about what support you can provide, and where to go when they arrive.
  • Lodging: Let participants know what type of lodging they’ll be staying in, whether they need to bring bedding, if there will be showers, etc.

7. Craft the agenda

Once you have the logistics together and your participants selected, it’s time to map out exactly how you’ll use your time together. Look at the sessions on this site for ideas.  Here are some things to consider:

  • Less is more: the more you pack in, the more you’ll need to rush and the less participants will actually learn.  Cut back as much as you can so you can learn things in greater depth.
  • Ask your participants:  survey your participants to see what they most want to prioritize learning
  • Build in breaks: Free time, breaks, and informal socializing is key for bonding and to keep up motivation and focus.  If you don’t give your participants breaks, they will rebel!
  • Plan an open session: Let your participants plan their own session, whether its a skill share, a chance to share their work, or a discussion they’d like to have as a group.
  • Know that you’ll go overtime: It just happens – plan to be flexible.

8. Edit the materials

Prepare adequate time with your facilitators to download the materials on this site and familiarize themselves with the material.  You’ll also want to take time edit them for length, cultural appropriateness, and to include more relevant examples in the group activities beforehand.  We recommend printing out participants’ guides so that people can follow along, make notes, and refer to the agenda throughout the training.

9. Run your workshop

Have a great time, remember to breathe, and spend time getting to know the people who come – they’re who you’re building this movement with!  A few other reminders:

  • Stay energized – make sure to play plenty of games and energizers throughout the training to keep people’s spirits up
  • Document – make sure to take photos and videos to remember the workshop – and send them to us too!

10. Follow up

After the workshop, aside from providing time for people travel home, rest, and digest the material, it’s good to build off the positive energy and momentum created in the workshop experience to continue engaging everyone, and ideally transitioning into real action. This requires creating clear and efficient communications channels — email listserves, facebook groups, etc — and it requires modelling constructive use of those tools. When a workshop ends, no matter how tired you are, try not to disappear. Take a deserved rest, but capitalize on the moment and both model continued leadership by initiating more work, and also continue in your role as a facilitator, attempting to draw out and support other’s leadership, not simply falling back to the same organizing team you began with when you started.

Conclusion

Throughout the experience, from start to finish of organizing a climate leadership workshop, remain mindful of why we do this work. We are aiming to build a movement strong enough, large enough, and deep enough to transform our world, to create the solution, both practical and political that science and justice demand. These workshops have already proven to be one of the most powerful ways of furthering those aims.  Be sure to keep in touch with what you’re planning and how it goes. And enjoy!

Choosing Stainless Steel

Although fastening Enviroshake with a standard electro-galvanized roofing nail is acceptable, here’s a couple good reasons why stainless-steel nails are preferred when working with this product:

Longevity: Because of the  shakes’ extremely long life expectancy of 50 years or more, they could easily outlast standard nails.

Resistance: Stainless-steel nails have a much higher corrosion resistance than standard roofing nails.

However, finding a wire-collated version that’s suitable for a coil roofing nailer can be difficult. Stanley Bostitch is one company that makes them in the 1 1/2″ length required for installing the Enviroshake shakes. The nails should be available at hardware dealers via special order.

Learn how you can turn salvaged parts into a buffer for your tools

When it comes to working with hand planes and chisels, the state of your cutting edge determines the difference between drudgery and delight. In fact, you need to master sharpening your hand tools properly or there’s no point in attempting to use them to replace power tools. But don’t let this discourage you. A simple, shop-built machine can turn a dull tool into one that’s keener than a new razor blade in less than two minutes. Although the system does require a small amount of electricity for a short period of time, this investment of power lets hand tools work like they’re supposed to.

A hard felt wheel is at the centre of this system. (A soft cloth wheel is more suited for honing the inside curves of gouges and most carving chisels.) Instead of pushing your chisel or plane iron back and forth across a sharpening stone by hand to refine the edge, you hold the tool stationary against the spinning surface of the motorized wheel that is charged with a very fine, waxy abrasive that polishes the metal quickly. As with any honing system, the buffing wheel requires tools ground to the correct bevel angle as a starting point–about 25° to 30° for general-purpose chisels or plane irons. But grinding should only be required a few times a year, even if you use your tools frequently. After that, just switch on your buffing wheel, hold a block of polishing compound against the edge for a second to charge the wheel, then move the tip of the tool back and forth across the felt wheel for 30 seconds. For safety, always point the cutting edge in the direction of the wheel rotation. Avoid pointing the tool into the wheel, which can cause the tool to be flung into the air.

As you hone the edge in this manner, remember two things: both surfaces of the tool edge must end up smooth and, as you do this, the tool surfaces must remain tangential to the edge of the wheel. Get this detail wrong and your bevel will be too blunt and won’t cut. You’ll need to regrind the tool to the correct bevel angle and buff again.

Sometimes brand new, hard felt buffing wheels won’t absorb the abrasive compound initially because they’re too dry. To fix this problem, moisten the edge of the wheel with mineral oil.

Making your own buffing wheel from salvaged parts is easy, cheap and green. I power mine using a 50-year-old, 1/4-hp, 1,725-rpm furnace blower motor. It’s bolted to a plywood base. The only component I bought (besides the buffing wheels) was the ball-bearing mandrel. It’s connected to the motor with a 1/2″ V-belt over pulleys that boost buffing-wheel speed to 3,500 rpm. You can also mount buffing wheels on a standard bench grinder.

Ditch the tape measure

Relying too heavily on a tape measure can actually make your projects more inaccurate. Go ahead. Mark 1″ with a tape and pencil. Do it again. And again. It doesn’t matter how steady your hand is; there will be a slight variation among the marks. Throughout the building process of a project, the influence of these little inaccuracies grow and grow. To stay ahead of this inaccuracy creep, the best practice is to grab physical representations of dimensions. If you are going to be inaccurate, at least be consistent. Here are some tools that will help:

Marking gauge: The tool for making mortise-and-tenon joinery. Set the tenon length on the gauge and mark it on all the necessary workpieces. Next, mark the depth of the shoulders; and then, the cheeks. As long as you are steady with the backsaw, all your tenons will be the same.

Combination square: The combination square can almost sit in for a marking gauge. Set the square to repeat a particular length and mark off from the end of the ruler. Or, set the square to gauge the depth of a mortise. If you insert, say, 1″ of ruler into a mortise and the adjustable straightedge sits flush with the workpiece end, you have your depth.

Chisel: Need a 3/4″-wide mortise? Easy. Grab a 3/4″-wide chisel. Done.

Story stick: When you want consistent spacing between fence boards, make a story stick, a piece of board that is as long as the width of the gap you need. Actually, cut two—one for spacing the fence board at the top stringer and one at the bottom. Get a friend to hold the story sticks against an affixed board while you attach the next one.

Your truck: This trick comes to us from our technical editor, Steve Maxwell. When you are cutting long lengths of 2×4, you can set your mitre saw and stand the right distance from your truck, using your vehicle as a stop block. Use this technique only if your truck is a true work vehicle; otherwise, you might scratch your trophy.

Folding ruler: A proper folding ruler has a slide-out rule in its first leaf. Within a box, fold out just enough leaves and slide out the rule, for a physical representation of that dimension.

The Benefits of a New Garage Addition

If you need more room in your house, a garage addition may be worth considering. Garages are often thought of as boxes for cars and mowers, but a well-designed garage can actually serve many important household functions.

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Once you consider all of the benefits a garage addition can provide, you may wonder why it took you so long to move ahead with the project. Here are just some of the reasons you might want a new garage:

  • Car storage. The ability to jump in a clean, dry car without having to scrape ice off the windows or endure sun-baked seats is a major advantage to having a garage addition.
  • Household storage. Garages are great storage spaces. Even with cars, mowers, bikes and other items taking up floor space, you can still create an enormous amount of additional storage on the walls and ceilings.
  • Car maintenance. Whether you are the type of car junkie who can happily spend entire days rebuilding an engine or a weekend warrior who likes to change the oil yourself, a garage addition will make your life much easier.
  • Workshop. Thinking about taking up woodworking, gardening or some other craft? A garage addition will provide the room you need to work and a safe, secure place to keep your tools and equipment.
  • Playroom. A garage can easily be turned into a great playroom. It is big enough to set up a ping-pong table, for example, even if only temporarily. A garage is also perfect for birthday parties and other (messy) celebrations.
  • New living space. With a little advance planning, you can build a garage addition today that can be easily converted into new living space at some future date.
  • Home office. With greater numbers of people working out of their homes these days, one of the biggest challenges is finding a quiet space with enough room to set up a suitable home office. A garage addition can offer the perfect solution.

5 Tips for Inspecting and Maintaining Your Garage

If you’re like many homeowners, you cruise in and out of your garage without giving the space much thought. While your garage is low-maintenance, it’s not a no-maintenance part of your home. Here are five tips for preserving your home’s value by keeping your garage in top shape.

Garage Inspection Garage Maintenance

1. Keep your garage door running smoothly

Most newer garage doors come self-lubricated or with plastic parts that need no oil, according to builder Fred Cann, owner of JRS Solutions in Melville, N.Y. You’ll need to annually oil older doors with metal rollers, hinges, and tracks. “Use a leaf blower to blast all the grit, grime, dust, cobwebs, and dead bugs from the door’s parts,” advises Mark Secord, brand manager for PremierGarage in Mobile, Ala.

Occasionally check the rubber seal on the bottom of your garage door. It can harden or chip away from wear and tear, allowing the elements to seep under your door. Replacing the seal costs less than $100. Your door may be hitting the ground too forcefully and jarring all the parts, crushing the rubber seal, or allowing light to peek through at the bottom when the door is at rest. To correct those problems, says Secord, use a screwdriver to alter the travel limit adjustment located on the door opener’s control box.

