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7 Considerations For An Efficient Parts Counter

29th Nov 2022

Time is money in your dealership’s service and parts departments. If you bill two hours to change a water pump, your techs should be spending those two hours — or less — under the hood, not in the parts department. Here are 7 best practices to make sure your parts department is firing on all cylinders.

1. Organize your inventory based on category of part and then frequency of use. Make sure sections are clearly labeled.

These days, everybody seems to be counting their steps with a fitness tracker or smartwatch. At Industrial Shelving Systems, we’re all for fitness, but we don’t think your parts department staff should rack up a jillion steps every day at work. Instead, organize your inventory to make accessing parts as efficient as possible.

You can take different approaches to this task, but a good way to start is to group parts by category — electrical parts, trim parts, filters, etc. — and assign each category a section of your available space. Keep related categories close to each other for added convenience.

Next, think about how best to use space from floor to ceiling. Close to the floor is a great spot for heavy items that are hard to get down from high shelves. High shelves are a great place for items that rarely get requested.Once everything is in place, clearly label each section, shelf, and bin. Make things so clear that a new hire can find parts as quickly as a 20-year veteran.

Oh, and be sure to leave space in each section for parts that are introduced when new models come out. You don’t want those parts stuck on a random shelf back in the corner.

2. Use the storage system that makes sense for each type of part you stock, whether that’s plastic totes on shelves or drawers beneath the counter.

Automotive parts come in every size and shape imaginable. That means there’s no one-size-fits-all storage solution. For example, rivet rack shelving works well for case goods but is obviously not the best way to store nuts and bolts.

Configure each section of your workspace to match the parts stored there. This makes it easy for staff members to find the parts they need and hard for those parts to get lost. When in doubt, reach out to us at Industrial Shelving Systems. In our 50+ years, we’ve seen every storage system you can imagine (and a few you probably can’t).

3. Pay special attention to fast-moving parts (bulbs, clips, filters, etc.). Make sure these areclose at hand, perhaps in modular drawers.

Some parts are in constant demand, like bulbs, so keep them close at hand. A great solution is to add drawers under the parts counter.

And create a will-call area for retail orders instead of storing those items with similar parts elsewhere. Having those parts close at hand will improve customer service and also remind you of parts that have gone unclaimed for weeks.

4. Keep batteries in battery racks close to the counter.

You can’t store batters in drawers under the parts counter, but you can — and should — keep them close by. Adjustable racks are a great solution because you can configure the shelves to be exactly tall enough for the batteries. And battery racks let you keep your oldest batteries in front for easy stock rotation.

5. Make sure each parts staff member has a minimum of 5' of counter space. Counters should have stainless-steel tops (for durability) and legroom underneath.

Your staff members spend a lot of time standing or sitting at the parts counter, so make that counter as functional as possible. We recommend at least 5' of counter space per person with legroom underneath so workers can get up close if they’re sitting on stools.

Parts can be heavy and grimy, so your countertops need to be able to stand up to the pressure. That’s why stainless-steel countertops are worth the extra investment.

6. Conduct daily or weekly bin checks plus monthly inventory reconciliations. That will help you ensure that you have the right parts in stock and that they’re in the right place.

In the end, it doesn’t matter how efficiently you’ve organized your parts department if the parts that techs need are nowhere to be found. And annual physical inventories, while important, just aren’t enough. (Don’t believe us? Think about all the discrepancies your last inventory turned up.)

NADA recommends a system of daily bin checks, where each staff member is responsible for counting a small number of parts each day. (Rotate the assignments so the same staff member doesn’t always get stuck counting nuts, bolts, and hose clamps.) The parts manager should then review each worker’s count sheets to identify and investigate any discrepancies.

Bin checks are also a great time to make sure bins and shelves are clean and that all the parts are in the right place. Doing a little of this work every day is a lot more manageable than waiting until the end of the month or year.

Beyond bin checks, the parts and accounting departments should do monthly inventory reconciliations. This helps keep inventories accurate and will hopefully reduce the number of errors that crop up during your next year-end inventory.One other note: bin checks are a good time to remove obsolete items from your inventory.

7. Enhance order slips so the parts department pulls the right parts every time.

You need to put every part in the right place, but you also need to pull the right part every time. That’s why order slips need to include plenty of detail.

Take tires, for example. You obviously need to know the size, but that’s not enough. Should they be all-season tires? What about the speed rating? Does the manufacturer matter? Be sure the order slip includes all this information, as well as the vehicle identification number. A little extra work on the front end can save a lot of time at the back end.

Your dealership’s parts department may not get as much love as the sales floor, but maybe it should. When it’s well organized, both the parts and service departments become more profitable, staff morale increases and customer service improves. Not a bad result from an investment of time and resources.