Feature May 1, 2010 by
Jim Anderton, Technical Editor
Let there be light
It's amazing how many service businesses I see that have inadequate lighting for technicians. It's even more surprising when I see a recently renovated customer waiting area with bright, modern lighting and no attention paid to the bays.
When I visit a shop — and I drop in on many — there are always a few attributes that mark a good operation. A lot of them are common sense; but the one I look for first, in the bays at least, is light.
It’s amazing how many service businesses I see that have inadequate lighting for technicians. It’s even more surprising when I see a recently renovated customer waiting area with bright, modern lighting and no attention paid to the bays. Since few businesses have the luxury of a total renovation, improving this aspect of the work environment is going to be a retrofit. What should you do?
I’d start with the ceiling. The main source is likely fluorescent tubes, but you’d be surprised how many times I see missing, dead or flickering tubes. Before you add a thing, work with what you have. Replace tubes and almost as importantly, clean the tubes and the reflectors while you’re there. If new tubes don’t work or won’t help the flickering, change the ballast or sockets now, while you’re on the ladder. This means having a spare parts on hand, which is cheap compared to two ladder setups to fix the problem. What usually happens is the shop gets busy and the fix never happens. If the operation is big enough, it may pay to replace the fixtures with newer slimline units, saving power as well as adding lumens.
The next step is to add more lighting. More overhead is nice, but consider the setup the “bump and paint” guys use and set up fixtures at eye level or even lower. I know, wall space is limited; but you’d be amazed how much light you can bounce off the floor or underside of a hood. For the lower lighting, I like four-foot bathroom/ kitchen fixtures. They’re 25-bucks-cheap, have a good diffuser to cut glare and you don’t have to “thread the needle” with eight foot tubes. The four-footers also have soft white or low glare tube options.
Next, look at your wall outlets. With more cordless equipment needing charging stands, the available plug outlets are getting scarce. Adding more, ideally with overhead drops, gives techs more options to use task lighting as well as keep a cordless unit charging at the bench. It’s also a lot safer than running extension cords all over the shop. GFI receptacles are also cheap, add safety and almost as important, can be tested at the push of a button. This means that you know if the outlet is live immediately, avoiding guesswork at the breaker panel.
There are lots of ideas here, but remember you can’t have too much lighting in a bay. And with our ageing workforce, vision will be a sure fire issue in work quality going forward … they can’t fix what they can’t see.