Regularly test the garage door’s sensors to be sure they still prevent it from closing if something—like your child or pet—is in the way.

2. Clean your garage floor

Hose down your garage floor annually to prevent slip hazards, stains, and pockmarks caused by road salt and auto fluids, recommends Secord. You may notice hairline cracks in your concrete slab, but those are generally no cause for concern, says Paul Fisher, owner of Danley’s Garage World in Chicago.

If there’s a serious trip hazard because of concrete that’s crumbled or separated ¼-inch or more, take action. You can try a do-it-yourself patch with a $5 concrete mix from your local hardware store. But patched concrete often doesn’t adhere to the original slab, says Fisher, especially if a car regularly passes over the patched area. If necessary, ask a licensed concrete contractor for an estimate on replacing your slab, which typically costs about $5 per square foot.

Experts disagree on whether to treat a garage slab with a sealant. “Sealants don’t protect the slab at all; they’re just for aesthetics,” says Cann, who worked as an engineer for the city of New York for 10 years. “We had more problems after we sealed and painted garage slabs. The paint would chip, discolor, or become slippery. I’d leave concrete alone.”

Secord, however, sells garage floor sealants and says they protect the concrete, prevent discoloration, and are easier to clean than bare concrete. Do-it-yourself sealants for an average two-car garage cost about $800 to $1,200 and need reapplication every three to five years. One-time, professional applications cost $1,500 to $2,000, says Secord.

3. Monitor your garage walls and foundation

Inspect interior and exterior walls and the foundation twice a year for moisture and cracks. If you see discoloration or mold, moisture is seeping in from the roof or the walls. Call a building or roofing contractor for an inspection and repair estimates.

Wall and foundation cracks smaller than ¼-inch wide that aren’t causing water damage are typically harmless. “Anything larger than a hairline crack is something to be concerned about,” says Cann. “If one side of your ceiling appears a little lower than the other, the foundation or footing has settled.” That’s sometimes hard to evaluate with a visual inspection; if necessary, get out your level.

Structural concerns require an expert evaluation. Cann suggests hiring a structural engineer, who will charge $200 to $300 per hour but won’t hype potential problems to secure the repair work.

4. Clean interior doors and gutters

Once a year, clean and inspect the interior door. Make sure the door is properly weatherstripped and that the threshold seal fits snugly against the bottom of the door.

Most building codes require the door allowing entry to your home to be fire-rated and self-closing. If the door is damaged or the self-closing mechanism has failed, repair or replace it. You’ll pay $250 to $300 for a new fire-rated door, plus $25 to $75 for installation.

If your garage has gutters, clean them every spring and fall and inspect them for damage. While you’re at it, check your roof for damaged or missing shingles or tiles.

5. Watch for pest invasions

Insects like termites and carpenter ants can furtively damage your garage walls. Inspect dark, cool, and moist spots, especially where garage walls meet the foundation, for borings from carpenter ants or termites. “Termites digest the lumber, but carpenter ants tunnel it,” says Cann. “If you see trails of sawdust, it’s carpenter ants. If you see chewed wood, it’ll likely be termites.” Call in pest-control experts for an inspection and treatment.

Useful Tips On How To Effectively Run An Auto Repair Shop

Most people have become leery of using just any auto repair shop and prefer to stick with one they trust. Make sure you are one of those trusted auto repair shops.

Reduce Your Employee Turnover Rate

Establishing reliability and consistency is extremely important when running an auto repair shop. This is hard to accomplish when you have a high turn over rate of employees which can lead to inexperienced new workers who need to be guided into better mechanics which can take time. Reduce your employee turnover rate by treating your employees well, giving good benefits and paying them well. This will also make your customers more comfortable working with you when they see the same mechanics each time they come in for auto work. It’s hard to trust an auto shop when they have a different mechanic working on their vehicle every single time they come in.

Stand Behind Your Work With Guarantees

Make sure your customers know that you trust your own work by giving a guarantee on your repairs for certain amount of miles or time. If you repair someone’s brakes, for instance, this will show them your not doing a shoddy job, causing them to come back in a few months to have the work done again. Give them a reason to trust your work and make them more likely to come back to you in the future.

Create An Ethics Statement & Display It Prominently

Given the unease that many people have when working with an auto mechanic, create an ethics statement describing your stand on honest, trustworthy work. State that you provide reliable service and are not trying to scam anyone. Explain that you will only provide necessary repairs and service and will not try to charge them for services that they don’t need. Once you’ve created the ethics statement, display it in a prominent place in the guest waiting room where anyone can see it.

Always Reward Your Loyal Customers

Make your regulars feel appreciated by rewarding them for being loyal customers. Send them coupons for discounted work or give them a free oil change from time to time. There may be some upfront losses in revenue but will end up paying out in the long run as you start to build up a client base who will only come to you for auto repairs and refuse to go anywhere else. On top of that, those customers are also more likely to refer you to their friends and family.

Make Use of An Automotive Appointment Scheduling Software

Having a running vehicle has been a necessity for most people and the last thing anyone needs is to be without a car for several days due to missed appointments or overbooking. Utilizing an automotive service scheduling software program you will reduce missed appointments and overbookings while also saving yourself valuable time and creating a more consistent and reliable service

How to Hide Screw Heads

Wood screws offer strong, fast ways to join project parts, and they can be made virtually invisible too. Tapered wooden plugs make it happen. Typically 1/2″ in diameter on their large ends, tapered wooden plugs can be bought from a store ready-made or cut in the shop using a drillpress attachment. Either way, you need to prepare two-part holes if you want to use plugs. The first part is drilled about 1/4″- to 3/8″-deep on the face into which the tapered plug will be installed in later. This step is called counterboring. Next, drill a 1/8″-diameter hole in the middle of the counterbored hole, through the wood for the screw shank. It’s always wise to create counterbored test holes in scrap wood first, to check how your tapered wooden plugs fit before drilling into your project. Ideally, you want the plug to form a tight fit within the counterbore while the plug’s top is flush with the surrounding wood.

A sharp spade bit is an excellent tool for counterboring. You can even grind down the edges of a spade bit on a bench grinder, allowing you to make a smaller hole if a particular plug needs it. Although store-bought plugs are convenient, they’ll never blend in with the surrounding wood well. Shop-cut, tapered wooden plugs made from project scraps offer the best visual match with the surrounding wood, especially when they’re prepared with face grain on the top end of the plug. Installed carefully, with grain aligned to the surrounding wood, the plugs become virtually invisible. Use a tiny bit of glue during installation, then let it dry thoroughly

20 Tips for Creating a More Efficient Workshop

Of the hundreds of questions our readers send to us each year, most of them involve shop layout, organization and dependable tips from our panel of experts. Where is the best place for my tablesaw? How can I organize all the electrical cords crisscrossing my shop floor? What is the best way to store clamps?

The more efficient your shop, the more likely you are to work and have fun in what should be your home’s most interesting room.

To help our readers in their quest for creating the most efficient and dependable shops, we’ve gathered a list of the 20 best tips for organizing your workshop. As well, we’ve included some samples of the most practical shop layouts with popular configurations.

1. Make a Plan: Before you start any woodworking project, you have a plan, right? (Or so we hope!) The same should apply to workshop organization. Draw out your shop layout and play around with it on paper until you get it right. Then, start to add all the details that make a shop run like a well-oiled machine.

2. Easy Reach: Mount your tool’s accessories next to the machine; blades, pushsticks and wrenches all can fit in simple plywood storage.

3. Tools on Wheels: Use castors or wheeled bases for tools that may need to be moved around for space and practicality.

4. Look Up…: Use all the vertical space you can by adding storage overhead wherever possible. And be sure to have a safe stepstool handy for reaching.

5. …And Up Again: Store your electrical cables off the ground and run them along the ceiling. You won’t trip over them or have to clean up around them.

6. Storage Below: Store blades and rulers on the doors of pegboards, then store tools inside.

7. Keep it Clean: Sweep and vacuum during your workday and before you close up for the night. It’s simple, but many woodworkers skip this step.

8. Pair Off: Put two similar tools, such as a spindle and belt sander, on the same rolling surface. The cabinet base includes accessory storage.

9. Clamp Rack: A tall storage area has dowels across, spaced every 6″ to 8” for, well, clamping.

10. Don’t Be Afraid of Prefab: Just because someone else built it doesn’t mean it can’t help you get organized.

11. Electrify: Plan where you need electrical outlets. Use your ceiling space and extension cords to keep your floor space clear.

12. Retrofit: If you can’t add new outlets, use a retractable cord reel to keep power close at hand but cords off the floor.

13. Cleats Galore: Use a support-rail system to hang cabinetry easily and securely. Secure a 45° angle-cleat to studs and another cleat to the back of the cabinet.

14. Make It Your Own: You know your workshop needs better than anyone. Make a list of how you want your shop to function and find a way to achieve those goals. Also, make a list of your tools and figure out where each would best be placed for maximum efficiency and enjoyment. Because, after all, a workshop needs to be fun to functional.

15. Reuse It: Something old can be new again. Turn an old filing cabinet into a dream storage spot for blades, sanding discs and anything else that needs a home. Shop-built inserts that fit in the drawers are the key.

16. Add Colour: Just because it’s a shop, doesn’t mean it can’t look good! Use coloured laminates for cabinet doors and shelving. Even the mitre gauges should match for a professional finish.

17. Power Up: Build a simple charging station for all your battery packs. It will keep chargers and batteries together and you can easily see what needs juice and what doesn’t.

