Being efficient in your rig’s design and use does more than save you time in your day and make things easier on your body. Having a streamlined, well-organized rig and orderly, logical rig practices can actually help you keep more of your hard-earned cash in your bank account.
Design For Your Workflow
“You don’t get paid for walking,” says John Halko of Georgia Farrier Supply in Jasper, Ga. That’s a good motto to keep in mind from the moment you step out of the vehicle to when you climb back in to drive away. Halko says every extra step is wasted time, effort and money.
“I tell farriers that placement is important when it comes to rig design. For example, when you get out of your truck, you’re on the driver’s side. Determine what steps you need to take to get things going as you walk around your rig. You don’t want to have to walk back and forth unnecessarily,” advises Halko. “This is one of the biggest issues we see in setting up units for people.”
It’s helpful to think of your workflow the way a factory designer would. With a factory, the planner considers every step that each type of worker takes. The layout is designed to maximize efficiency and flow. You wouldn’t walk 10 feet away to put a widget in a shipping box. Instead, the widget’s box would be right there so you could drop the finished widget into it. Halko says it’s the same thinking process when it comes to horseshoeing rigs.
“After you step out of the truck, let’s say you should be able to reach out, turn on your propane and then get your apron and any supplies as you’re walking around to the back of your unit. You then would swing out your anvil and your forge, slide out your grinder and your drill press and you will be right in the middle of your workshop, ready to go,” he says.
It Does A Body Good
Fitting your rig to your physical needs and abilities, rather than the other way around, is another way to make your workplace more efficient and streamlined.
Halko says they ask a lot of “odd questions” of farriers when designing or retrofitting rigs, but that it’s necessary to get to the essentials.
“We ask shoers things like how tall they are and how many people will be using the equipment,” he says.
Considering what hand (right or left) is the dominant one, and how long your reach is, are other factors in good rig design since it’s best to have your frequently used tools within arm’s reach.
“When you’re working, you want to be able to stand in one place and rotate your body, and have all of your equipment right there. That’s the efficient way to do it,” advises Halko. “If you concentrate your primary equipment and inventory on the driver’s side and back of your rig, that might save you 4 or 5 minutes per horse, and that adds up. Then, you can put your less-used or more specialized supplies in storage on the passenger side.”
One caveat: Be sure to consider the overall payload of your rig and balance weight appropriately and evenly. An unbalanced rig might result in uneven wear and tear or even unsafe driving conditions.
Swing Out Sensibly
When it comes to anvils, Halko says he’s actually calculated the cost of lifting one in and out of a rig all day long vs. having it mounted on a swing-out mechanism.
“The time and energy to lift the anvil in and out all day is about the same amount of time to do one reset, and that’s about $100,” he estimates. “You can put that into your pocket and do more horses, or you can give it to the chiropractor.”
Halko adds that while a swing-out anvil won’t alleviate all problems, it can basically give you an extra horse each day.
“Farriers are like pro athletes — you only have so many horses in you,” he says. “And since farriers are selling their bodies, they need to consider the wear and tear on them from the way their rig is set up.
“The thing about anvils is that you’re never picking it straight up, carrying it to your stand and setting it straight down, you’re actually bending at about a 20-degree angle. If you’re shoeing eight horses in a day, that’s a back killer that’s shortening your career and costing you money. To me, a swing-out anvil just makes much more sense.”
Getting Close To Your Work
While you can select rig design features and determine the best tool placement, one factor that’s frequently out of your control is your rig’s proximity to the horses you’ll be working on. Roger Newman of SomerSong Forge Trailers in Somerset, Wis., says that with new clients, a little sleuthing can give you quite a bit of information before you arrive.
“Learning to ask questions of the customer about their set-up will give you insights and clues about what type of situation you’ll encounter, or if the order is relayed by someone else, you can always call back to do a little research on the phone,” he says.
Knowing in advance what the environment is like will help you estimate whether you’ll be able to wrap things up quickly or if the appointment will take extra time — and extra effort.
“Your parking in relationship to the horse and the steps you take back and forth to the rig are really critical and can be tiring after a long day,” says Newman.
“A farrier who’s at a 150-foot facility that’s had to park his or her rig at the opposite end of the working area can wear himself or herself out, especially if it’s cold outside. In the wintertime, you really want your rig to be as close to the horse as possible so you don’t have to go back and forth reheating shoes.”
Newman says a barn’s design and grounds layout are important factors, but so is the barn’s daily routine.
“Many barns used to be done with cleaning by 8 a.m., but now they’re frequently cleaning until noon. That’s not efficient for a farrier because if you’re working in an aisle you’re constantly having to work around people.”
When it comes to rig parking and getting close to your client’s horses, assess the options carefully so you can set things up to your advantage. If a situation isn’t ideal, ask the client if a change can be made so you can do a better job for their horses.
One Man’s Junk
Does your rig resemble a packrat’s nest? It could be costing you money at the pump.
“People tend to hang on to too much junk. It wouldn’t hurt to completely empty out the rig every year and box up whatever you’re no longer using, give it away or store it in your basement,” says Halko. “We often see farriers with easily 500 lbs. of material in a rig they haven’t touched in years.
“Certainly, have spares in equipment, such as extra nippers, an extra apron or extra box of nails on hand. But if you’re holding onto something thinking you ‘might’ need it someday, get it out of your rig.”
He points out that very few farriers are gone for weeks at a time. Since most farriers are sleeping in their own beds each night and are shoeing around eight horses daily, they can keep inventory at home and put tomorrow’s supplies in the rig each evening. And, save some gas money at the same time.
“I’ve determined that on average, 1,000 lbs. is 1 mile per gallon of your truck’s fuel efficiency,” reports Halko. “If you carry 500 lbs. of extra weight, that’s costing you a half-mile.
“Some guys are doing 50,000 or even as much as 80,000 miles a year — that’s a lot of money you’re giving away to the gas companies by carrying extra weight in inventory you’re not using.”
It Takes Two
When you’ve got an apprentice or helper, that’s twice the workload to evaluate. Plus, you want to be sure your rig design supports efficient work without duplicating efforts or causing problems.
“If you’re a two-person team, you need to either have unrelated jobs, or each have a side on a two-man rig so you’re not getting in each others’ way,” says Newman.
Halko agrees, adding that he always asks how many people are involved, and what they’ll be doing.
“If an apprentice or another farrier is doing one specific function, they don’t need to be involved in the rig machinery. That makes a difference in the way we set up a rig.”
He suggests dividing up the work so that efforts are complementary and that one farrier is using the forge while the other is doing work such as pulling shoes or accessing the power equipment.
“Certainly you want to do things so you’re not tripping over each other.”
A Place For Everything
It might seem better to have a huge inventory so you always have what you need, or to save time by throwing tools or supplies into a drawer or milk crate rather than putting them back into a dedicated spot. But you might want to consider that the motto “a place for everything and everything in its place” has some merit — it’s been in use since at least the late 1700s.
Time spent digging for items is time you’re not being paid for and gas purchased for hauling around unneeded inventory is an expense you don’t need at $4 a gallon. Plus there are the aspects of having a neat, organized and efficient rig that supports you in doing good work for customers, saves on wear and tear to your body and improves your bottom line rather than depleting it. Overall, efficient rig design and function can pay off in more ways than you may have considered.