Here, jam-packed in the pages of SNIPS, were all the nuts and bolts you needed to get your sheet metal shop operations off the ground. It was legendary!

Since then, we’ve made minor revisions to the guide with age, and we’ve made it a point to rehash the topic at least once a year for our readers — almost like Christmas! Yet still, after so many years, the majority of our literature centering on layout has largely remained the same. That is … until now.

In the process of ironing out articles for our annual “rehashing” this year, we decided our readers need more than a guide; they need a gift. And this gift needs to come more than just once a year.

For that very reason and more, we are moving everything we know about shop layout to a new section on (Go there now and check it out!). For only there, in cyberspace, can this knowledge truly stretch its legs and comfortably grow in the form of videos, podcasts and informative articles — starting with this month’s cover story, Lessons in Lean (on page 18).

To some extent, a conversation about lean workflow and shop layout should be one in the same: the ultimate goal for both is efficiency. But when put into practice on a shop floor, they can all seem like opposing forces. So we scoured the country for lean experts to help us connect the dots.

Lean is “more art than a science,” explains Robert Van Til, Ph.D., a professor of lean studies and chair of the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department at the Oakland University School of Engineering and Computer Science. Because of the human element involved in workflow operations, it will never be a completely perfect process. But with enough practice and the right technology in the mix, perfection isn’t far behind.

That same thinking can be applied to shop safety, according to safety experts, Donovan Seeber and Ralph Natale. In Safety First (on page 24), they share the best bits about building a “culture of safety” in your workplace, starting from the ground up.

As any contractor will tell you, the best way to build business is to understand your business. Our special Shop Talk report (on page 16) embodies that with information about the most pressing issues facing our industry today.

Needless to say, our industry has changed a lot since that first guide to shop layout. The machines that shape our shop floors are smarter than ever, and the next wave of technology promises the ability to make automatic adjustments to workflow at a granular level. (I’ve seen this firsthand at last month’s FABTECH expo in Atlanta, Georgia).

Sure, this means jobs will change. But there will always be a need for skilled, knowledgeable workers who can make the right decisions at the right time.

If you’re a loyal reader of SNIPS, or just picking up the magazine for the first time, you’re already miles ahead of the curve. There is no need to thank us for what you learn in this issue. It is our gift to you. Happy holidays!

Emell Derra Adolphus