18. In Clear View: You’ll not only save space, but you’ll also save time and money if you build shelving for your nuts, bolts, screws and other hardware. That way you can easily see what you need to buy and what you have plenty of on hand.

19. Use Every Surface: Chalkboard paint isn’t just for playrooms. Add it to a wall or a cabinet door and you will always have a place to make notes or quick drawings.

20. MacGyver DIY: If you can’t find the hardware you need, make it! For example, using a carabiner and a Velcro strap, you can secure a dust-collection hose.

Top tips to avoid mechanics ripping you off

We’ve all heard stories about unexpected extras being added to vehicle repair or service bills, about cars coming back from the workshop in worse condition than they were when they went in – or going in and staying there for what seems like ridiculous lengths of time.

Mechanics — or ‘automotive service technicians’ as they’re officially called these days – are often the source of complaints from readers who believe they’ve been overcharged or underserviced.

Added to this, few vehicle owners understand what a mechanic’s job entails, which can lead to doubts over service bill totals, or the fear of being ripped off.  But just a few simple pointers can put you on more confident ground when dealing with a mechanic.

Don’t let them scare you

If your mechanic delivers a diagnosis with a line like “I couldn’t let you drive away with it like that,” make sure you ask why to ensure that the repair is completely necessary. Yes, it may be them trying to save your life, but it also might be them trying to pressure you into agreeing to expensive work on the spot.

Shop around on repairs

Shop around on both price and second opinions for repairs. And if you’re doubtful about a diagnosis for a repair, do the same thing – seek a second opinion. Even a third or fourth opinion.

A bit of time spent on the phone and seeing other mechanics could save you hundreds – even thousands – of dollars off your final bill.

You can also see if other readers have experienced the same car problem by searching Carsguide’s ‘Ask Smithy’ Q&A   – just add your make and model to the keyword field on the left of the page to see all the problems we already know about. If you come across a reader’s car having similar symptoms toy yours, it could be valuable information to know when talking to the mechanic.

Go with your gut

If your first impression of a workshop isn’t 100 per cent, don’t be afraid to try another option before committing to any work. If your intial greeting isn’t up to scratch or the workshop looks a bit too messy, move on. If the staff don’t show you respect, they’re obviously not too keen for your business, or to give your car the red carpet treatment your money deserves.

Help isolate a problem

If you’re visiting the mechanic to fix a specific problem, do your best to identify when the problem is evident. For example, if you hear a grinding noise when turning, does it happen when turning left or right? Does it happen when going uphill, downhill, or at certain speeds? Can you feel the grinding through the steering wheel? Mechanics have a limited amount of time to test your car before repairs, so this can help ensure the problem gets solved. You don’t want to have to go back for a second crack at it.

Don’t skimp on cheap brake parts

Make sure that replacement brake pads or rotors match the quality of the parts fitted to your car when new. You may be presented with cheaper options, but these will rarely match the braking capability of the original spec items, and can easily be the difference between being involved in accident or avoiding one.

Know your scheduled service items

Routine service items are all listed in your owner’s manual against each service interval. So, read the list and make it clear you understand what it includes before any service.  Check for any surprise extras on the invoice as soon as you get it – and certainly before paying. Question anything on the invoice that you don’t understand, and your mechanic should be happy to explain.

Ask to be notified of surprise costs

Its perfectly fair to ask a mechanic to call you to alert you of any surprise costs that may crop up during a routine service. If you’re on a budget – like most of us – you’ll want to know if that $150 service suddenly includes a $300 water pump replacement on top. It’s also wise to ask if this extra repair can wait until the next service, or whenever you can afford it.

Read the fine print on capped servicing

The good news on servicing is that many brands are starting to offer capped or fixed-price servicing – which takes the guesswork out of vehicle maintenance costs. But be sure to read the fine print, as these plans can vary in their duration and coverage. Some will cover a fixed number of services, while others will cover the duration of your new-car warranty.  We’ve heard of capped-price servicers ‘upselling’ extras like higher grades of oil, adding to the final bill.

Look beyond the seller for service

Just as for a repair, shop around on prices for servicing. Once you know what’s entailed in your scheduled service, make some calls to get price estimates.

If you drive a brand that doesn’t have fixed-price servicing, costs among agents can vary. Don’t feel compelled to service your car at the dealer you bought it from. Many stand-alone workshops are qualified to service your car without affecting your warranty.

But double-check that they can offer written proof they’re qualified to do a warranty-safe service – don’t take a verbal assurance.

Service your car on time

This is the ‘stitch in time’ truism. Service intervals are set to keep your car in top nick, so be sure to keep an eye on your ‘next service’ date or kilometres, to avoid damage from undetected problems – and resulting costly repairs. Many modern cars will remind you via their trip computer display — but not all. Most mechanics will leave a sticker in the top corner of the windscreen with these details.

Also, get any issues rectified swiftly. A problem that is ignored is likely to worsen, and cause that repair bill to ramp up quick smart. Similarly, your dashboard ‘check engine’ light should not be ignored.

A clean car is a respected car

It sounds too simple, but it’s true. It’s always a good policy to wash and clean out your car before taking it in for work. If your car looks like you care for it, there’s a better chance a mechanic will treat it with more love than if it were filthy.

Don’t wait for them to call

If your mechanic hasn’t called to let you know your car is ready by the agreed time, don’t be afraid to make a polite call to check on things. Mechanics will be more focused on fixing cars than your own need to get the kids to school tomorrow. There may have been problems in getting it finished on time, and won’t mind you give them a gentle reminder.

Three easy and light multi-tools

These multi-tools help the handyman travel a little lighter, either by reducing clutter in his toolbox or by making it easier to carry around a bunch of tools that, on their own, might overload his pockets and strain his suspenders.

GERBER GRAPPLER
Cost: $110
The Gerber has 12 components, including wire cutters, prybar and Phillips screwdriver. There is also a ruler in Imperial and metric, but you probably only need the Imperial side.

SUPER TOOL 300
Cost: $95
This multi-tool is purported to have the strongest pliers made by Leatherman. The 18 other tools have large cutouts that make it easier to pull components out while wearing gloves.

GUPPIE
Cost: $45
Don’t let the cutesy name fool you; this tool means business. The carabiner lets you clip the adjustable wrench, 2″ blade, LED light and bottle opener to your belt loop, to keep those tools on hand. The strength of the locking pliers can be adjusted with a thumbscrew set in the handles.

Tablesaw tune-up

I am often hired by other workshoppers to make their tablesaws perform better. There are many steps to tuning up a tablesaw, but I can outline three of the most important tips here.

First, I adjust the trunnions of the saw so that a 10″ blade at full height is canted away from the right mitre slot by 0.003″ to 0.005″ at the rear. This very slight canting of the blade is measured using feeler gauges referenced off a steel rod clamped to a slop-free mitre gauge.
The 0.003″ to 0.005″ clearance is less when the blade is lowered, but it helps to prevent burning, binding and kickback when ripping. I do most cross cutting on the right side of the blade, so this clearance gives perfect cross cuts as well.

Second, I adjust the fence parallel to the right mitre slot and square to the table. A slight rightward cant at the rear of the fence is often recommended, but not necessary when the blade is angled. Parallel is just fine.

Last, I set the right side of the splitter or riving knife tight to the right side of the cut line. This set-up means that when you rip a board, the splitter holds the board tightly to the fence behind the blade. Setting the splitter in the middle of the kerf is not good enough to prevent kickback. Remember that your left hand should not travel past the front of the guard and you should not hold the offcut. So, the splitter takes the place of your left hand behind the blade.

Hand Saws Put to The Test

Sure, you have cordless power saws for all kinds of cuts. But sometimes, the old handsaw is quicker, cleaner and quieter. No batteries to charge or cords to run. Just pick it up and cut.

Stanley 15″ FaxMax handsaw

Tester: Deon Haupt, 
Carpenter

The test: Cut 2x4s, plywood strips and PVC piping.

Pros: The handle is comfortable and has a place for your index finger if you, like me, keep it out along the saw while cutting. The “blade armour” worked well to keep the strokes smooth, and there was no binding in any of my cuts.

Cons: The black coating started coming off the teeth after only a few cuts.

V
erdict: A hungry animal that will power through almost anything you feed it.

Details: 9 tpi; 15″ long; $22;  stanleytools.com

Mastercraft 14″ aggressive handsaw

Tester: Cheryl Caven
, Wood artist

The test: Cut several 2x4s to length.

Pros: The saw’s ability to cut on the push and pull strokes made for fast work. I appreciated the precise 90° angle between the top blade edge and the handle, which made marking efficient.

Cons: The double-edged teeth didn’t offer any improvement in starting cuts, which needed several pull strokes at the start.

Verdict: Great saw for the home-owner or handy person to have in the shop.

Details: 7 tpi; 14″ long; $13; canadiantire.ca

Irwin 15″ universal handsaw

Tester: Geoff Bell, 
Amateur woodworker

The test: Cutting various hardwood and softwood boards.

Pros: Cuts started easily with minimal chatter. The saw cut quickly in both hardwoods and softwoods. It didn’t bind, even when cutting through a 4″ x 5″ board. There was almost no tearout.

Cons: The saw doesn’t cut as efficiently on rip cuts as on cross cuts. Leaves rough surfaces on hardwoods.

Verdict: A fast-cutting, easy-to-use saw for general carpentry, especially cross cuts.

Details: 11 tpi; 15″ long; $18; irwin.com

Kobalt 15″ aggressive-tooth saw

Tester: Jana Bookholt, 
Carpenter

The test: Cut pallets into smaller sections.

Pros: The saw cut through a stack of pallets very quickly and with little effort. It’s light, and its rubber grip was quite comfortable. I like that the handle is conveniently designed so you can easily mark off 90° and 45° angles.

