Battery-powered Mobile Workstations
WHAT THEY ARE: Space-saving custom carts equipped with battery power.
THE INSPIRATION: In 2013, the crew at Marshall Auto Body in Waukesha, Wis., noticed a frayed cord uncomfortably close to a puddle. The group promptly came to a conclusion: That can’t happen again.
“We all looked at each other,” general manager Ryan Martin recalls. “We all thought ‘We should try something new.’”
Owner Aaron Marshall eventually came up with the concept of using customized carts that are used as a mobile work station. Thanks to power provided by car batteries (a full charge usually lasts about two days), the need for cords associated with the carts is largely eliminated.
WHAT THEY DO: Beyond eliminating the hassle and potential safety hazard of cords, by essentially serving as mobile desks, Marshall Auto Body’s “computer carts” greatly aid shop efficiency simply due to their versatility.
“Say you’re at [an immobile] workstation,” Martin explains. “If you need to leave the workstation to go and write notes down, and then go back to your workstation to actually put it on the estimate to make sure you get the right parts, you might be missing something, there might be things that happen in the meantime, you might forget something. But if you’re right at the car―if you’re five feet away―then you’re going to eliminate a lot of those mistakes.
“You can bring your cart right to the car. It’s a lot more convenient.”
HOW IT’S MADE: Marshall Auto Body predominantly uses five computer carts—three for estimating, one for alignment work, and another dedicated for work done when using the frame machine.
Computer monitors are bolted to carts and car batteries serve as the units’ engine.
“We just took a car battery and got an inverter, and the car battery runs the cart,” notes Martin, who estimates that each cart takes a few hours to initially assemble.
THE COST: With main components including 20-inch monitors, a computer tower, a mobile phone dock, a camera charger, a car battery, an inverter, plus the cart itself, each of these mobile workstations costs around $750.
THE ROI: From a small-scale perspective, the computer carts reduce clutter and improve safety.
From a big-picture standpoint, the carts aid the repair planning process at Marshall’s, which has a touch time of 4.1 hours per day.
“Because you’re right where you need to be,” Martin explains. “You’re right with the technician that’s doing the dismantling. [The carts help] to be more accurate. That way you don’t have to order parts in the middle of the repair; you get everything up front.”
In short, Martin says, the carts have “made a world of difference.”