How one shop tackled the problem of trying to organize specialty tools

Feb. 9, 2016
For every new Ford car model, Missoula, Mont.-based Bitterroot Motors receives one of these cases full of specialty tools from the manufacturer. Organizing them was a difficult task, until the dealership began using an inventory control system.

The technicians at Bitterroot Motors in Missoula, Mont., were seeing red—that is, red plastic totes full of specialty tools. For every new car model, the Ford dealership receives one of these cases full of specialty tools from the manufacturer, and about 100 cases had piled up. The more tools the dealership received, the harder it got to keep track of them. Technicians would use a tool then leave it on their bench or put it in their own toolbox. Or they would put it back in the red case but leave the case where they were working. This inefficiency was costing many hours as techs searched for tools, in some cases, only to find that the tool they needed was missing.

“Our techs were constantly looking for tools,” recalls Chuck Pummill, Bitterroot’s technical service manager.

To help dealers like Bitterroot, Ford asked Vidmar to develop an inventory control system that keeps all of these specialty tools in one place and easy to track. Called “Rotunda,” it consists of four Vidmar cabinets with a total of 52 tool drawers, plus overhead cabinets for bulk storage. A master index leads the tech to the appropriate drawer, where a laminate liner indicates the tool’s location with a picture of the tool and the tool number.

Dealerships have different options for how to keep track of who is using what tool. Some keep the cabinets in the parts department and require techs to check the tools out. Bitterroot has found it more efficient to furnish techs with a set of personalized dog tags, which they place in the drawer when they remove a tool.

Bitterroot was one of about 50 or so Ford dealerships to have the Rotunda system in place at the beginning of 2006.

Pummill credits it with a big savings in time and money. “The Vidmar drawer system is absolutely wonderful,” he says. “The techs love it, and the time wasted looking for special service tools has been reduced tenfold.”

Moreover, with the dog tag system, individuals are accountable for every tool they remove from the cabinets, and the drawer system makes it very easy and quick to do a tool inventory.

“Now it is very rare that we can’t find something quickly,” Pummill says.

Information provided by: Stanley Vidmar

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