Best Practices, Feature, Operations, V6I2

Maintaining Business Through Maintenance

(Photo courtesy of JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash)

How important, we may wonder from time to time, is regular equipment maintenance to the functioning of a shed shop and its delivery equipment? 

The answer definitely varies in the details from shop to shop, but the bottom line ultimately reflects the solid results derived from ongoing maintenance.


Arlin Glick, co-owner of Tuscarora Structures, in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, is part of a family-owned and -operated business, building and shipping quality, affordable storage sheds as well as garages over the northeast since 1991. He, along with brothers Matt and Jeremy, grew up—under the guidance of father Dave Glick—in the shed construction business, so Arlin has special insight into the importance of good shop maintenance.

“I grew up in this business and feel like I had to learn the hard way right off the bat,” he explains. “To me, finding and having the best people in place who can help me the most is my No. 1 maintenance concern.

“We are a very small business, however, and not like the big guys. So with just a few people, I have to make the most of things.”

That said, the Glicks have someone come in regularly, spring and fall, for maintenance functions—especially to make sure their compressor is in top working condition, since it needs regular maintenance.

“And keeping things looking good out in front of the shop, I take care of that,” adds Glick. “Maintenance is very important to me. Someone visiting your workplace and seeing things in order—not just laying around everywhere—that says a lot about your business.”

Maintenance consists of upkeep of everything, according to Glick, not just equipment. 

“This can be anything from mowing the lawn to changing oil in machinery that needs it,” he says. “Even keeping the gravel outside your business looking good is not something to be overlooked. Just keep things looking good. That’s one of the things maintenance is to me here in what is basically a four-man shop.”

Since their forklift stays outside, issues with dust and substances used in the shop causing particles to stick to the radiator are not a problem at Tuscarora Structures. This is not the case in all shed shops.


Another shop views their forklift as perhaps one of the most overlooked pieces of equipment when it comes to maintenance needs, according to Colorado Shed Company’s general manager, Bradley Kimberlin. 

“Shop saws are another item which needs regular maintenance but may frequently be overlooked,” he adds.

“Checks should be done on the saw’s belts to make sure that they are in proper working order. From a maintenance standpoint, that and any issues with compressors are things to keep an eye out for. Many air compressors can collect moisture. And it’s often the case that in the course of its steady eight hours of operations, liquid does not get drained.”

Colorado Shed’s main equipment for regular servicing is their forklift. This may not be the case for all shed-building companies, but things invariably go smoother if the machinery most in use on a regular basis is checked often.

“In our case—and this may be true for others—we check our forklift air filters because dust does tend to build up in this environment,” shares Kimberlin. “But even this important work vehicle’s radiator needs maintenance because this machine part helps with temperature extremes.”

He points out that airborne substances, such as stains being used to finish sheds, linger in the air a long while. Stains do this much longer than paints and therefore can actually build up on the radiator surfaces. Dust particles, in turn, may easily get cemented to the radiator, thus impairing the ability of the radiator to accomplish its function of cooling down the forklift engine.

“Definitely keep an eye on that and in the case of oil changes, that typically can be done for every 250 hours of operation,” Kimberlin advises. “In the case of hydraulic and transmission fluids, new filters should be installed after some 1,000 hours of operation.”

Saw blades can be sharpened periodically to maintain their peak of performance as well as new blades purchased when they finally wear out.

“Purchasing better quality blades along with using a sharpening service may be ways to perform maintenance tasks even more cost-effectively,” he adds.

“Blades can often then be picked up and dropped off once a month, effectively creating one less maintenance issue for you to worry about. Ten blades can be in the shop at a time, for instance, while another 10 are out being sharpened. The blades can then be rotated. 

“It’s also a good idea to keep a check on table saws and chop saws as time goes by. Table saws, typically, would be those mostly involved in re-sharpening of the blades.”

Such tasks as checking forklift tires for wear will probably be more of an annual task. Tire tread and hydraulic fluid may be checked at the same time as oil changes just as a safeguard. Forklift forks should be checked and greased regularly as the weeks and months go by.

A bigger problem involves simply recording regular maintenance tasks on a day-to-day basis. Every person has their own way of doing that, according to Kimberlin.

“I use a little calendar for my maintenance chores and scheduling of other stuff,” he shares. “You can do this on your computer calendar and things to be regularly repeated can be made to do this systematically, automatically every month. You may set things to send you a text or mechanically generated email each month let’s say. 

“But some people of course don’t even do that, as technology is not their forte.”

But an annual review of everything that needs to be done may be a better fit, with quarterly reminders. For such an arrangement, weekly and quarterly checklists need to be reassessed to keep up with maintenance issues.

Colorado Shed Company has six to seven employees who are all full-time workers. Google Calendar reminders come to the shop manager or whoever is in a related role in an effort to make sure equipment stays maintained and in good working order.

“For those without computer access, the use of a clipboard on a wall containing an easily checked off sheet, this may be preferable,” says Kimberlin. “Mounting it on a wall instead of setting it on a table or desk—where it can be easily forgotten or covered up—may be the best option.”

