Parts for Profit—Part Three

Quick and easy access to your 1500 fastest moving parts is your key to efficiency and profit. Bin numbers should be mental guides to the actual location, easy to visualize and travel to. Direct travel between bins and isles in easy to remember location codes, not just numerical sequence. Give your team a mental picture of exactly where the bin is and they only have to remember the part number.
The best numbering system I have found is row, side, bin. Example: Bin “3L4” is isle 3, left side, bin 4 from the front. This gives a mental picture of exactly where this bin is located in the department. When necessary, use the shelf number also. 3L42 now indicates shelf number 2 as the part location. All parts on that shelf are in numerical order. Small parts need to be in 4” bin boxes with dividers. Don’t waste shelf space going wide when you can go deep. Again, logical bin numbering, 3L4D4 means drawer 4. Use logical letters to help locate parts, R,L,N,S,U,B,M, etc. means right, left, north, south, upper, bulk, molding, etc. Put like items together, tune-up section, cooling section, fuel section, etc.
Make the job as easy as possible, the less time taken per sale means more sales per employee.
The best floor plan possible is wasted, however, if you have sloppy housekeeping. Details are important! All parts must be in sequence, with adequate room for all like parts. Every location has a bin tag, magnetic ones are best. Every bin tag is printed in the same font. All tags legible from a five feet away. Your employees must be able to scan a bin and find their part in seconds, not minutes. No multiple locations except for bulk overstock of extremely fast moving parts, filters and fluids, for example.
After working out the main bin locations, parts locations, traffic patterns, sales patterns, do the individual work stations. Again, you are maximizing the selling time per counterperson. Every employee should have all the tools he or she needs within arm’s reach. If you have three employees working at the counter, and only two catalog stations, you are cutting one third of your sales potential.
Custom tailor each workstation to the individual. Right handed persons need the phone on the left, calculator on the right. Left handed people need the opposite! Cordless phones and headsets are good ideas. Buy the extra stapler.
A physical layout plan:
1.       Divide your inventory by movement
2.       Divide your inventory by sales area
3.       Create isles, bins, and bin numbers
4.       Create work areas
5.       Supply all tools for each individual
In part four, I will discuss profitable inventory control philosophies.
Larry Williams is a former parts manager and consultant with national awards and over 40 years of experience in creating profitable departments. He can be reached at

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