Best Organizational Equipment to Buy for FRC

Hello again CD! Thank you guys so much for the help on the last post about manufacturing equipment. It was so helpful that I thought I should ask, what is your favorite organizational feature of your lab? Which part of your lab is so aptly designed you would want to brag about it?

At worlds in 2019 our team was put right next to 1323, and after looking at their pit it seemed very put together and finished(not many random tool boxes laying around). A second question would be, how integrated is your pit into your lab design? In what ways can this be accomplished most effectively?

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Good timing, we just published a writeup on a smaller-scale reorganization project that we’re pretty proud of. A major focus was to create consistency between pit work and workshop work.

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Highly suggest foam inserts. I describe them in the thread below:

Foam Inserts

We might get $10,000 that we have to spend soon through a grant. What should we buy? - #8 by UnofficialForth

Beyond that, I really like Trello. It help use keep all of our tasks well organized. I want to get a monitor in the main build space that has both that and Onshape easily accessible for the mechanical.

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I’m currently working with the Si Se Puede Foundation to design their own STEM Center. One of the most recent issues we encountered is what is the best way to store all of our tube stock in a way that is both organized and safe? I found this organizer bin from another lab that I work in and was inspired to reverse engineer it and design my own variation that would meet our space requirements.

I designed all of the parts in CAD,

made an exploded view animation to make sure that it could actually be assembled,

made some test cuts to make sure all of the tolerances were good,

cut out all of the parts on a laser cutter using 5 mm plywood and then finally assembled all of the pieces together.

We’re really happy with how it turned out. If anyone would like the design files, just send me a message.

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On recommendation from @Allison_K - I’ve started purchasing these Sterlite 6 quart and 16 quarter containers (I’ve seen reasonable quantities and price at Target so I’m not paying for shipping) - like this: Sterilite 6 Qt Clear View Box Clear With Latches Purple : Target

The clear bin is useful so people can see inside of it.

I also like to use plastic baggies sometimes internally to separate some things of like products. For instance, I think this is a 16 quart storage box with a bunch of 2" wheels in it, that I’ve repurposed big mcmaster bags to separate out the different 2" wheels:

For the shelves we have, I’m still trying to figure out how to take best advantage of the room. I think I’m going to block out the back behind the bins so they can’t be pushed in all the way because that would encourage people to store things in front and that makes it more annoying to get anything out. Alternatively, I might make some labels and put them in front so that if we take a bunch of bins out, maybe they can make their way back to where they usually are?

We’re still very much a work in progress, but I think with the fortunate amount of space we have, that if we take some time to properly organize into bins it’ll be pretty nice (I feel like this picture gives a very wrong idea as to how organized we are…this is way more flattering than in real life):

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I agree on foam shadow boxes but foam is pretty expensive these days so there are probably alternatives out there that will be more cost effective. If you have a tight budget I’d shadowbox tool boxes that travel and move around first.

Our pit and robot cart are all done with the foam inserts and to the OP’s other question --we setup our pit next to our practice field permanently. We are trying to get into the habit of working on the robot in our pit area vs. taking it back to the shop (within reason) so we can get used to competition. It also helps us make sure we have all the tools we’d need while traveling so if we’re running back the shop for stuff we’ll likely add it to our robot cart and/or pit box as well.

![Tools|375x500]

We’ve also started using Sortly extensively for our inventory and part tracking. It takes a bit of time to setup but it’s been a major help for finding tools, parts and equipment.

Have you done any research on optimizing order of access per dollar traded against storage density per dollar?

Yep, come visit and we’ll brief you on our findings.

We purchased some Uline Cabinets with bins. They are amazing for organizing COTS parts:

We have 2 now (1 for electrical, 1 for mechanical) with plans to buy a 3rd.

This where the bins in the cabinets really start to shine. We can easily remove the blue bins we need from the COTS cabinets and store them in the large drawers in our 2 Husky Tool Chests (reference pic below):

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We haven’t had a chance to do this at a comp yet since we bought the Uline cabinets in the summer of 2020, but it’s going to be a pretty slick setup.

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This answer will probably vary from team to team but for us, our pit really only exists at competitions. we use a lot of the same equipment to build it up, namely our battery cart, toolboxes, and some shelves, but the whole pit isn’t assembled unless we’re setting it up to lay it out for competition. I think I would like to have it in some form at some point, like having tools and shelves near each other in the same way they would be in the pit, but that hasn’t been feasible for us until recently.