Cons: The tooth design means you’re going to get 
a rough cut.

Verdict: A good saw for rugged projects that might
damage your finer tools.

Details: 9 tpi, 15″ long; $14; lowes.ca

Garage Doors: A Guide to the Options

The garage door is the largest working part of a house and often its most prominent feature. So when you’re buying, you want to choose carefully. The annual “Cost vs. Value Report” from “Remodeling” magazine found that a garage door replacement project returns more than 88% of your investment, making it one of the better home improvement projects in terms of recouping value when a house sells. The right garage door can make or break many of those curb-appeal enhancements.

“Especially on houses where the garage is front and center, the garage door absolutely has to look good,” says Casey McGrath, a real estate practitioner in Kitsap County, Wash. And it has to operate smoothly: Americans use the garage more than any other entry to the house, including the front door, according to a survey commissioned by window and door manufacturer JELD-WEN.

Replacement garage door ROI infographic

What a Garage Door Costs

A new door should cost significantly less than the amount it may add to the value of your house. For a standard door in wood or steel, installed costs typically range between $550 and $1,650 for a single door, and $800 to $2,500 for a double door. But if you’re looking at a heavy-duty aluminum door, or a custom-made design in exotic wood, the cost could easily reach $10,000.

Depending on the style and precise dimensions, two single doors may or may not be any more expensive than one double door. A second door opener adds $150 to $250.

Types of Garage Doors

Garage doors come in four basic types: They may swing out, swing up, roll up, or slide to the side.

Swing-out carriage-house doors or sliding barn doors are a good choice if you need to keep the ceiling clear or if you want their distinctive look. Otherwise, the most popular option by far is the sectional roll-up door.

Before purchasing a roll-up door, measure the space between the top of the garage door opening and the ceiling or overhead framing. Standard tracks require headroom of about 14 inches. If you don’t have that, you can get low-headroom track, which costs about $100 more. There are also tracks specially made for garages with unusually high walls or cathedral ceilings.

Choosing the Right Style

It’s important to pick a door that suits the style of your house. If you live in a Craftsman bungalow, for example, you might want something that looks like the swing-out doors found on garages behind early Craftsman houses. Manufacturers of modern roll-up doors make them in styles that mimic the old swing doors, complete with faux strap hinges on the sides and a pair of handles flanking a deep groove in the center.

Most styles, whether traditional or contemporary, feature panels, trim, and other detailing. Doors with true frame-and-panel construction tend to be sturdier than those with decorative detail that is merely glued or nailed on. Many styles have glass panels on the top row, which looks inviting from the street and brings daylight inside. You can also find roll-up doors with shatterproof glass or frosted plastic in all the panels, for a more modern look.

Common Garage Door Materials

Wood: Wood offers a charm and authenticity that other materials merely mimic. Wood doors can be made locally in whatever size you need, and they stand up well to bumps from basketballs. The downside is that they require frequent repainting or refinishing, especially if you live in a damp climate.

Wood doors range from midprice to very expensive, depending on whether they consist of a lightweight wooden frame filled with foam insulation and wrapped in a plywood or hardboard skin (the least expensive) or are true frame-and-panel doors made of durable mahogany, redwood, or cedar. Wood doors usually carry a short warranty, perhaps only one year.

Steel: Metal is a better choice than wood if you don’t want a lot of maintenance. Steel leads the pack because it is relatively inexpensive yet tough. Bare steel rusts, so you need to touch up scratches promptly, and steel also dents.

Minimize this risk by choosing doors with sturdy 24- or 25-gauge panels rather than 27- or 28-gauge (the higher the gauge number, the thinner the metal). Or consider a steel door with a fiberglass overlay, which resists dents and doesn’t rust. Fiberglass will need periodic repainting or restaining, though, because the color fades over time.

High-quality steel doors may have lifetime warranties on the hardware, laminations between the steel and any insulation, and factory-applied paint. Budget doors tend to have shorter warranties on some components, such as paint and springs.

Aluminum: Inexpensive aluminum doors, once common, have largely been replaced by sturdy versions with heavy-duty extruded frames and dent-resistant laminated panels. Rugged and rust-proof, these are a wonderful choice—if you can spend $10,000 or so on a garage door.

Less expensive aluminum doors have aluminum frames and panels made of other materials, such as high-density polyethylene. Because of its light weight, aluminum is a good choice if you have an extra-wide double door; it won’t put as much strain on the operating mechanism.

Insulation and Energy Savings

Considering the size of a garage door, it might seem obvious that you should invest in one that’s insulated. Because of its sandwich construction, an insulated door is more durable, and the enclosed back panel gives a garage interior a more finished look.

But the insulation won’t save energy unless you heat the garage or treat your attached garage as part of the “conditioned” part of your house. The federal Energy Star program recommends against doing this if you park cars, store lawn chemicals, or use solvents there because it could let dangerous fumes inside; it’s better to insulate only the shared wall and use that as the indoor-outdoor boundary.

Five Big Myths About PR

Want to get your company featured in your local or national newspaper, or trade press title? You’re not alone and we’re not exaggerating when we say that it’s the very first thing we hear when we sit down to discuss objectives of any given PR campaign.

What’s funny is that we’ve come across some really iffy opinions and (albeit well meaning) advice plastered all over the interweb, so we thought we’d share some of it and hopefully separate the wheat from the chaff.

Myth 1: “It doesn’t matter how you communicate with journalists, they’re just word-regurgitators.”

Did we really just hear that?! Getting to know and then treating journalists well is possibly the first thing you should do to get your press release noticed above the hundreds of others they receive every day. Reaching a busy news room when all hell is breaking loose and then you’re inadvertently demanding attention for what is clearly an attempt to gain favour and attention will land you in the junk folder just as fast as blindly sending a press release will.

Your first job if you want to get your press release about your latest, greatest all-singing, all-dancing widget is connect with the most appropriate person at your newspaper or trade press of choice. Find stories about your competitors or stories similar to what you’re pitching to know who’s covering that sort of content. Find individual writers who specialise in your industry – don’t just email the editor. They won’t respond positively, no matter how nicely you word your email or write your media release.

Myth 2: “I don’t need to know who the journalist is, if the story’s good, they’ll write about me.”

On a related note to the first myth above, nine times out of ten, a journalist will look at even the best written article about the most interesting thing and bin it simply because they don’t know the person who’s sent it to them. We’re not joking. We can see why too; how does the journalist know you’re a legitimate source? Assume therefore that Joe or Joanne Journalist sees you as ‘Pinocchio with a widget’.

It’s for precisely this reason that organically connecting with journalists over time is hugely important. Whether it’s through social networks, networking events in person, or over email, just as you would establish a relationship with anyone, it starts with a simple ‘Like’, a retweet, jumping into a natural conversation, then another conversation, and another. Nothing is forced and if they ignore you, move on. Getting to know a journalist’s needs without selling to them, and getting to know them personally (how they prefer to connect), is time consuming, but worthwhile.

Myth 3: “I don’t need a PR firm, I can do it myself.”

We’re not saying it’s impossible to ‘DIY’ media relations, but chances are, legitimate PR firms (like us!) have well groomed connections at all of the news outlets your template email might otherwise irritate. Companies who specialise in PR (like us) will put together a legitimate strategy and execute it more quickly and effectively than someone who just wants to sell their widget ever could.

Myth 4: “I don’t need a budget – PR is free.”

While there’s the slightest hint of truth in this, PR isn’t ever “free”. If you’re looking for blanket exposure in every major national newspaper (while highly improbable) in our experience it’s about the angle you take rather than your latest widget. Though your latest widget may be the greatest thing ever in your world – to a journalist, it’s just another product they have to write about.

Do the journalist a favour and don’t just write about whatever it is you’re selling. Tell them a story in your email to them, they like that; but get to the point! Remember that your email gets five seconds before a decision is made as to what happens with it (read, respond, or bin it). In two bullet points, say what’s in your press release and save the journalist time. There’s no drivel they have to wade through and if it’s a fit, they won’t care if your widget glows in the dark, they’ll just write about it.

Myth 5: “If I stuff every piece of information in my media release, the journalist has everything they need to know about my story.”

Oh dear. Media releases are the Everest for most journalists. Sometimes weighing in at anything from 300 to more than 1,000 words each, they’re beautifully written pieces of waffle they have to wade through. The ideal situation is that your release gets read and repurposed in the newspaper or trade press website of your choosing. What really happens is that journalists see a huge mountain of text and he or she deletes your email. Sorry, but that’s what happens.

While it might seem that giving all the information up front is honest and forthright, it’s frankly inconsiderate. In the case of the media release with a journalist, skip straight to the good stuff and say it in less than 250 words. Imagine you’re at their desk reading your email about your latest widget, and think deeply about what would make them want to do something for you.

The Well-Equipped Garage: Tips and Tricks for a Versatile Space

The Rules
In your garage, as in the projects it is sure to spawn, planning is crucial. Remember that the goal is to make tasks easier and more efficient. Here are a few pointers to get you into the right mind-set.
No. 1

Know thyself. A garage is a place where hobbies happen—enable them. Whether you’re into cars, woodworking, kayaking, bikes, motorcycles, model planes, or ATVs, make sure to set aside space for the particulars of the hobby. And plan the storage so you don’t trip over your hobby every day.

No. 2

It all begins at ground level with the concrete slab. If renovating, start with a good inspection. A few small cracks or rough spots are okay, but if the surface is deeply pitted, visibly uneven, or has cracks more than a quarter-inch wide, patching or resurfacing is your first task.

