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Six Strategies For a Ship-Shape Shop

Shop organization at its best

Is a lack of organization throwing a wrench into your best-laid plans for a smooth-running repair shop? We can help fix that!

We hear it all the time. And to be honest, if we were to choose a single characteristic the most efficient repair shops share, it’s that they’re organized. Small shops, big shops. Doesn’t matter. If they’re organized, you can just see it in their daily operation.

You know what it’s like trying to get work done in a messy, cluttered shop. When your mechanics are continually stepping over and around things, even the simplest jobs take longer. Looking for lost tools and misplaced supplies just compounds the frustration.

With a neatly organized shop and individual workspaces, you’re creating a far more productive environment. People are getting things done, efficiently and on time! It’s wonderful!

Of course, organized shops don’t just happen; they require a little advance planning.

We’ve provided a few tips our customers have had success with below.

1. Move It Off the Floor

Floor space is always a valuable commodity in a repair shop. So it only makes sense that, the more you get off the floor, the more usable, productive space you’ll have at hand. Vertical storage systems can go a long way in helping you meet your organizational goals.

Vertical storage comes in a variety of forms. Cantilever storage racks attach to or near the wall and hold equipment above the floor, freeing up space. Lockers keep your technicians' and administrative employees' personal belongings from cluttering up the work environment, while toolboxes positioned at comfortable heights along walls and even into columns improves access and keeps them out of the way. Cabinet Programs are a great way to invest in organization, while earning discounts.

2. Organize Your Shelves and Drawers

Even in shops that have ample shelving and drawers, organization can be lacking. Let’s put it this way: if you keep pushing aside row upon row of stuff to access a power tool on a shelf, or you open a drawer to find yourself staring into a jumbled mess of who knows what -- take that as a sign you need a deeper level of organization.

Use totes, plastic crates and heavy-duty wire baskets on shelves to separate shop equipment by category. Clearly marked on the front of each container, you’ll know in an instant which ones you need for the project at hand, without wasting time on fruitless searches.

In drawers, use pegboard or other readily accessible materials to create partitions. Separate small items into cubbies for fast, easy access. Many repair shop pros rely on pre-packed assortment boxes to keep fasteners, electrical connectors, brake fittings and other small parts organized by size and style.

3. Add Mobility to Your Mix

Mobility is a great way to make the best of a smaller shop or a busy turnaround environment. Think about what you can put on caster wheels to freely move about the shop. Cabinets, bench-mounted tools, drills and arbor presses are all items that can be mobilized.

You can find a variety of mobile workstations designed specifically for auto workshops. These workstations are available in different sizes that work for different types of projects or jobs. And you can mount parts shelves or bins on movable tables to place them where they're needed at any given moment.

4. Save Some Steps

Ever consider how much time and energy your techs use moving around to get parts, grabbing and returning tools, borrowing equipment from other bays, or consulting with service writers and customers? The fewer big trips they have to make, the faster and more efficiently they can work.

Technicians should have all their regularly accessed tools and equipment readily available without having to leave their bay. Mobile workstations can help with this, as will scheduling jobs so that the same equipment isn't needed in two different locations at the same time.

Even something simple like using fitness trackers to assess how many steps your technicians walk each day or reorganizing preventative maintenance checklists will help you find ways to reduce wasted movement.

5. Standardize Key Workspaces

While many auto shop jobs are unique and hard to nail down to a time limit, your shop likely has plenty of standardized work as well. How can you better leverage these routine jobs?

If you have a bay dedicated to preventative maintenance, you can stock it specifically with parts and tools for these simpler jobs. Are scheduled maintenance items linked to standardized time frames when scheduling? This allows you to more efficiently use these bays and technicians.

Even in trickier situations, you can help standardize some functions. Assigning bays to different - but common - vehicle work (like brakes or exhaust and smog issues) helps you stock the bay's inventory and tools so technicians can work more productively.

6. Leverage Your Tech

Your business relies on modern technology to analyze vehicle data, find buried problems, and fix issues. But how well do you use technology to boost your shop's productivity?

