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The Most Efficient Way to Lay Out Your Parts Room

A disorganized parts room is more than an eyesore – it can be a serious drain on your bottom line. If your parts room layout makes it hard for techs to find what they need, they’ll waste valuable time searching when they could be serving customers.

An organized parts room makes it easy to keep track of your stock so you can maximize storage space. Without it, you might not know it’s time to order more belts until you need one and discover you’re out. Or you might think you’re out of hoses, but when the new shipment arrives, discover an unopened stash where you least expected it.

 

How to Set Up a Parts Room

The best parts room layout uses space efficiently while making it fast, safe, and easy for workers to find what they need.

Start with the floor

This is a low-effort, high-impact way to instantly make your parts room feel like a finished space. Seal or paint concrete floors to reduce dust and protect the slab from spills and stains.

Go with a light, neutral color like gray or tan. Dark colors make it harder to find small parts that get dropped.

When choosing a finish, remember that smoother floors are easier to clean, while textured floors provide more protection from slips.

Don’t skimp on lighting

Poor lighting creates an unsafe environment, as workers are more likely to trip or run into obstacles.

Look for bright lights that mimic daylight. In a well-lit room, workers will have an easier time reading labels and spotting parts out of place.

Don’t store parts on the floor

Plan your parts room layout so everything you stock has a home. No parts should be stored on the floor or spill into aisles and walkways.

Use vertical space

When planning your storage, the sky’s the limit – or at least the ceiling is. Mezzanines and tall shelving let you take advantage of every inch of available space. Make high shelves accessible with ladders and scissor lifts, or explore automated solutions like vertical lift modules (VLMs). Wire partitions can be added over second levels for safety.

Leave breathing room

When your space is small, it’s tempting to cram in as many shelving units as you can. Lay out your shelves and racks with enough space between for a person not only to walk but to maneuver if they need to move a bulky item or retrieve something from overhead.

Map out the space

Create a clear, logical numbering system for your shelves, and tag items in your inventory with the coordinates where they belong. For example, if a worker looks up a type of clamp and sees that it’s stored at 1B6, they know they’ll find it in Aisle 1, Section B, Shelf 6.

Consider your containers

When parts sit loose on shelves, it’s easy for them to creep into one another’s space, causing chaos. But it can be hard for techs to quickly find what they need when everything is hidden away in identical boxes.

Consider the size and shape of the items to be stored. Large items might be fine on the shelf by themselves. Shelf dividers can keep mid-size parts corralled without hiding them from sight. Drawers with partitions and labels make small parts easily accessible.

Make use of specialized racking

When storing bulky, heavy, or oddly shaped items, you need to think outside the box. Hanging racks are a convenient way to store parts that don’t easily fit into boxes and on shelves. Tire racks keep tires organized by size, so you can see at a glance which sizes are running low. The angled beams of a battery rack allow batteries to slide forward each time one is removed, so employees don’t need to wrestle a heavy battery from the back of the shelf to the front.

Have a plan for after-hours deliveries

Deliveries don’t always come between 9 and 5. When after-hours deliveries are left on a dock or in an office, it spreads your parts inventory across the facility and adds another step to the process of putting things away.

A driver access cage allows drivers to make after-hours deliveries right to the parts room, without allowing unauthorized personnel access to the entire building.

 

7 Tips for Organizing Your Service Department Parts

Once your parts room has a fresh, clean layout, it’s time to fill those shelves with inventory. Plan an organized storage system that reduces search time and is easy to maintain long term.

  1. Keep heavy items low or invest in a VRC. When a heavy item is stored overhead, there’s a risk an employee may drop it while getting it down, injuring themselves or other people below – and potentially damaging the part. Even if they can get the item down without incident, lifting heavy things down from overhead risks muscle strain. Protect your employees by keeping heavy items on the lowest shelf. If that’s not practical, a vertical reciprocating conveyor (VRC) is a great option. These vertical lifts can accommodate a wide range of product sizes and weights, transporting them quickly and safely from one level to another.
  2. Keep popular parts close at hand. Look at historical trends to identify the parts your workers need most often. Store those parts close to the counter so employees can grab what they need and get back to work quickly.
  3. Label wisely. Avoid putting sticky-back labels on shelves. They’re hard to remove if a product is moved or discontinued. If you have metal shelves, use magnetic labels instead. If your storage racks are made of plastic, apply a sticky-back plastic sleeve with a paper label inside. If you need to change the label, just slide the paper out and replace it with a new one.
  4. Bring inventory management into the 21st century. Using clipboards and whiteboards to track how many items are in stock is not only old-fashioned, it’s inefficient. The numbers are almost guaranteed to be inaccurate as people grab parts in a hurry. Implement inventory management software. Each part has a barcode users scan to move it in or out of inventory. The software can keep you from running out of crucial supplies by automatically placing a replenishment order when stocks get too low.
  5. Give clear descriptions. Make parts descriptions clear and specific – in the inventory system, on the label, and even on the box. For example, while “engine belts” might be helpful, “89-inch serpentine belts” makes it fast and easy for workers to grab exactly what they’re looking for.
  6. Set aside an area for special tools. If you’ve ever been dinged by an automaker for misplacing tools to work with specialty parts, you know it’s not an experience you want to repeat. Special tool storage gives each of these specialty tools its own space, tucked into a foam cutout in a numbered drawer. Never dig through a jumbled toolbox for a specialty tool again.
  7. Keep it clean. Keeping the parts room tidy is a nonnegotiable part of workers’ jobs. Assign someone to do a sweep of the room at the end of each day to clear up any clutter and put things back where they belong.

 

Do you need a new parts room layout?

Maybe you feel like you’ve tried everything to get your parts room in shape, and it’s still a mess. Here are three signs the room’s layout isn’t operating as efficiently as it should:

  • Parts are frequently out of stock when you need them
  • You never know for sure how many parts you have left, so you overstock just to be safe
  • Workers spend as much time retrieving parts as they do serving customers

There’s a lot to consider when optimizing the layout of your parts room – from the available space to the kinds of products stored there to the needs of your employees. Our warehouse design consultants are backed by more than 60 years in the industry and can deliver outside-the-box ideas you never thought of to meet all your storage needs. Talk with us about designing a new layout – we’ll come to your location, assess your space and inventory, and provide a CAD diagram of your best design options.

About the Author



Tom Compton

President

Tom Compton is the President of Industrial Shelving Systems (ISS) and retains an active sales role with both ISS and ISS Material Handling. Tom is a seasoned professional who has been working in the industry for over 10 years. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Mizzou, where he honed his expertise in designing and analyzing mechanical systems. Tom has continued to show his dedication and excellence in the field by earning a 6 Sigma Green Belt. When Tom is not working, he spends his time with his family and friends. A devoted father of three children, he also is an avid sports fan and enjoys playing hockey and golf in his free time. He is also passionate about NHRA racing and follows the sport closely.

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