Providing The Proper Workbench, Part 1

Wed, 09/12/2012 - 8:00am
Jim Norton, Custom Products & Services, Inc.

In today’s electronic assembly environments, it very important that your workbenches and workstations meet the needs of the technician and the work being performed, along with the flexibility to change, add, or reconfigure as your processes change. Considering the wide variety of workbench choices available on the market, it can often be a daunting task to configure them to meet all of your requirements. However, there are two primary consideration that will effect each and every aspect of your decision: What is the work being done at each station, and how will it change in the future? The answer to those questions will determine how each workbench or workstation is configured, including items such as:

  • Bench Length, Height, Depth.
  • Height adjustability for worksurfaces, shelves, and accessories.
  • Worksurface material ESD and static protection for equipment and technicians.
  • Drawer and storage requirements below the worksurface
  • Shelving and storage above the worksurface.
  • Electrical Power, voice, and data requirements.
  • Task lighting.
  • Mounting systems for monitors, keyboards, laptops, test equipment, etc.
  • Footrests

Each of the items listed above must be considered when meeting the specific requirements of the technician and the task they are performing, while addressing ergonomic issues that apply to any workspace today. The challenge is to retain the ability to customize each workspace for the task being performed, while allowing that same workspace to be changed or modified as your requirements change.

Why Is STYLE A Factor?

“Pedestal” Style benches are often referred to as “Lab” benches. Typically, this style is used in conventional lab environments where a very solid platform is required along with the requirement for substantial storage capacity. The drawer pedestals provide high density storage while also serving as excellent support for the worksurface, shelves, test and production equipment, and nearly anything else that needs to be placed upon the bench. Available with a wide variety of drawer sizes, power-data- voice options and worksurface material options, the “Pedestal” style bench is perfect for any wet or dry lab application. They are easy to configure in rows, L-shape or Quads.

The limitations for the “Pedestal” style bench includes:

    • Worksurface heights limited to 30” or 36”, due to the heights of the drawer cabinets available.
    • Shelf heights limited to 15” or 20” above the worksurface.
    • Limited adjustability and fewer accessories available when compared to the “cantilever” style benches.

If you are outfitting a lab, the Pedestal style bench is an excellent and very popular choice. The end result is a very clean, strong and professional solution that will provide plenty of storage on a very solid platform.

“Cantilever” style workbenches provide a very clean, adjustable and functional design that is very popular for production/manufacturing facilities, labs, repair and rework areas, server rooms, and more. Almost limitless configurations are possible due to the use of slotted vertical columns that support everything from the worksurace and shelves, to lighting, powerbars, bin bars, and LCD arm systems. Adjustability and easy reconfiguration and modifications are key advantages with the cantilever style workbench. As your production requirements change, the benches can be reconfigured right along with it, thus saving the time and expense or purchasing replacements.

Accessory items such as shelves, lights, storage cabinets, powerbars and tote bin bars can be relocated, adjusted or moved anywhere along the vertical columns to provide the perfect position for the task being performed. Adding additional accessories, as needed, is also quick and easy.

For even more flexibility, consider adding casters to your benches and making them mobile for easy, smooth-rolling relocation and easing cleaning activities.

Although 4-leg frames have been around for decades, they are still a very economical and functional choice for many applications. Starting with a solid, heavy-duty frame is important for many basic assembly applications, especially those that require high weight capacity and height adjustability. Add a slotted frame above the worksurface and you can now utilize shelving, lighting, and many other accessories commonly found on the cantilever benches discussed previously.  

To achieve height adjustability, these 4-Leg frames can be equipped with a telescoping leg that allows the worksurface height to be a raised or lowered from 30” – 36” (in 2” increments). Should you need a special height, that can be accommodated as well. Casters can be added to create mobile benches.

Size Is Everything

When determining the overall size requirements for your workbench, there are several factors to consider. How much space (footprint) is available in the work environment and how much space can you allocate for each work cell or workstation? Will your future production or assembly process dictate the need to change or alter your workbench configuration? Will you have large or heavy test (or other) equipment on the bench that will consume valuable working space?

Addressing these questions in the early planning stage for your work area will save you frustration later on. Carefully detail the space and storage requirements for each work cell. Determine how much additional space is required to accomplish the task at hand. Based upon that information, you will find that the bench size (depth, width, height) is dictated by that number. Often times the space required is over-estimated, and valuable floor space is consumed by benches that aren’t being used efficiently. Working with a vendor that has the capability to help you with the actual design phase is very important. Detailed drawings of your space, along with the workbenches and equipment used in the room, will allow you to see where and how the space can be used most efficiently. Not all vendors provide that service, and yet others provide it a little or no cost to you. Maximum space utilization and workflow improvements will be achieved by selecting the right bench through the right vendor.

Tune in to Friday’s insider for information on work station adjustability, composition, and storage options.


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