PC Pro Workshop Tour
We've been in business for just over two years at the turn of 2019. Throughout that time, the shop has evolved several times from its humble beginnings at a kitchen table with $20 of tools to a respectable 600-square foot workshop capable of handling almost anything (Okay, it's in a basement, but that should impress you on it's own!). As we accepted more and more jobs, it became clear that having the right space and tools available made all the difference in efficiency and effectiveness. Come along for a quick workshop tour and see how we deliver thousands of replacement computer parts a year.
First up, as you can see pictured above, is Elijah's repair workbench. Rather than actually repairing devices here, it is primarily used for recycling and disassembling donated devices to harvest replacement parts for refurbishing and ultimate sale. A large anti-static mat defines the space, which was built as a standing desk. All of the tools mounted to the station are used frequently and had to be determined through trial and error over years. Underneath this bench is a large recycling sorting area, where we sort high- and low-quality circuit boards, aluminum, copper, insulated wire and about a dozen other materials for bulk sale. The 100 cubic feet this desk takes up is about as efficiently organized as it can get!
Computer Parts Inventory
Over the last two years, we've recycled nearly 1,000 electronic devices; specifically, laptops, computers, flat-screen televisions and printers. At the beginning, we were able to keep track of inventory by putting it all in a milk crate in the corner of the office. Very quickly, our stock had increased to dozens of laptops and we had to start alphabetizing. A year later, and we had so much that we couldn't keep it alphabetized. Imagine having ten of the same exact Dell laptop model on ten different shelves and trying not to mix up a customers purchase for a part from a specific one of them! The image above is how we currently manage our inventory and requires an electronic database for locating and tracking parts.
The Test Bench PC
A 'test bench' is a regular desktop PC that comes in a specialized case, or chassis. Instead of a vertical tower containing all the components of the PC, the case is open so that computer repair technicians can swap parts in and out to test them or various configurations. For our purposes, it doesn't need to be too powerful. Our test bench has a very modest motherboard with enough I/O to allow us to connect many devices and just enough RAM and processing power to handle tasks like data recovery and disk wiping in the background. We use a Network Attached Storage (NAS) system as a server to handle data storage, printing and cloud backups, but it also acts as a media server so that we can watch movies and TV shows while working (when we're not watching PBS Spacetime on Youtube, as we are in the photo above).
Having the correct tools for the job is critically important to our success. The driver kit pictured above is the Manta kit by iFixit and is versatile enough to handle taking apart just about anything from cell phones to projector TVs, meaning it occupies a permanent spot on our bench. Also pictured is our charging station, which is primarily used to test and charge the lithium-ion cells removed from laptop batteries. We've sold thousands of these batteries this year and recycled almost a thousand more that had failed - one of our most valuable recycling endeavors that you can learn about in another one of our blog posts. In the lower-left corner of the photo, you can see a large anti-static work mat designed to eliminate damage to electronic components from static electricity, which can be a huge threat in a dry environment like Colorado.
Opposite the test bench PC is our desktop PC testing station. This is simply a monitor, keyboard and mouse with various adapters to be able to connect any system for a quick test. On any given day, we could be testing a Macintosh PC from the 1980's alongside desktops from 2018, which can lead to some complicated testing setups and has been a challenge since we opened up shop. We also have a handful of universal laptop AC adapters and a box of unique chargers so we can test several laptops at a time. We plan to add a networking testing station in the future, but demand hasn't pushed us in that direction yet. What you see pictured above is a donated desktop PC being tested with parts from two flat-screen TVs waiting to be added to inventory.
We tend to receive donations in waves, meaning we need a place to store excess devices until we have time to work through our existing stock. We have a couple lightweight shelves we can rearrange depending on how severe the backlog is. When this photo was taken, we had about 20 laptops, 5 printers, 5 flat-screen TVs and a handful of vintage desktops waiting to be tested, cleaned and listed for sale. That's about a full week of work for one person. Finding enough devices to keep our inventory up used to be a struggle, but we've been behind for the majority of 2018 and it's not always a bad thing!
Plenty of other areas of the shop aren't quite pretty enough to warrant their own photos. About half of our shop has been pictured up to this point, because the rest of the stations are purely utilitarian. We have a large shipping station across from the replacement parts stock where we package up and label the thousands of parts we send each year. We also have to keep an enormous inventory of shipping supplies and boxes to keep up with sales. We also have a bulk recycling materials storage area where large boxes full of materials waiting to be sold to a recycling center wait until we have enough to warrant a trip.
The evolution of the shop is an ongoing process. As devices and consumer preferences change, we must adapt to be able to keep up with their requirements. Luckily, this is what we love to do so it's more like raising a child than cleaning a warehouse. Have any questions about our shop or what we do here at Colorado PC Pro? Feel free to drop us a line by using the 'Contact Us' link at the top of the page or liking our Facebook page, which is frequently updated with new content.