About this class

This is an online course suitable for beginner level framers, but may benefit everyone in the framing business, regardless of the level of experience. The course will focus on creating a successful framing business based on tips and tricks from the globally renowned framing expert James Miller.

An efficient frame shop accomplishes tasks with the least waste of time and effort, making the most of resources at hand. Every aspect of the business affects efficiency, and in this session we’ll examine  inventory management, shop layout; equipment, tools and fixtures. We will also discuss maintenance & upkeep, personnel relations and motivation of employees.


Inventory management is important to the efficiency of any business that uses materials, including a frame shop. It may be possible to operate a frame shop with little or no inventory, if all of the materials could be specially-ordered for each incoming project, but that would not be an efficient use of time or money.  Of course, many items should be specially-ordered, but for the materials we use routinely, such as everyday adhesives, hardware items, glazing products, and mounting materials, it’s better to keep a supply on hand and replenish our stock before we run out.

With so many different Mouldings and matboards available, the inventory of these materials must be limited, and should be chosen according to the needs of each unique business.  In any case, here are some suggestions to help manage inventory.

A typical frame shop’s inventory investment should turn over about four to six times per year. To put it another way, for each €100,000 of annual material cost including shipping (also known as Cost of Goods Sold), plan to keep about €17,000 to €25,000 in total inventory value. This is an approximation based on typical labor rates and overhead, and where the cost of material for a framing job is about 17% to 22% of the selling price.

Because sales of particular items are difficult to predict, most frame shops accumulate excess inventory. It’s important to know when inventory value goes too high, and get rid of the excess.  Also, even when inventory value is within the investment you’ve planned, some items just don’t sell. It’s important to get rid of this “dead” inventory, because that money could be used more efficiently in other ways. Excess and dead inventory drain profits. Profitability is always important, but in this case, the first priority is to recover the money buried in excess and dead inventory.  

In order to purge excess or dead inventory, consider offering special promotions or sale prices featuring those items specifically. Also, excess and dead inventory can be converted into salable products by applying some labor, such as ready-made frames, decorative jewelry boxes, and document frames.

Rather than stocking nearly-duplicate items of matboard, glass, and other materials, reduce the inventory to include only the best choices. By reducing stock of similar items, that money can be invested in more-diverse, useful inventory, or it can become profit.

Inventory management also includes streamlining of the labor aspects of keeping inventory.  That is, organize the inventory to minimize handling. Keep everything in conspicuous places and clearly identified. Avoid misplacing items where they might be forgotten or difficult to find when you need them.

Also, take care to keep your inventory properly stored, clean and dry.  For example, avoid storing length moulding in such a way that it becomes scratched or warped. Matboard should be kept clean, dry, and flat in storage, either vertically or horizontally.


The layout of the shop has a significant impact on the efficiency of its operations. Of course the layout is limited by the size and shape of the space, but here are some suggestions to make the layout as efficient as possible:

Segregate the dusty, dirty tasks, such as cutting and joining mouldings, away from the clean tasks, such as mounting and matting. Glass cutting should also be segregated, too, because a tiny shard of glass can do a lot of damage in the wrong place.

Arrange the flow of work from one task to the next.  Typically, this goes from one end of the shop to the other. The dirty end of the shop may be near the back door, where materials are delivered, unpacked, and checked in.  The clean end of the shop may be at the front, near the storage of customers’ property, and near the customer-service gallery.

If your shop is large enough to have multiple worktables, dedicate them to specific tasks. For example, the matcutting table can have a straight-line cutting machine built-in to match work surfaces, and the space under the top can be organized with vertical bins for sheet goods, such as matboards, foam boards, and perhaps glass. Also, small shelves or bins can be arranged to hold hand tools and supplies within easy reach. Likewise, the fitting table can be organized to hold hand tools, adhesives, and hardware used for that assembly work . A table in the cutting and joining area could hold miter vices, hand tools, and the supplies used for cutting and joining frames.

Set up related work stations adjacent to one another.  For example, the moulding storage, cutting tools, and joining tools should be in the same area. Likewise, matboard storage should be near the mat cutting equipment. Mounting boards and adhesives should be near the mounting press, and so on.  Keep hand tools and materials near the work stations where they are generally used.

This drawing shows an efficient layout for a shop of about 135 square meters (1450 square feet). The dirty end of the shop is at the back, on the left side of this image. The clean end of the shop is at the front, on the right, near the customer-service gallery, which isn’t shown. The partial wall between the press table and the wall cutter minimizes the flow of dust from the back to the front. Walking space between work stations is minimized, but at least three framers could work in this shop without interference.


Proper maintenance and good housekeeping are essential to efficient operations.  There should be a place for everything, and everything should be kept in its place. Work stations should be clean and uncluttered.  Tools and equipment should be in good working order, with routine cleaning, adjustments, and lubrication.

These may seem like common sense procedures, but unless a plan is written and followed, it would be easy to neglect these responsibilities. Everyone in the shop should be aware of his or her housekeeping and maintenance duties, and the manager should monitor performance daily.  Whatever the size of your framing business, it’s much easier to work efficiently in an uncluttered shop with good maintenance and housekeeping.


Because everything in a frame shop depends on the people doing the work, employee relations and motivation directly affect efficiency. The frame shop owner or manager should develop and document the policies that apply to employees. One-to-one communication still is the key to good employee relations, but providing a handbook to employees assures that they are informed about the rules of employment. For example, employees need to know and understand their work schedules, how to record hours worked, the allowed intervals and duration of breaks and lunch, vacations and other time off.  All of these topics are essential to good employee relations and efficient, coordinated work in the shop. 

The employee handbook should also cover such topics as a dress code, expected good behavior, disciplinary procedures, and safety rules.  

A training manual can be established to make sure that each employee receives the training necessary to perform assigned tasks. Cross-training can reveal hidden talents and discover new work interests, which enables and encourages each employee to do the best work possible.  All of these topics are essential to improving efficiency in the frame shop. 

The frame shop manager can have a direct impact on employee relations and work efficiency.  For example, praise publicly, but criticize privately. Establish daily routines and avoid unexpected disruptions to the work. Keep employees motivated by making their work more interesting at every opportunity.  


In another video in this series, we discuss documentation, processing of framing orders, ordering & allocating materials, production scheduling, batching, and inventory management.

All of these ideas are offered to help to improve efficiency.  Some of them might result in great improvements for your shop, and some may not help at all, but perhaps you can modify some of the concepts or build upon them to your shop’s advantage.

Improving efficiency is not a one-time effort, but an ongoing process. Practice makes perfect, so look for opportunities to improve your shop’s efficiency every day.

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James Miller

ArtGlass Framer

James Miller is not only framer but educator on a global scale. Miller specialise in preservation framing, which means that both technique and materials are in huge importance. 
Also being an author of two successful books on professional framing, Miller is one of the most acknowledged framing specialist around the world. Now he has teamed up with GroGlass to provide an online course to invite framers aim for excellence. 

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