Kimberlin contracts out his maintenance with oil changes or tire replacements. This is something he cannot do for himself. He can inspect equipment, but with more involved maintenance duties, it makes much more sense to get outside help specializing in such work.

“I have seen some shops where there is a handyman in their in the business who will go and change the oil if that needs to be done, but things also depend on the skill level of who is available to execute those tasks,” he says.

“It’s worth pointing out that someone who doesn’t know what they are doing can actually cause more damage than someone who does—for example a simple thing such as neglecting to tighten an oil plug can result in a burned-out motor.”

Kimberlin at one point worked in a shop with some 20 workers, and quite a few forklifts. 

“We focused our efforts on getting our product out the door,” he shares. “Equipment may have been driven that should not have operated. Bottom line: I would always go with a professional when it comes to expensive machinery.

“In the wintertime there may be more time to have someone within your organization to do oil changes. However, in summer things typically get harder to keep up with. It may make sense to pull a competent guy off production and to do the oil change if needed.”

Another crucial point about maintenance is that upkeep of a backyard shed shop dovetails with safety issues. Awareness of such duties as checking for fraying or cuts on any extension cords or power lines may not immediately come to mind as maintenance issues. But they are part of a shop’s safety concerns as well.

Though these may not be things in the former category, it’s still important to keep up with them. Keeping an eye out for damaged ladders, pulling ones that may present a hazard, could be something included on an upkeep checklist.

Bringing those things to light as regular items to check on increases a shop’s overall safety standards. Though a forklift is front and center, other things may get overlooked. Kimberlin’s former shop had a regular repairman so if a tool got damaged it was placed into a bin with other items needing repair. Based on the particular implement, some were lower in priority than others.

“We would get them fixed or replaced them, depending how damaged they were,” he says. “And we even had an outgoing bin where workers could, in turn, come back and pick the tool up, ready once again for use.”

To Kimberlin, that could be viewed as maintenance, though it was on more of an as-needed basis than something scheduled each fall. Since he changed shops, his number of tools has dramatically dropped to mostly one of each tool as opposed to several or more. One sawhorse, however, also means that if it breaks it needs fixing as soon as possible.


On the vehicular side of things, there hasn’t been much development of software programs that help with maintenance record keeping and upkeep, according to Leonard Buildings‘ Michael Shears. 

“But really it is more about being hands-on and getting things done and done quickly,” he says. “This includes being proactive in reference to the care of the vehicle. 

“In our fleet we have small trucks, semis, trailers, Mules, and forklifts, all providing us with a lot of access out in the field. We service not just our home office here in Holly Springs, North Carolina, but in 58 locations in five different states, too.”

Getting a schedule put out for required vehicle maintenance is key whether you lease or own a vehicle. “You want to make sure the vehicle is in a great shape so you keep the wheels of your business rolling,” adds Shears.

“Often this comes down to a lot of hands-on contact, as well as what services are needed so your transportation sources stay on the road. And our manager, Michael Brown, has a handle all points of contact for what are the closest locations for those in the field needing services.”

Communication takes place weekly to bi-weekly to make sure their vehicles are brought in quickly and regularly for service. This facet of their business is especially time-sensitive. Once the vehicle is down, they either need to supply them with another vehicle as soon as possible or they won’t be back on the road in a timely fashion.

“Our biggest challenges with having our own fleet remain on the service side,” Shears says. “Things tend to be linked closely to the clock, but we also have quite a few regions out there that can handle the overlap if we find ourselves in a bind. If something is sold in one city and the item is actually located in a nearby metropolitan area, our goal is to get that to the place of the sale ASAP.”

Electronic login devices tell truck drivers how long they can be out driving and how many hours they’re allowed to be out there driving before taking a break and being back home safely.

As with other builders in this article, the firm has numerous forklifts at scores of locations, so servicing of those happens on a daily basis. Their forklifts must be in working order for day-to-day activities. 

In spite of the great volume of products sold, Leonard Buildings prides itself on keeping quality ahead of quantity. Maintenance cognizance makes that motto a reality in their business. 


In a nutshell, perhaps it would help to ask yourself and those working in your shop a few questions when it comes to shop maintenance. If your staff is willing to find the time, perhaps an annual or semi-annual meeting for discussion of these questions may take place.

Some of these questions include: 

  • What are the major areas of a shop and its equipment that need regular maintenance? 
  • For these, what maintenance needs to be done and how often? 
  • How do we best stay on top of maintenance in our shop? 
  • Do we have staff perform the maintenance or contract it out? 
  • Does that answer depend on the equipment? 
    What areas of a shed shop often get missed or forgotten when it comes to maintenance? 
  • And finally, how can missed maintenance negatively affect our shop?

We live daily with some degree of chaos and unpredictability—despite how calm things may feel at the moment. But for our immediate business world and the larger one outside our circle, staying on top of maintenance as well as safety issues may be seen as one critical way to keep the looming, inevitable disorder of business and life at bay.

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