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Getting the Most from Parts Carts

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Parts carts are an essential part of the parts management process. They are utilized to support the next downstream operation by making parts moveable and more easily tracked. A parts cart system can be used as a visual indicator of where the vehicle is in process by the location of the cart. It can serve as a way to identify bottlenecks, keep vehicles moving and increase efficiency. 

However, simply purchasing parts carts is not enough. A system needs to be designated to make sure the carts are used effectively. Michael Giarrizzo, president and CEO of DCR Systems, which creates turnkey collision shops for dealerships, has implemented parts carts at shops throughout the country. He discusses how to do it for the greatest benefit to your operation.


There are a few steps to using parts carts effectively. The first is making sure you have the right amount of carts. It’s important not to over- or under-buy carts because you don’t want any sitting around. 

My formula for the number of parts carts is: 

(Average daily sales/Average repair order) x Current days of cycle time + 1

That formula relies on the number of days the car sits on site. So, since your work-in-process is larger when you’ve got a poor cycle time, as you improve that time, the work-in-process shrinks and you need fewer carts. 


It’s also important to purchase the right kind of cart. A standard parts cart has the following fixtures: top shelf for bumper cover; middle shelves for remove-and-install parts, parts to be repaired, and fasteners; and a bottom shelf for damaged parts for replacement only. 

Other important aspects are a laminated RO jacket that lists the vehicle information, RO number, technician’s name and highlighted critical parts for vehicle advancement. Finally, the parts cart should be stable, have big wheels, and plenty of chains and hooks.


Next, clearly defined cart routing is crucial to ensure that the team adheres to the cart utilization process. Movements should be clearly routed to the next location of the cart and who, specifically, is responsible for the movement.

Start with staging. Parts carts should be staged in the following areas: empty cart area, pre-order parts area, repair plan complete/waiting for parts, parts arrived/ready for production, and in-production stalls. Parts cart staging areas should be identified with floor markings clearly showing storage locations. 

Typically, you want the empty parts cart storage area to be close to the parts room, so that if there was an error, those parts can easily be moved to the repair bin and you avoid charges for work not performed. Within that storage area, have a particular marked spot where a cart in need of repair can be stored. That way, it visually indicates that repairs are needed and nobody needs to be reminded that a wheel isn’t rolling well.


Now, you’ll create a flow for the carts throughout your facility. Creating a route for the parts cart starts with defining your quality process. Create a rough sketch mapping all of the locations the cart will travel between. Which stages of movement does the vehicle go through? There’s really only seven places where the parts cart needs to be: empty cart storage, repair planning, parts waiting for order approval, parts waiting for arrival, parts arrived waiting to dispatch, body stall, paint, and body reassembly stall.


Finally, formalize the map with a drawing and post this for staff to see as a means of reinforcing the process. Once the route is mapped, assign a specific person accountable for each movement. With those eight movements, the tech only moves the cart four times. The rest of the time, the process is handled by the repair planner or the parts coordinator. Create a spreadsheet that lists the movement, the beginning and end cart location, the completed action needed to move the cart, and, finally, the person who moves the cart. 

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