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I am a huge proponent of building your pit inside your build space and working out of it throughout the season. Here are some of the benefits that I have seen from doing this:

  • Provides a great showpiece for any potential sponsors, students, or mentors who visit your build area
  • Forces everyone on the team to get used to working in the pit and learn where everything is located
  • Allows a lot of time for the team to optimize the layout of the pit and what tools and equipment belong in it
  • Makes packing for the competition very easy (if it is in the pit at home, it should be in the pit at the competition) and also helps prevent things from being left behind
  • It also makes setting up the pit at the competition very simple, the team doesn’t have to worry about where to put everything since all of that was decided back at the build space

Here is Roaring Riptide’s pit at home in our build space,
image

and here it is at the Orlando Regional.
image

The only real difference was that our ceiling wasn’t high enough in our build space to set up the tent. As a result, we didn’t realize how dark our pit would be until we got to the competition (something that we fixed for future events). This of course assumes that you have the space for it. If you don’t have room in your build space to have your pit set up permanently, I still highly recommend setting everything up temporarily a few weeks before your first competition. You’ll learn a lot in the process and it will help things go more smoothly when you’re setting things up at the competition.

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Anyone have any good solutions on organizing fasteners? Currently we have all of our #8 and #10 hardware sorted into the storage container on the left, 1/4-20 in the middle one, and everything larger in the rightmost bin. The two on the left are great because they have a lot of smaller bins which makes it easier to organize all of the different types of hardware we have in that size. However, I don’t trust the plastic clasps. As you can imagine, once you fill the containers up with hardware, they become quite heavy. The last thing I want is for the clasps to give out while someone is carrying them and then there’s a huge mess on the floor. I trust the container on the right a lot more since the clasps are metal, but the large size of the bins limits how finely you can organize everything.

A much larger number of smaller organizers would do the trick. The small Harbor Freight 93929 ones are cool and cheap.

We primarily use the Stanley 014026R Sortmaster organizer (which I believe has been discontinued)-- it’s got plastic latches but they’re molded into the flexible lid, not a separate part, so they rarely break. I’d love to switch everything to Milwaukee Packouts or Sortimo T-BOXXes though.

Can you cut away the handle to disallow the organizer from being carried vertically like a suitcase?

https://www.fastcap.com/product/kaizen-foam

Relative to most of the costs FRC teams have, $150 for basically two full sized toolchests of foam is not a bad deal at all.

We’re already seriously considering it. This is what we want our tool chests to look like, but without the foam, it’s not likely to stay like this for long.

I’ve also used EVA foam for this in the past - foam floor tiles can be had relatively inexpensively and they laser real nice.

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Same, we’ve gotten tired of the 20-season ritual of lets organize this nice and neat at the start of the season and then say “I swear we organized this just last week…” when we can’t find x tool.

In order to aid this, we’ve stopped using large sets of tools and have bought multiple of the commonly used sizes of stuff in FRC/on our team. This does wonders for space efficiency and not having to wait on someone for the one size of x thing we use all the time.

That makes a lot of sense. That’s another reason for working out of your pit during the build season. If you find that you are never using a certain tool, take it out of the pit. If you find that you never have enough of a certain wrench, get a couple extras.

Team 5254 is a fairly COTS-heavy team and always has been. We’ve also been historically rather space constrained, but we have been lucky enough to be able to call our space our own, even if it is a bit cramped at times. We’ve historically put a pretty strong emphasis on organization skills, so that we don’t lose any COTS parts that we can re-use year to year, which is not just annoying, but a waste of money.

Honestly, you can get a lot of mileage out of the basics. If you have money to burn, then you can go for a superpit if you want. But if you’re financially constrained, I honestly recommend just getting some cheap stuff on Amazon and a label maker. (Or some duct tape and a marker.)

  • Sterilite containers (these will probably get you the most bang for your buck)
  • Milwaukee jobsite organizers (but anything similar will do the same thing, I think Harbor Freight has some)
  • The KOP totes are eternally useful.
  • Random plastic shelving off amazon - these are likely the cheapest way to get more storage in your pit. They’re not that heavy and they’re not complicated to assemble. The full metal wire rack shelving can get heavy, so try to find ones like these in the lower left (don’t put anything crazy heavy like a drill press on these):

You don’t need to go overboard just because your pit neighbors have. Stick to your budget and make a logical plan for how to organize what you have. A team with $100k in CNC equipment will have a different organizational scheme than a team whose most expensive tool is a drill press. The most important thing is being on peoples cases about organization. You need to pester people. Really.

As for foam – 2791 went overboard and cut these by hand. They wind up getting pretty messy by the end of the event because people tend to get in a rush. So be vigilant about putting things back.

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Note there’s also a youtube channel run by a guy named Ben Tardif who has done some DIY organizational stuff for his shop which is super applicable to FRC teams:

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