Modern mechanics benefit from things like software to schedule appointments and provide automated service updates, automated service orders using common codes (such as VMRS), and parts inventory tracking systems. The more you can automate, the fewer labor hours you have to spend. Check out Imperial’s Mobile App.  It has a barcode scanner for easy ordering/reordering parts right from your mobile device.  With features like My Lists, Order History and Order Approval, it's sure to save you time. 

The Organized Office

Keep in mind, your shop floor isn’t the only place that can benefit from organization. Your office demands the same sort of efficiency, if it’s going to support your success. With an office free of clutter and messes, motivation goes up, stress levels go down, and you simply get more done in less time. Put these helpful ideas to work ASAP:

Keep a Clean Desktop

Throw away items you don't use, like pens that don't write, old computer disks and scrap paper. Keep only the supplies you regularly use on your desk. This usually includes several pens and pencils, a stapler, scissors, paperclips, a post-it pad, a note pad, a calendar and a phone message book.

Consolidate your office equipment by purchasing multi-function equipment, such as an all-in-one printer, scanner, copier and fax machine. Use letter trays and file sorters to avoid piles. Finally, clear out your drawers and designate a purpose for each one. If your desk has three drawers, consider creating a supply drawer, a personal drawer and an identity drawer, containing items with your company logo on them.

Create Storage Spaces

Just as in your shop, your office needs quality storage. Storage space can be easily added through shelving, cabinet installation, drawers, storage units, bookcases and file cabinets. Shelves are inexpensive, easy to install and can store books, files, binders, supplies or whatever you need.

Cabinets are a more expensive, more permanent option and are nice, because they conceal your materials. Storage units and plastic containers are great for storing products you sell as well as for holding large supplies, like printer paper and folders

Manage Your Mail

It's easy to let the mail pile up but save yourself time in the long run and deal with incoming mail immediately. Sort your mail as soon as it arrives. Throw away junk mail, forward mail to the appropriate people when necessary, open and separate the rest of the mail and file it when appropriate.

Categories for field mail may include bills, mail that needs to be responded to right away, mail that is not urgent, publications, etc. If you rely heavily on email communication, you should check your email as often as every hour and reply immediately, if possible. Use the folders in your electronic mailbox to organize your email.

Maintain Efficient Filing

Files that you do not use anymore but may need in the future are best stored in file boxes. File boxes can be stored on shelves, in a closet or at an off-site storage center to save space. Know what you can throw away and what you need to keep.

Throw away outdated information. Keep legal documents such as contracts, warranties and tax documents. Organize your files by color-coding, alphabetically, or by type of file. Consider having separate drawers for different areas of business, such as clients, finances and media.

Maintain an Organized Computer

Keep your computer organized by using helpful software, clearly naming files, saving files to appropriate folders and creating shortcuts on your desktop. Shortcuts should be created for all Microsoft Office programs, the Internet, email and your database.

Software you should own includes up-to-date versions of productivity software such as  Microsoft Office, virus protection software like Norton System Works and a contact management database, such as ACT!, Goldmine and Microsoft Project.

Keep Track of Time

Scheduling is crucial. Have a daily plan and stick to it. Schedule your time on a planner. This can be a desk or wall calendar, an appointment book, a handheld device or a computer program. When contacting people, leave detailed voice and email messages and state exactly what you need so the person will be prepared with the information when they call or email you back.

Ready to Get Organized?

One of the greatest benefits our customers receive from the Imperial Supplies relationship is our ability to help them get organized and stay organized, so they run a better business.  Imperial has a full staff of Field Service Technicians ready to help.  Organizing and making shops more efficient is what they do.  Contact your Dedicated Account Advisor to see if your business qualifies.  We’ll also be glad to tell you more about our special programs, including Auto-Reorder, our credit-earning Cabinet Program, inventory-controlling Custom Kits, detailed spending analytics and more.  Your Dedicated Account Advisor can give you all the details. Get in touch today!

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