No. 3

Decide how many cars you plan to park. This will have a big impact on how you design the layout. A basic one-car is 12 feet by 24 feet, and most garages add spaces in 12-foot increments. Figure on a minimum 9-by-18-foot reserve per car so you can open doors.

No. 4

You can’t have too many power outlets. Electrical ordinances vary widely—so check the codes before designing circuits—but an outlet box every six feet is a good rule of thumb. Make sure the garage is on a dedicated circuit, free of interference from hair dryers and appliances. You’ll want to set up 30-amp service and include a ground fault circuit interrupter on each breaker. Use four-plug (as opposed to two-plug) outlet boxes to cut down on power strips. A 220-volt circuit is a must for welding and certain heavy shop tools or an EV charging station.

No. 5

Let there be light. In terms of bang for the buck, fluorescent light fixtures are still hard to beat. Three well-placed eight-foot fixtures can provide all the light a one-car garage needs. Pay special attention to workbenches and project areas. Remember, too, that the garage door opens and consider how that will impact the available lumens.

No. 6

Remember what your mom said and get that stuff off the floor. Hooks, shelves, racks, and bins are your friends. Prioritize what goes where based on how often you’ll use an item, and label or outline everything to help maintain storage discipline. Ready-made modular storage systems can be great, but make sure they suit your purposes, otherwise they’ll just eat up floor space.

No. 7

Think in three dimensions, not just two. Cars go on the floor, storage and work space go near the walls, but there’s also the empty space higher up. Storage volume above the cars, workbenches, entries, and the garage door is usually wasted. Unfinished garages also have space between the studs that you can use.

 

How To Lay Out Your Garage
Every garage is different, but the bigger the space, the greater the possibilities. Here’s a modular approach to laying out and outfitting one-, two-, and three-car bays. Mix and match as you see fit.

Responsive Design: Front-End Tips, Tricks & Techniques

In this full-day workshop, Vitaly Friedman (editor-in-chief of Smashing Magazine), will present practical front-end techniques, clever tricks and useful strategies you need to be aware of when working on any responsive design project. Most techniques are borrowed from mid-size and large-scale real-life projects, such as large eCommerce projects, online magazines and Web applications.

Vitaly Friedman

What will you learn?

  • Front-end strategies for scalable, resolution-independent graphics and maintainable CSS code,
  • Effective tools and techniques that can support and enhance your personal workflow when working on any responsive design project,
  • An overview of clever practical front-end techniques for improving performance of responsive sites,
  • An overview of smart Flexbox-techniques that you can apply to improve your layouts right away (including a strategy of building layouts with Flexbox),
  • Techniques for dealing with SVG, including practical techniques for icons and illustrations,
  • A front-end strategy for dealing with responsive images,
  • A strategy of preparing your website to HTTPS and HTTP/2 and what you need to know to make your responsive website blazingly fast,
  • How to utilise HTML5 prefetching and pre-rendering to improve perceived performance,
  • How to better load web fonts to boost start render time and avoid caching issues,
  • How to make use of offline-technologies to deliver a good user experience with unstable/bad connections.

Who is this workshop for?

This workshop is intended for professional designers, developers and everybody else who is dealing with responsive design regularly or wants to better understand responsive design in general. You should at least be familiar with some basics of responsive design, HTML5 and CSS.

Responsive Design: Clever Tips, Tricks And Techniques

In this full-day workshop, Vitaly Friedman, editor-in-chief of Smashing Magazine, will present practical techniques, clever tricks and useful strategies you need to be aware of when working on any responsive design project. The techniques are borrowed from mid-size and large-scale real-life projects, such as large eCommerce projects, online magazines and Web applications.

vitaly-friedman

The workshop provides a comprehensive overview of smart responsive design patterns, advanced front-end techniques, clever UX patterns, optimization for critical rendering path and robust performance tricks — a treasure of actionable, hands-on takeaways to apply in your project. We’ll be looking at many case studies and real-life examples of projects using these techniques effectively today.

The workshop has two main parts:

  • the first half of the day is dedicated to design/UX, the RWD workflow (“designing systems”), content choreography, design patterns, responsive components (tables, calendars, navigations, forms etc.) and delightful UX,
  • the second half covers technical considerations, front-end techniques, performance strategies and optimization for the critical rendering path.

In this workshop, you’ll learn:

  • Effective tools and techniques that can support and enhance your personal workflow when working on any responsive design project,
  • An overview of clever practical techniques for improving UX of responsive sites,
  • Front-end strategies for scalable, resolution-independent graphics and maintainable CSS code with SVG and icon fonts,
  • Responsive design patterns and innovative approaches to designing “responsive modules” such as tables, calendars, multi-level menus, maps and Web forms,
  • Clever performance tricks, smart lazy loading and dealing with Web fonts,
  • Testing, debugging and maintenance techniques for responsive sites as well as lessons learned from Smashing Magazine’s own redesign in 2012,
  • Technical issues (and solutions) for responsive advertising and responsive email newsletters,
  • How the design processes should adapt in terms of the project management, deliverables, performance budgets, team organization and strategy.

This workshop is intended for professional designers, developers and everybody else who is dealing with responsive design regularly or wants to better understand responsive design in general. You should at least be familiar with some basics of responsive design, HTML5 and CSS.

What hardware/software do you need?

To get the most out of the workshop, you might want to bring a laptop but it’s not absolutely necessary.

Paint sprayers for an easy finish

Traditional painting tools such as brushes and rollers can handle just about every DIY painting job there is, including finishing furniture. There may come a project, however, that persuades you to step up to a power-painting system. Such power-painting tools were, only a short time ago, considered the preserve of professionals. But there are now dozens of consumer-grade paint-application systems on the market. With a little practice, they can lay down coatings quickly and efficiently, yielding professional-looking results.

The basics

Most of us are familiar with traditional paint sprayers, the type with handheld spray guns that use high-pressure air from a compressor to atomize a finish. As an alternative to this method, airless sprayers mechanically force a finish material under high pressure through a fine tip.

The capacity of a painting system to spray coatings depends on a number of factors. Ratings such as horsepower, gallons per minute and pounds per square inch of pressure are all indicators of how powerful a sprayer is. Another critical factor to note is the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding the coating thickness or viscosity that the machine can spray. Keep in mind that thin coatings, such as stains, require less pressure than paints.

One-piece, motorized, handheld units can be just the right size for smaller jobs, as they hold the finish in a cup attached to the pump. Many sizes are available, so you can get one that will spray the kind of finish you want to apply. Some even come accessorized with a feeder hose to draw paint or stain directly from a can or a backpack, making it possible to take on a larger job.

Larger paint pumps generally draw paint straight from the container, then pump it through a high-pressure hose to a handheld gun. There are three types of pump systems available, depending on manufacturer and model. Diaphragm pumps are generally less expensive to purchase and repair. Piston pumps are powerful and often quieter. Double-stroke piston pumps paint on both the up- and downstroke, offering consistent pressure and powering multiple guns at the same time. Airless paint pumps excel at large exterior jobs, such as house walls, and also painting rough or uneven surfaces. Further, many systems can be accessorized with power rollers that don’t need to be dipped into a paint tray.

A Resource Guide to Workplace Safety for Auto Mechanics

Because auto mechanics work with heavy equipment and caustic chemicals, they face a number of safety hazards every time they go to work. Every mechanic shop should have an accident prevention program that combines employee training with regular site inspection to ensure immediate repair of any safety hazards. Shop owners should also train mechanics on how to avoid electrocution, slips and falls, chemical burns, back injuries, and other types of accidents. Implementing a safety program may cost some money up front, but preventing workplace accidents can save an employer millions of dollars in workers’ compensation costs and legal fees. These tips can improve the safety of auto mechanics and help them avoid accidents.

  • Automobile Mechanic Hazard Datasheet: This fact sheet from the International Labour Organization details the safety hazards faced by auto mechanics in the workplace.
  • A Guide to Automotive Workshop Safety (PDF): This detailed guide offers safety tips to help mechanics avoid workplace injuries.

Floor Care

Oil changes, transmission fluid changes, and other vehicle maintenance procedures involve working with slippery fluids that can coat the garage floor and increase the risk of accidents. Mechanics should clean up spills immediately, as slick spots increase the risk for slip-and-fall injuries. Leaving chemicals on the floor also increases the risk of chemical inhalation, which can cause respiratory irritation and other problems. Auto shop workers should also take care in putting away auto parts and repair tools, as leaving them on the floor increases the risk that someone will trip and fall. Anyone who works in a garage should wear boots with non-slip soles. These boots will prevent slip-and-fall accidents and provide protection in the event that something falls on the feet.

  • Prevention of Slips, Trips and Falls: The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety explains how to avoid slip-and-fall accidents in the workplace.
  • Foot Safety: This resource explains how to select a safety boot for the workplace. The article discusses the use of steel-toed boots and other types of safety footwear.

Wearing Gloves

In addition to their work with caustic chemicals, mechanics also have to worry about exposure to hot engines and injuries from sharp equipment. Auto shop workers should always wear gloves to prevent chemical burns, chemical irritation, heat burns, cuts, and other types of injuries. These gloves should be left in the workplace at the end of each shift so that dangerous chemicals are not transferred from the garage to the home.

  • Codes of Safe Practices – Mechanics (PDF): This resource explains how to use personal protective equipment to prevent eye injuries, burns and other types of injuries.
  • Glove Selection Guidance: Imperial College London explains the benefits of wearing gloves in the workplace and offers advice for selecting the right gloves for various hazards.

Eye Protection

Mechanics have an increased risk of eye injury because of the work they do with chemicals and small auto parts. Auto shop workers should always wear eye safety equipment when working with chemicals, welding, grinding, or performing any work that poses a risk of injury. Safety goggles should surround the eyes completely to prevent debris or liquids from entering the eye.

