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Hiding in Plain Sight

There is more room to be found in many Parts Departments by making more efficient use of storage capacity.

When working with parts managers, I often hear comments similar to: “I wish I had more room.”

Well, it just might be that the “extra room” they so desire is just Hiding in Plain Sight. The contents of this article identify and expose some of those plainly hidden opportunities to expand the storage capacity of parts operations.

These parts managers’ comments refer to their use of the storage volume in their Parts Departments. Remembering those lessons in math class, we recall that volume is a three-dimensional measurement. Relating this to the storage of goods in dealerships, it is important to use as much of those three dimensions as possible.

One aspect of storage volume use is related to the amount of goods that are stocked in your Parts Department. Proper control of your stock levels (minimum and maximum) will determine how much you need to store. After determining the amount of and variety of goods required to support your customers’ needs it is easier to decide the most appropriate storage methods and storage equipment.

There is one item that is often stored in excess in many space-challenged Parts Departments. This item is air! As shown in Photo #1, there are several factors that should be considered when purchasing and using storage equipment.

First, when fabricating the storage units, consider the spacing requirements between each shelf.  It may seem easier to establish a standard spacing; however, it might not make efficient use of the height dimension within each storage unit. On the right side of Photo #1, you can see that each shelf has been placed at the same spacing. Yet, there is much wasted height by doing this.

In Photo #2, the shelves have been spaced to minimize wasted height — and to allow the bin boxes to hang from the shelf above. This enables parts associates to use both hands when removing items from the bin box, as shown in Photo #3.

Second, what is the depth of your storage units? Are your bin boxes of the same depth? ... Or, are you wasting some of the depth dimension as shown in the left-side of Photo #1. Consider this scenario:

  • Each bin box is 6 inches shorter than the shelf depth
  • Useable width of shelf is 34 inches
  • Shelf is spaced 10 inches from the shelf above it
  • 6 inches x 34 inches = 204 square inches (wasted area) x 10 inches = 2,040 cubic Inches of (wasted volume) / shelf
  • 2,040 cubic inches by 8 shelves per unit = 16,320 cubic inches ÷ 1,728 cubic inches = 9.45 cubic feet wasted per unit.

Can your parts store room afford this amount of waste? ... For each unit?

Third, are dividers used in each bin box to efficiently use the depth of the bin box for storing multiple part numbers/Items?  Photo #3 illustrates the use of dividers to segregate the multiple items that are housed in that bin box while allowing use of the full depth of the bin box.

Fourth, often, parts managers place their goods in part number sequence in the storage units. This is not usually an effective use of storage volume. The reason it is not efficient is that part number sequential items are not often of similar shape and size. And because space is often left for expansion, this is another reason that part number sequencing is inefficient.

In a previous article (see “Bin There — Found That” in the April 2005 issue of RV PRO), we investigated the concept of BINLOC (assigned bin locations), especially as it related to your Parts Department efficiency and profitability. If you store items by size (and/or quantity), you make optimal use of the storage volume.

How much useable height is in your parts storage area? Purchase storage uprights that maximize the useable height. Bulky, light-weight items can be stored on the upper shelves that can be reached using rolling steps. If you have fire sprinklers, please check your local codes to determine how close cardboard containers can be to sprinkler heads.

And when creating a planograph for your Parts Department store room(s), the amount of floor area allowed for aisles should be considerably less than that allotted for storage units. In many of the Parts Departments that I visit, the storage bins are 2 feet deep (1 foot deep back-to-back) and the aisles are 3 feet wide. The width of the aisles is suitable; however, the depth of the storage units should be at least 3 feet, but preferably more. Your concern should be with storing goods not with creating pathways.

Use of modular drawers is another method of optimizing the storage volume in your Parts Department. These modular drawers can be purchased in custom-built cabinets; or, they can be inserted into standard storage units.

Two types of compartmentalization are available for these modular drawers. The insert containers as shown in Photo #4 enable removal of the container to access the contents and enhance the segregation of contents within the drawer. Partitions and dividers (shown in Photo #5) are another method of subdividing the modular drawer, though small items often slip beneath them. Depending on the type of materials to be stored in modular drawer units, both methods of subdividing the drawers could be used.

One of the most important factors to consider when developing your storage equipment specifications is the unique composition of your inventory. There are many storage equipment providers. However, it is suggested that you work with a storage solutions expert who will consider your specific storage needs and recommend a mix of equipment types to meet those needs.