By Tony Ashmore and Brian O’Reilly
When it comes to managing your shop, in a perfect world there’s an organized, universal system. A system where every disassembled part is accounted for and stays perfectly intact, and where new parts are not misplaced, allowing every project to finish on time. Realistically though, we’re all human and operations don’t hum along smoothly every time. Good thing there’s the parts cart, an often under-valued and simple solution to optimizing efficiency.
We’ve found in our combined forty-five years of working in the collision repair industry that having some sort of organizational system in place is essential to the tear down and assembly process. When used properly, the humble storage cart can be the answer to increasing shop productivity. As we all know, time is money, and profit losses due to damaged or missing parts can be avoided with proper organization.
With so many small, medium and large parts coming off the vehicle throughout a vehicle’s tear down and reassembly, a good parts cart can make or break your technician’s productivity. It can also save the headache from moving key components around the work station, keeping sharp or dirty parts from damaging a customer’s vehicle (more costs to be absorbed by the shop), fragile pieces from getting damaged, recently painted components from getting damaged…the list goes on and on.
Take repairing and refinishing a vehicle door, which to a customer may seem like a simple enough process. Once the estimate has been initially given, and you’ve taken apart and accounted for all the inner workings and components, the clock is ticking. So if a part goes missing or gets damaged along the way, and we all have had it happen, we’ve now added extra costs to be absorbed by the shop as well as extra time. Take into account the parts shortages we all experienced and what may have seemed like an easy error can now add up to a costly mistake, especially if the customer or insurance company isn’t understanding.
Keeping an organized parts cart, or based on our experience and recommendation, preferably two parts carts, with one designated for old parts and the other for new, makes a more efficient process. The parts carts can be moved around the job, becoming key to streamlining the process and keeping everyone in the shop, from the technician to the GM to the customer, happy. Whether that cart is organized with plastic labeled baggies or a hardware bin system, as long as it stays safe and can easily be understood by anyone working the repair, you’re setting yourself up for success.
While it’s hard to calculate an exact dollar amount, a properly organized, and optimized, parts cart system will properly pay for itself in no time. Of course, parts carts come in all shapes and sizes, so if you’re not sure what to look for when making a purchase, here are our recommendations on what to consider:
1. Mobility: Consider the way your shop flows and ensure this cart can move around easily, but with reliable locking casters when it needs to stay in place.
2. Versatility: Can this cart handle a variety of jobs? For instance, are the shelves all the same depth and design? Do they have the ability to adjust spacing? Does the cart have hooks that can be added to hold, for example, a fender on the side? Is there a place for a bin to store smaller parts in an organized fashion? These are all factors to consider based on the type of jobs you’ll be using it for.
3. Durability: Make sure your parts cart can stand up to the challenge. We prefer carts assembled from steel frames that are powder coated with heavy duty casters for all surfaces. We also like carts that can hold up to at least 150 pounds of weight per shelf.
Our Parts Caddy PROTM is a great base that’s customizable and checks all the boxes, and of course, we have several other models to explore. At US Auto Supply, your solutions start with US. With a collective mission to provide the most innovative tools, equipment and resources that empower collision and mechanical repair shops, dealerships and hobbyists to thrive, US Auto Supply, parent company to four legacy brands—Collision Services, Auto Body Toolmart, I/D/E/A, and Sid Savage—is dedicated to delivering excellence, innovation and unmatched service.
Tony Ashmore has held multiple roles over the 20+ years of his automotive career, providing him with a wealth of knowledge as it relates to detailing, quick lube service, body work, mechanical work, painting, parts management, estimates, production management and general management. As a Product Manager at US Auto Supply, he’s bringing his years of experience working in an array of body shops and collision repair facilities to the table to spearhead the production of new products that will better serve technicians on a daily basis.
Bringing over 30 years of experience across quality control, procurement, product development, sourcing, and general management, Brian O’Reilly has spent significant time in different areas of the automotive sector, working with automotive parts manufacturers, parts suppliers, and collision repair facilities before accepting the role of Product Manager at US Auto Supply to bring better solutions, products and service to the automotive repair industry.