  • Eye Protection in the Workplace: This article from the U.S. Department of Labor explains the most common causes of eye injuries in the workplace and discusses the prevention of these injuries.
  • Eye Safety Checklist: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a checklist for preventing eye injuries in the workplace.

Electrocution

Working with the electrical components of a vehicle increases the risk for electrocution. Auto shop workers are also at risk of electrocution because of the electrical tools they use to repair cars and trucks as well as the vehicle’s own battery. Employers should train mechanics and other auto shop workers in how to prevent electrocution when working with electrical components. It is important that mechanics cut off the power supply to any electrical component while it is being repaired or maintained.

  • Hazards Associated with Exposure to Low Voltages (PDF): This technical resource explains how electrical currents affect the human body and discusses some of the worldwide standards in place for preventing electrocution.
  • Repair Shop Safety Rules (PDF): This resource explains the steps auto mechanics should take to maintain their safety. It specifically addresses electrical hazards and discusses ways to minimize the risks associated with these hazards.
  • Energy Control Procedures (PDF): This resource explains the procedures workers should follow when performing maintenance on electrical equipment.

Chemical Poisoning

Solvents, paints, vehicle fluids, and other chemicals can cause poisoning if ingested or if they come into contact with the skin for a long period of time. Mechanics should avoid eating and drinking in their work areas, as chemicals can contaminate foods and beverages. All chemicals should be labeled so that there is no question as to what each fluid container holds. Mechanic shops should have material safety data sheets where they can be quickly and easily found, as the information on these sheets can help poison control workers determine the best way to treat a chemical poisoning victim.

  • Preventing Exposure to Hazardous Substances (PDF): This resource explains how to prevent contact with hazardous substances in the workplace.

Proper Lifting

Mechanics work with vehicle lifts on a regular basis and have to lift heavy auto parts and other heavy items. Using proper lifting techniques is extremely important, as lifting properly can prevent back injuries and other types of accidents. Workers should bend their knees while lifting and use the power of their legs to pick up objects. A mechanic should never bend over and lift with the back, as this can cause muscle strains and other injuries. Workers should use caution when working with vehicle lifts, as using them improperly can cause crush injuries and even deaths.

  • Back Safety & Lifting Technique: Virginia Commonwealth University explains how to lift properly to prevent back injuries.
  • Material Handling Program (PDF): The University of Texas at Austin provides tips for safe manual and mechanical lifting.
  • Forklift Safety (PDF): Mechanics sometimes need to use forklifts to move heavy parts. This resource from the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Administration explains how to use this

The Best of Toolbox

I’ve spent almost half my life writing Toolbox columns for every issue of Canadian Home Workshop since 1992, and although I’ve enjoyed creating every one of them, a handful of topics are special. They cover the most important ideas I’m asked about whenever enthusiastic woodworkers come to me for advice on how to develop their skills. After writing more than 175 Toolbox columns so far, the essentials you’ll find here are some of the most important.

Master your sharpening skills
I’ll always be grateful that Canadian Workshop magazine gave me my start as a writer. (The Canadian Home Workshop name wouldn’t come for another six years.) My first article appeared four years before I began writing my Toolbox column; it taught a method for quickly sharpening chisels, plane irons and carving tools using a buffing wheel. I’ve since covered the topic again several times in Toolbox because it’s so valuable. Instead of rubbing tools back and forth on an abrasive stone by hand, the process involves holding tools steady against a spinning felt wheel that’s charged with a fine abrasive. It takes only about 60 seconds to transform a dull but properly ground tool into an astonishingly sharp implement. Done correctly, the edge is so keen, it’s scary. Quickly creating cutting edges that are sharper than razor blades is still a fundamental skill for doing the best work with wood. And the buffing wheel lets it happen in minimal time.

Slow down when sanding wood
Woodworking success is about doing the right things, in the right order, in the right way. That’s why successful projects are nothing more than the total of a series of smaller successes that build upon each other. Sanding is a perfect example of this. Starting with coarse sandpaper, then using progressively finer grits, seems obvious enough in theory but is often done poorly. Over the years, I’ve devoted several Toolbox columns to the sanding method I find works well. Start with a 100- or 120-grit abrasive in a belt sander, then move to 120-grit in a half-sheet sander. A quarter-sheet finishing sander with a 180-grit abrasive gets you almost all the way, with a final hand-sanding in the direction of the grain using 220-grit paper.

Tweak your tools
Every successful woodworker needs to be part mechanic. This is not just true today, with our workshops being filled with power tools, either. Mechanical skills always have been an important part of woodworking. Just try coaxing an antique wooden plough plane to cut properly, and you’ll see what I mean. All this is why I’ve devoted many Toolbox columns to tool adjustment over the years. What are the most important ones? There are five: get your jointer fence square to the bed; set the 90° angle stop on your tablesaw so it’s accurate; tweak your mitre gauge or cross-cut sled so it cuts absolutely square; wax the bed of your thickness planer; adjust your chopsaw so it cuts 90° in both mitre and bevel directions.

Invest for the long term
Choosing woodworking tools and gear is something I’ve often covered in Toolbox, and the process is a lot like hitting someone with a snowball as they’re running. Unless you aim way ahead, you’ll always miss. Your equipment and tool needs as a woodworker are always moving forward too, especially if you’re a beginner. That’s why you should always buy better than you think you need. Much better. I’ve never regretted the great (and sometimes costly) tools I’ve invested in. My only tool regrets have come when my snowball fell way behind the results I was aiming at. You need to buy for the ultimate woodworker you want to become, not the woodworker you are now. Also—and this is crucial—always let actual needs guide your tool investments. Struggle for a while with a process or situation, then use the insights you gain to invest in gear that actually meets the needs you face.

Beware of enthusiasm
If it weren’t for enthusiasm, none of us would haul ourselves off the couch and make good things happen in the workshop. That’s why enthusiasm is essential. But enthusiasm also has a downside: it can get the better of you in subtle ways, especially when things aren’t going well in the shop.

Let’s say you run out of the ideal size of wood screws. Don’t let your enthusiasm to complete the project tempt you to make do with what you have on hand. The same advice applies when the glue bottle runs out, a board splits annoyingly or you realize that you have to change the design for a project that’s partially built. While enthusiasm is useful, don’t let it be your guiding principle. The pursuit of quality is much more important. Learn to stop, back up, wait and then, move forward.

I plan to keep writing Toolbox columns as long as there are people who want to learn to make good things happen with wood. One thing is for sure: I’ll never run out of topics. Woodworking is too full of fascinating challenges for that ever to happen.

Independent garages to benefit from Dura’s Service Pod

he Dura Service Pod measures just two metres and requires minimal installation, reducing interference and down time with day-to-day operations.

Dura's 'all in one solution', the Service Pod.

The company states: “The Service Pod houses oil/air/water reels, computer and tool storage, a waste bin and glove/towel dispenser in one single two metre unit.

“The design integrates electrical and communications outlets as well as a facility for the optional vertical tool storage cabinet that can also house a monitor.”

With everything needed for modern day vehicle servicing, the Service Pod can function as a service reception or rapid fit bay and can be used to enhance an existing workshop, or incorporated into a new workshop fit out.

The revolutionary design incorporates everything from secure tool storage to oil, air and water management creating the perfect ‘plug and play’ unit.

Key features:
  • Facilities for tool storage in control foam
  • Waste bin drawer with removable bin
  • Square peg panels for tool storage
  • Facilities for fluid and air hoses
  • Glove and towel dispenser
  • Lockable computer cupboard
  • Removable drip trays
  • Facilities for computer screen and keyboard
  • Power and communication panel
  • Heavy duty composite work surface

– See more at: http://garagewire.co.uk/news/independent-garages-to-benefit-from-duras-service-pod/#sthash.5beaDqEa.dpuf

The German-American International Business Workshop

The German-American International Business Workshop is an important component of the International Curriculum offered by the College of Business Administration at California State University, Long Beach.  Typically, a group of 10-20 German undergraduate and master’s students from the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences visits Long Beach in November, and a similar group of Long Beach students travels to Germany the first week of June.

Whether held in Long Beach or in Hamburg, the Workshop consists of a get-acquainted dinner, two days of student seminars, visits to local businesses, a farewell dinner, and social activities.  Students make their own travel arrangements and, as a cost savings, stay with a host in Long Beach or Hamburg.

Over the years we have heard presentations at the Aquarium of the Pacific, Fender Guitars, the Getty Center, JetBlue Airways, Long Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Long Beach Press-Telegram, Long Beach Transit, Mattel, the Port of Long Beach, the Queen Mary, UPS, Toyota, and United Airlines among others.  In Germany we have had meetings at ExxonMobil, Gruner + Jahr, Hamburg Airport, Hamburger Hochbahn, Kraft Jacobs Suchard, Lufthansa Technik, Olympus Europa, the Otto Group, Montblanc, Philips, REpower, Siemens, Vattenfall, and a number of other corporations.

The Workshop began in November 1993, with the arrival of the first inbound group of Germans.  The first Long Beach class went to Germany in June 1995.  Terry Witkowski, the late Wilm Pelters (CSULB German Studies), and Joachim Kellner (Hamburg-Marketing) organized these initial Workshops.  Other CSULB participating faculty members have included Ming Chen (Management), the late Paul Frantz (Business Law), Sabine Reddy (Management), the late Clyde Stoltenberg (Business Law), Dana Sumpter (Management), and Mark Washburn (Management).  Other Hamburg faculty members have included Werner Beba, Natalia Ribberrink, Horst Seider, and Annette Schikarski (all in Marketing).

