Parts for Profit—Part Two

A profitable parts department must be time efficient. Wasted time is wasted money. Reduce as much as possible the time required to go from the sales position to the part itself. Counter personnel must be able to go directly to the bin, find the proper location, and pull the correct part with a minimum amount of time and effort.
The most basic of all, your efficient department must start with its physical design. Preplan your bin layout. Draw out a floor plan first. Know what your plan is and locate parts only one time. You must divide your inventory into fast and slow moving sections, not just large and small. Remember only about 1500 numbers make up the bulk of your sales. These parts must be in your first section of bins.
Use at least three sizes of bins in each section. You must be able to locate all fast moving parts to the bins closest to your counters. Make breaks in your rows; don’t force your men to walk the entire row before going to the next isle. No more than five bins between walk ways. All isles must be perpendicular to the counter. All isles must be a minimum of 30” and a maximum of 36” wide. Do not crowd your walkways, no parts sticking out of bins. I found 18” deep shelves work better than 12” ones. Also, remove backs of bins and use struts for reinforcement. This allows more light on your shelves, and 20” parts are no problem. Vary your shelf spacing for small, medium, and large parts. “Front” all your parts, it makes them easier to see and reach. Mark all part locations with movable tags, because your inventory is in a constant state of change. You want to be able to relocate parts easily. Leave bottom shelves empty, this is good for temporary storage of parts you will work into position later.
Special attention needs to be made to the back counter area. Bins here must be used for fast moving filters, fluids, and other shop needs. You must also have a shelf here for your shop’s special orders, visible to your technicians. A separate special order section is also needed. These parts will also be moving out rapidly. Keep your special orders near your counters.
Avoid stocking air. The biggest waste of stocking space is trying to follow the manufacturer’s numerical sequence on your shelves. Very few manufacturers keep like sized parts in sequence. With computer controls, you can mix parts, locations, size, etc. any way you want. The time spent creating the most efficient work area possible will be repaid ten fold in increased productivity.
In part three, I will discuss further the numbering and location of bins to increase efficiency and therefore, profit.
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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