When it comes to running an auto body shop, one thing’s for sure: the more efficient your team is, the more profitable your business will be. And while high-quality work takes time, there’s absolutely no need to waste precious minutes trying to track down missing parts, tools, or equipment.
In this article, we’ll reveal some of the best auto shop organization ideas, so your mechanics can focus on fixing cars—not finding stuff.
How to organize a mechanic shop
While every auto repair shop is unique there are some best practices that virtually all body shops should adopt. Here’s a step-by-step process full of mechanic shop organization ideas that are sure to help your team work faster and smarter.
1. Record all your shop’s inventory and assets
Automotive shop organization begins with knowing what you’ve got. Set aside some time to clear out your shop’s shelves, then get organized, make a comprehensive list of everything you have on hand as you determine the best place to store it. (More on that in a moment.)
This process—compiling a robust inventory list—is actually a key step of auto shop inventory management. In a perfect world, you’ll write down every last thing your business uses, including special orders and seasonal items you might not currently have in stock.
You can do this using a sheet of paper, an auto body shop inventory spreadsheet, or an inventory app. While an inventory app will offer you time-saving features, help you stay organized, and allow you to share details with the rest of your team, it’s not a requirement. What matters most is simply selecting an inventory solution that works for you and just getting this step done. You can always upgrade to inventory software when you’re ready.
Feeling overwhelmed? You don’t have to inventory everything all at once. Instead, use the Pareto Principle to identify the most profitable, popular items in your inventory. Start by detailing those items, and get to the rest of your inventory when you have a bit more time.
2. Physically organize your things
As you put together your inventory list, you’ll also want to rethink precisely how you physically organize your auto body shop. This is an excellent opportunity for you to consider how your team works, what items are constantly being moved around, and which inventory and assets need to be stored nearby versus what items could be stored out of reach, or even off-site.
Here are some tips, tricks, and more mechanic shop organization ideas:
Position your inventory wisely
Every time your mechanic stops what they’re doing to grab something, time is wasted. If you can reduce the amount of trips they take to a tool crib, storage closet, or back room, you’ll find a whole lot more gets done in the same amount few hours.
Your shop floor should absolutely have every tool, hydraulic lift, and piece of equipment your team requires to quickly, properly service cars. But what you don’t need on your shop floor, most likely, is every spare part you’ve ever ordered, random canisters of car paint, and a new rearview mirror that only works on a particular make and model of car.
Take some time to talk to your mechanics—ask them what they need on the floor, what they need on shelves, and what could even be stored off-site, and use that to inform your decisions.
Put key tools on wheels
Mobilizing stationary storage is one of the easiest, most effective ways to speed up service on cars in your auto body shop. Stop making your mechanics wander around the floor of your shop, and instead, allow them to roll their most common tools and parts with them to the vehicle they’re working on at the moment.
You can buy drawers, cabinets, or even small tool cribs that are already on wheels, or simply add casters to existing storage equipment.
Think vertical—and high-density
Your shop needs a clear floor where your technicians and the rest of your team can both walk around easily and work safely. With that in mind, high-density, vertical storage is the best solution for non-essential parts and tools.
You can buy speciality, high-density storage where items are placed on tracks that almost compress together when not in use. This saves a lot of space when compared to regular shelves. Plus, by going vertical, you free up space on your floor, making the most of your shop’s height without cluttering the ground with unnecessary hazards.
Secure your most valuable inventory
Your auto body shop is a fast-paced environment where tools, parts, and machinery change hands over and over again. That’s just the nature of the industry. But if inventory shrinkage is a problem at your business, you might want to consider securing some of your most valuable inventory and assets.
You can do this by installing surveillance cameras, locking tool cribs, and keeping high-value items under lock and key.
3. Create a sustainable inventory system
Once you’ve created your inventory list, you’ll need to keep up the good work. Remember, inventory management (and auto repair shop organization, too) is an ongoing process, not a one-day project.
Take some time to think about how your business works. Ask yourself: How does inventory arrive at your business? How is it consumed, or sent elsewhere? What happens when assets are sold off, repaired, or irreparably broken? Who will take inventory—and how, and when? Will they count items physically, or keep perpetual inventory?
Once you’ve got all these questions ironed out, define your standard operating procedure (SOP), train your employees, and post all inventory guidelines for the whole team to see. Offer retraining as needed, and invest in the tools you need to keep inventory under control. Keep in mind that some apps, like Sortly, don’t require any special equipment: computers, smartphones, and tablets will do the trick.
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4. Keep making adjustments to your organization strategy
Inventory management is never perfect on day one: not for a kitchen cupboard, and certainly not for a busy auto repair shop. Over time, you’ll learn what your business needs. Don’t be afraid to make micro-adjustments—or even big ones.
For example, you might continue to tinker with your inventory spreadsheet until one day, you realize that it’s just too hard to visualize what you have on hand using a text-rich document. At that point, you might be ready to switch to an app that allows you to visually see what you have on hand. Same goes for barcode or QR code scanning—automation features that can feel intimidating at first but that are truly designed to save time, money, and stress.
Your audits, missteps, and inconsistencies are all opportunities to figure out what kind of organizational system your shop really needs. Figure out what’s not working, and try something else. Eventually, you’ll develop a unique system that’s perfect for your team.
Sortly is an infinitely customizable, highly flexible inventory app designed to help your auto body shop get organized—and stay that way for good. With time-saving features like barcode and QR code scanning, customizable reports, low stock alerts, important date reminders, and the ability to rapidly track items as they come and go, there’s no easier way to get the floor (and the shelves) of your mechanic shop under control.
Ready to find out how much time Sortly could save you? Start a free, two-week trial today.