When CSULB students go to Germany, they enroll in “short-term study abroad” courses – CBA 494 or, for graduate students, GBA 694 – during Spring Semester.  Typically, the class meets about 15 hours in Long Beach for orientation sessions, lectures, and group project assignments and then for 30 hours of activities in Germany.  When the Germans come, Long Beach business students receive extra credit to participate.

Students have enjoyed Workshop events and the opportunity to interact directly with students from another country.  Some have subsequently come to Long Beach or gone to Hamburg for an entire semester.  And so far the Workshop has resulted in at least one German-American marriage!

Creative training workshop participants in Brazil

What clients say about David’s creative business training workshops:

“The ‘Designing Your Creative Business’ workshop was very good, with lots of important information and new perspectives. David Parrish was great, with a particular sense of humour, and was very good at motivating us.”
– Mario Azen. Emporio de Cultura. Brazil.

“AMAZING! The workshop has changed the way I think about marketing, and I have lots of new ideas. Dave Parrish was brilliant.”
– Christopher Moss. Gecko Design Ltd.

“Very interesting and inspiring, and at the same time practical. Many times, when you are an entrepreneur, you don’t stop to think about the issues mentioned in the workshop. When you listen to David these reflection points seem obvious, but in fact, we overlook them… No doubt, fundamental points to develop our business in a successful way.”
– Nora de Busturia. Director. Peopleing Estudio Bilbao SLL

“David’s ‘Creative Finance’ workshop was very informative, refreshing and informal in its style. David was very knowledgeable and approachable.”
– Hannah Quinn. Director. Gosh Productions Ltd.

“David Parrish has been a great help. He is a good communicator, very empathic, and he perfectly knows and understands this topic and the problematic we entrepreneurs face. As a result, I bring the personal reflection process I needed. I knew I had to do it, and I had a slight idea about how to do it, but know I feel really motivated and I have the adequate tools to accomplish it quick and effectively.”
– David Yugueros

“An excellent, informative and enlightening day. The workshop was interesting, thought provoking and stimulating; it gave a lot of food for thought. David was succinct, honest, knowledgeable and entertaining.”
– Illy. Director. Copperwood Media CIC

“Innovative and creative training, carried out with charm and intelligence.”
– Liz Lacey. Director. Liverpool Centre for Arts Development.

“Great analogies. Dave Parrish has a real knack for making complicated marketing strategy very easy to grasp and remember.”
– Louise Hunt. Desirable Fish Marketing.

“Great workshop! Very creative brain. Friendly!”
– Rob Brady. Robert Brady Photography.

“The ‘Creative Finance’ workshop was very informative and exactly what I needed for my growing business. David presented financial concepts in a clear manner and considered everyone’s opinions in the group discussions.”
– Dave Burrows. Director. Damibu Ltd

“David Parrish has been impressive. I had seen videos and read about him, but he managed to make an impact on me. All the matters he has mentioned have been tremendously inspiring.”
– Patricia Gomez

“I found the course to be excellent in its clarity, structure and help in making me realise the challenges and opportunities facing my business, and how they could be addressed.”
– Robin Brown. Black & White Magazine.

“David created a great atmosphere. Despite being on a competition everyone was feeling very confident and they were all sharing ideas about the different projects. At the end of the two intensive days everyone thought it was a very useful and helpful workshop.”
– Elena Ruiz. Creativity Zentrum, Bilbao, Spain.

“A very knowledgeable, professional and compassionate person who makes you feel at ease and seems to understand your business needs. I would personally recommend David anytime.”
– Peter Burke. Grass Root Network.

“Inspirational!”, “Energy!”, “Motivation!”, “Experience!”, “Challenges!”, “Ideas!”, “Design!”, “Collaboration!”, “Change!”, “Reflections!”, “Thinking…”
– ‘Designing Your Creative Business’ workshop participants in video in Bilbao, Spain.

David leading a business training workshop with creative entrepreneurs

All David’s training workshops are designed specifically for businesses in the creative, cultural and digital industries, with case studies and examples relevant to these sectors.

Some highly-acclaimed training projects he has designed and delivered are:

  • ‘Designing Your Creative Business’ workshops, delivered in the UK, Taiwan, Brazil, Vietnam and Spain, using the ‘Designing Your Creative Business’ toolkit publication. This workshop is suitable for both startups and growing businesses. See DYCB workshops.
  • ‘Creative Marketing’ – strategic marketing for creative and digital entrepreneurs in the design, media and technology industries.
  • ‘Creative Finance’ – financial management for creative enterprises, including project costings, profitability, cash flow forecasting and financial planning.
  • ‘How to Make Money While You Sleep’ – business strategies for creative enterprises based on the creation, protection and commercialisation of intellectual property rights including licensing.
  • ‘Leading and Managing Creative Businesses’ – practical techniques for creative entrepreneurs who find themselves leading and managing people in their growing businesses.
  • ‘Creative Pricing’ – how to set the right price points for creative, cultural and digital products and services. How to calculate the optimum prices, taking into account financial matters, market positioning strategy and sale (or not) of intellectual property rights.
  • ‘International Business’ – how to grow your business internationally and increase exports. Includes aspects of business etiquette and cultural considerations when doing business in other countries and cultures. Includes examples and case studies from creative businesses.
  • Bespoke workshops tailored to clients’ needs – Special workshops and seminars designed around the requirements of clients, from startups to high growth businesses, on subjects including Business Development and Growth, Strategic Marketing, Pricing, Business Planning, Commercialising Intellectual Property, Change Management, Pricing, Leadership and Management, Investment Readiness, and Finance.

As well as designing and delivering training workshops for entrepreneurs in the creative, cultural and digital sectors of the creative economy, David gives speeches, seminars, lectures and presentations on a range of business development topics. See Speaking page.

 

Creative business training workshop participants in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Creative businesses worldwide have improved their marketing, pricing, financial management and commercialisation of intellectual property by attending David’s training workshops for creative businesses.

David has a long experience of designing and delivering creative business training workshops and in-house training courses on a range of management themes for design, media and technology businesses in the creative industries.

“More does not mean better! The rhythm of the Workshop titled “Strategic Marketing” given by David Parrish in Bilbao Ekintza, in which 15 new entrepreneurs attended, has allow them to analyze, understand and use the insights of strategic marketing thanks to examples in a pleasant and illustrative way. Through this workshop we have understand the importance of Strategic Marketing, of listening to the customers and of using of the right message and media for each target of customers. Besides, each participant has been able to establish an action plan to invest in an efficient way the resources.
Thanks David.”
Susana Bilbao. Bilbao Ekintza. Bilbao. Spain

As a specialist trainer for the creative industries, David believes strongly in fully engaging participants in training workshops, using practical examples, case studies, groupwork and discussions. In this way, participants’ own experience is involved in the learning process, leading to practical action plans, not just academic learning.

Clients benefit from his international consultancy expertise and his experience overlaps effectively with his training work, so he is able to draw on examples and case studies from clients world-wide for the benefit of clients and training course participants.

“The ‘Creative Talk’ interactive workshop on ‘How to Succeed as a Creative Entrepreneur’ in Bandung was a great success. David shared his international experience of business in the creative industries, and participants engaged with the event, giving us a new energy in the creative industries in Bandung.”
Febby Arhemsyah M
Creative Entrepreneur Network / Bandung Creative City Forum. Indonesia
www.bandungcreativecityforum.wordpress.com

David’s in house training courses, management workshops, seminars, lectures and presentations have helped hundreds of businesses and organisations over more than ten years.

He has delivered creative business training workshops in the UK and countries world-wide.

 

‘Let us improve on the ease of doing business’ – CG

The Commissioner General, Mr Gershem Pasi, has urged Zimbabweans to seriously work towards improving on the ease-of-doing-business in the country, as this will help in attracting foreign direct investment. He was speaking during a tax consultants’ workshop hosted by ZIMRA’s Investigations and International Affairs division.

 

 

The workshop aimed at informing and discussing with tax consultants the proposed amendments to the legislation which governs their operation. Some of the proposed amendments which were discussed include the licensing of tax agents, minimum qualifications required for one to be a tax agent and the importance of affiliation of membership to associations, among other issues.

 

Speaking during the workshop, Commissioner General Pasi encouraged all Zimbabweans to work towards improving the local business environment, “as this is the only way to attract the much sought after foreign investment.”

 

“The recent World Bank report showed that we performed dismally on the ease-of-doing-business. This is not a good sign and we need to put emotions aside and look quite closely on what such statistics mean to us. If I were to ask how long it take to open a business in Zimbabwe, we will find out that it takes long? So we need to sanitise the way we do things, if we are to attract the investment we need,” said the CG.

 

Turning to the business of the day, Mr Pasi applauded ZIMRA for organising such a workshop saying “these platforms allow us to share ideas in order to enhance operational efficiency and transparency within your sector.”

 

He said it was high time the Authority and its stakeholders dealt with the issue of fly-by-night tax consultants since they were compromising the tax consultancy profession. “We would want to know who genuine tax consultancy are. We also need to know fly-by-night tax consultancy so that we know how to deal with them. After all they do not qualify to be representatives of our mutual taxpayers,” said Mr Pasi during his keynote address.

 

The highly informative and interactive workshop was spiced up by two presentations from the Public Accountants and Auditors Board (PAAB) and the Institute of Certified Tax Accountants (ICTA).

Zimbabwe: ICJ convened 2-day workshop on Business and Human Rights for East and Southern African lawyers

The workshop took place from 22-24 June in Victoria Falls and had a special focus on children’s rights as a particularly vulnerable group.

Its primary objective was to create a pool of jurists and activists with the knowledge and ability to undertake strategic litigation before national or regional courts in the interest of victims of human rights abuse by business enterprises in the Southern/Eastern Africa region.

To this end the meeting brought together legal practitioners and Human Rights Defenders involved in human rights legal accountability of business enterprises.

This workshop gathered together a selected group of human rights advocates from Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania working on cases relating to business’ human rights abuse.

In East and Southern African countries mining represents a significant part of the national economies and annual GDP.

Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique have seen the inflowing investments grow in recent years, but it is not clear that this trend has meant improvements in the realization of human rights, especially economic and social rights.

Child labour is endemic, and its occurrence in tobacco plantations subject children to additional hazards to their health and wellbeing.

Mining and oil exploration creates problems to local communities who are not properly consulted or benefit from the activity and usually bear the brunt of environmental degradation and pollution associated with those extractive industries.

Business enterprises are in many instances complicit with State’s violations of human rights.

The meeting also sought to provide legal and other tools to community representatives and litigators who want to start strategic litigation in the public interest.

This flows from the realisation that effective remedy and reparation for victims of business human rights abuses, especially in a transnational context, remains elusive as ever and confronts a series of legal and procedural obstacles.

Access to effective remedy and justice is a priority objective in the context of work relating to the human rights responsibilities of business enterprises.

workshops running workshops for motivation, team-building and improving performance

Workshops combine training, development, team-building, communications, motivation and planning. Participation and involvement of staff increases the sense of ownership and empowerment, and facilitates the development of organisations and individuals. Workshops are effective in managing change and achieving improvement, and particularly the creation of initiatives, plans, process and actions to achieve particular business and organisational aims. Workshops are also great for breaking down barriers, improving communications inside and outside of departments, and integrating staff after acquisition or merger. Workshops are particularly effective for (CRM) customer relationship management development. The best and most constructive motivational team-building format is a workshop, or better still series of workshops, focusing on the people’s key priorities and personal responsibilities/interest areas, which hopefully will strongly overlap with business and departmental aims too. Workshops can be integrated within regular monthly team meetings – an amazing amount of motivation progress and productivity can be accomplished with just a 90 mins workshop per month. Workshop facilitation by a team leader or manager develops leadership, and workshops achieve strong focus on business aims among team members. Workshops are very effective for training too – workshops encourage buy-in and involvement more than conventional training courses because they are necessarily participative, and the content and output are created by the delegates. Also, the relationship between workshop facilitator or workshop presenter and delegates is participative, whereas a ‘trainer’ is often perceived as detached, and the training material ‘not invented here’.

There are many workshop format variations – here’s a basic workshop format:

  • Prior to workshop session identify and agree via consultation with the team the aim/opportunity area to be addressed. It’s helpful to refer to John Adair’s Action-Centred Leadership model for examples of different workshop subject areas and their implications.
  • It’s also important to decide workshop objectives in relation to the team’s ‘maturity’, experience and development – refer to the Tuckman ‘forming storming norming performing’ model, and the Tannenbaum and Schmidt model to understand and agree the level of freedom and responsibility to give the team during workshops, and in agreeing workshop follow-up actions and responsibilities.
  • Set suitable date and venue for meeting and issue agenda, with verbal explanation/reassurance if necessary – see running meetings.
  • At start of workshop, introduce aim and process – agree expectations – answer queries. (5 mins)
  • Brainstorm the ideas and opportunities with the whole group – flip chart is best – see brainstorming. (10-20 mins)
  • Split the group into pairs or threes (more usually creates passengers) and ask them to come up with outline actions/initiatives/plans to achieve agreed purpose/aim. (20-30 mins)
  • Have groups present back their ideas – review and praise positives aspects in each, and gently agree areas which would benefit from improvement/refining. (max 5 mins per group)
  • Then task and agree for groups or individuals to refine outline plans into clear objectives (refer to SMARTER principles), during the workshop, or afterwards to be fed back to manager, which can then be followed up and coached during implementation.
  • Follow up, coach, encourage, support and invite ideas for future workshop items and process improvements.

tips on designing workshops

Workshops are an extremely flexible and effective method for training, learning, development, change management, team building and problem solving, and virtually any organizational challenge.

You can actually run any sort of workshop you want – your options are as wide as your imagination and certainly not limited to off-the-shelf or tried and tested formats.

Think about and then agree openly your aim(s) for each workshop or and/or session.

Invite suggestions from delegates beforehand as to workshop subjects and aims if you want to maximise commitment and empowerment.

It helps for certain aims to use a model or concept to explain the theory behind your intentions, for example if dealing with communications and motivation, helpful models are: Johari, Maslow, Mcgregor, Tuckman, Emotional Intelligence – these sort of concepts are interesting and accessible for students and organizational delegates of all types. There are many others on this site.

There are also lots of materials and templates on the free resources section which help to theme and underpin workshop sessions.

Split big groups into pairs or threes – this is more dynamic and produces more ideas – and gets the whole group working better, particularly when they present ideas and review with the whole group. As with teambuilding exercises, if you split into sub-teams of more than four it’s advisable to have each team appoint a leader, or things can be chaotic and some members become ‘passengers’.

Try to agree actions and accountabilities at the end of sessions and workshops which enable follow-up.

My approach to workshops is always to tailor the content and structure for the particular situation, which I would encourage you to do, rather than use off-the-shelf formats. Approach it like training design – what are you (or the delegates) seeking to achieve? Be specific – more specific than just ‘team-building’ or ‘improving relationships’ – you need to identify a specific element within a general aim.

Establish and agree a measurable output(s) or result(s) that represent the aim(s), and then work back from there in thinking how to structure the workshop or session(s).

Unless you have a good reason for using laptops and projector, have the delegates use flip chart paper and coloured marker pens, and hang the sheets around the walls. This enables delegates to be far more dynamic and creative than modern technology media.

Encourage people to use creative methods that are appropriate for their personal styles and learning styles.

Visual, spatial, creative people enjoy working with flip-charts, colours, ‘post-it’ notes, etc.

People-centred individuals and teams enjoy human interaction – role-plays, discussions, mutual interviews, etc.

Logical, numerate, process-oriented people are happier with more structured planning tools and computers.

Think about the sort of people in the workshop groups and provide tools, materials and methods that they will be comfortable using.

See the guidelines for team building games and exercises, the free team building games, and for business strategy: the free SWOT analysis template and examples, and the free PEST analysis template, which can all help in running successful workshops.

Facilitating effective workshops is a skill that comes with experience. Effective workshops require a facilitative and enabling approach – not a directing autocratic style, so concentrate on enabling and providing tools, knowledge, mechanisms, freedoms, processes, information, etc., that open people’s minds and make connections between tasks and people, in an enjoyable, constructive and liberating way.

Definition: Seminars and Workshops

What’s the Difference Between a Seminar, Workshop and Conference?
What You Name Your Event Can Communicate Volumes About the Experience

Seminars, workshops, conference, symposia, user conferences, summits — the type of events you can host are varied. Choosing the right description for your event is critical because it communicates volumes about the type of experience your participants can expect.

To ensure that you’re fully leveraging the marketing power of your event title, select the type of event that best fits the experience you want to create. Here’s a quick explanation of each type of event.

Seminars are educational events that feature one or more subject matter experts delivering information primarily via lecture and discussion.

Free Seminars are an increasingly popular way to generate qualified leads for your business. Many professionals and organizations recognize that the best way to convince prospects of their expertise is to deliver high-quality education and, therefore, deliver free seminars that are high in content. Others, however, use the promise of free education to lure information-seeking prospects to a sales pitch. As a result, many prospective customers are wary about attending a free seminar for fear of being subjected to a high-pressure sales pitch.

Introductory or Preview Seminar implies that there is more to come after this particular event. This can be a good way to name free events that are designed to give prospective attendees a taste of what they can expect in a larger, more expensive program.

Workshops tend to be smaller and more intense than seminars. This format often involves students practicing their new skills during the event under the watchful eye of the instructor.

Hands-On Workshops typically involve participants doing work on a particular issue during the program. The promise is that when they leave, they’ll have at least a rough plan or tools in place to address the challenge.

Conferences often features keynote presentations delivered to all attendees, as well as multiple break-out sessions. Attendees often expect to receive information about industry trends and developments.

User Conferences are gatherings hosted by providers of products and services to educate and build relationships with their customers. Attendees learn about product enhancements, as well as new and advanced strategies for using the product to achieve business goals and solve problems.

Trade Shows or Expos are exhibitions where vendors can display their goods and services in hopes of generating customer leads. Typically held at least annually, these events are a good place to discover trends and developments in a particular industry.

A Symposium is typically a more formal or academic gathering, featuring multiple experts delivering short presentations on a particular topic.

A Summit is a gathering of the highest level of leaders and experts.

Teleseminars are seminars that are delivered via a conference call over the telephone and/or over the Internet. The instructor moderates the call, while the attendees listen. To engage listeners, many instructors provide outlines, notes sheets or copies of PowerPoint slides to follow when listening to the presentation.

Webinars or Webconferences are presentations that involve an audio and video component. The audio portion of the event is delivered via phone or over the Internet, so that participants can listen via their computer speakers. The video portion of the event is delivered via the Internet, giving participants a presentation to watch while listening to the instructor.

When determining how to label your event, consider the type of presentation you want to deliver. Also consider what your competitors are doing. If your niche is already crowded with seminars, position your event as different by increasing the level of instructor-attendee interaction and making it a workshop … or by involving other experts and offering multiple breakout sessions to transform it into a conference.

By carefully choosing the words you use to describe your event, you’ll be able to subtly communicate the benefits of participating … and attract the right kind of attendee for your event.