Parts Mangment

This may be a situation only high school teams face, but any solutions would be helpful.

As many of you have noticed after a few years of FRC, your team accumulates lots of gear and equipment. My question is how do your teams organize your equipment and labs for FRC. I find I am need of some serious organizational advice/ intervention. If you have pictures of how your team does it I would love to see them.


Totes from 2015 and Harbor Freight “Storage Cases” ( helped us to reorganized and also stay organized. We had bins for VersaPlanetaries, smaller pneumatic parts, collars, ect. We also had a bin for robot specific stuff (custom smaller shafts, gears, belts, ect).

BOXES, BOXES, BOXES. We organize using the same containers from harbor freight as mentioned above, and some smaller ones for small screws and such. Totes from 2015 (and KOP) make great ways to store bulk or large items. We also have two large rolling toolboxes that we keep all of our hand tools and things in that we take to competition with us. Other than that we just have some shelves all over our shop for large items, gearboxes, motors, stock material, etc. It doesn’t really matter how you decide to organize your space, the key is to have a home for everything, and label that home.

254 has what looks to be a really awesome program for Parts Management. I’ve never used it personally, but it definitely looks super useful.

A combination of parts cases, long thin shelf bins, totes, boxes, and shelves, along with a label maker and many rolls of tape. Start by gathering like things, and labeling the box. When a box is over full, split it into two dissimilar groups, and re-label them both. Eventually, everything is somewhere, in cases. Arrange those cases in a way that makes some sense.

Every few weeks to few months, go through each bin to relocate items which have walked. At least once a year, identify bins which are over-full or under-full and restock, combine, or split bins as needed, and RE-LABEL. Don’t so much try to get this right the first time, as to get close and make it a little better each pass.

Throw out broken things. If you have a tote or other storage place for each project which is under way, be sure to purge this tote/place at the end or abandonment of the project. If it’s a continuing project (e.g. our air cannon), go through it every few weeks to return tools and generic parts to their proper places.

It’s not the best solution ever, and we certainly aren’t the most organized team out there, but since we’ve started doing this, things have improved greatly.

I’ve found that your storage is going to depend on your build space. My team has been through a few different build spaces, and each one had different storage requirements. There was a period where we lived out of a closet, so everything had to be on wheels so we could move it in and out easily. Another period where we had a large space all to our selves, and got some surplus home depot style shelving that worked great with standard FRC totes. Currently, we utilize a lot of under-bench areas for storage with totes, combined with smaller parts storage bins on a rolling rack and a corner for large stock (sheet metal, extrusion, etc) with a custom made rolling storage container to help keep it organized. We’re also increasingly looking at rolling chests for storage so we can bring all of it with us to competition.

I really like what the 2337 does, they build from their pit, year round. We have yet to succeed at this level, their pit at competition is so organized and every student, mentor knows exactly where everything is at, because it where it was at their build site. Clinton and Brandi are some smart nerds. Simple ideas paying dividends many times over.

Doesn’t really matter what it is, use it pack it, optimize it, make your build shop your pit.


My team’s been doing this for the past few years, and it really helps. No wasted time rummaging through drawers for tools, less time wasted bumping elbows as students work in a tighter space than they’re used to, and much more efficient use of the space because we’re always improving our pit layout.

As for part storage, my only suggestion is to use clear plastic containers. As convenient as the totes from Recycle Rush are, we ended up giving most of them to teachers for their storage.

General mantra that worked well on 4901:

If your storage bin for a category of robot parts is bigger than one of our standard (just-smaller-than-a-shoebox) bins, you need two smaller, more specific bins.

(Our exceptions were long stock, small hardware that had its own organizers, and the black Clippard tanks that wouldn’t fit in our regular bins. Your mileage may vary.)

Absolutely. Figure out how things will fit in your space, but try to buy pieces which can go in a different space; one day you’re likely to need it.

Wow! How does that work?

  • Do you have a separate machine shop, or at least cutting room? Does your pit include any CAD or programming equipment?
  • Do you have storage of stock and parts for prototyping and new builds (as opposed to repairs) outside of this small space? Do you have any barriers (whether a physical separation or administrative) to restrict access to this storage to better simulate the competition pit?
  • Do you have multiple copies of the pit? Especially given our limited work hours, we typically have at least four separate build /sub-build projects going at once for the first four weeks of build, and its not uncommon for two robot projects to continue until we’re ready to pack the trailer for competition. We don’t have enough tools or toolboxes for four pits.
  • As a halfway measure, I’m going to suggest we set up a pit for driver practice near our practice area. If the robot breaks during driver practice, the pit crew will have to fix it there. If this sticks, I’m going to have to advance “pit design” on our GANNT chart for build season!

Pseudo-edit (made before posting): As I think on it, I realize that we’ve been doing part of this a low level at least since the 2013 build season, but not the space limitation. Most of our rolling items which we take into the pit (e.g. tool chest, storage work bench, and rolling shelf unit) serve the same or at least similar function in our build space. We typically move our batteries from a large, bench-like storage unit to a smaller box, and load the big battery box with spare parts and stock for that year. (We plan to build an even more efficient battery cart this year.)

Agreed. We only use the totes for things VERY occasionally accessed, or as project “pack away” boxes for the end of each build session - they are too big for storage of similar items accessed weekly or monthly. [Examples pruned]

Yes, we use the same system, though our standard bins are a bit larger. As an example, one of our recent box splits was when our “small straps” box, which already excluded nylon tie-down straps split into the “tie wraps; wire management” vs something like “hose clamps, plumber tape; other medium straps”.

  • We actually share what was formerly the school’s band room with a STEM class. The only machinery in the room is a drill press, band saw, horizontal band saw, and sheet metal brake. The drill press and vertical band saw are school property but were inoperable until a few members of the team repaired and refurbished them a couple years ago. The horizontal band saw and sheet metal brake are team property. They are located somewhat permanently along one wall of the room. When we need to cut or drill something, we take it to the machines and then assemble inside the pit or on a table in the room. No CAD or programming is done in our pit. This holds true at competitions as well. For 2016, the vast majority of our CAD was done in either a Panera or an Einstein Bros Bagel while I was on my lunch break, or at my house. A good portion of our programming was done at McDonald’s or wherever the programming team could find WiFi. The rest was done in a small side office to our robot room.
  • Mostly yes. We have a closet for storage of parts and raw materials, but we actually don’t keep much raw material on hand at any time. It’s something we really need to fix, especially because our members have lots of experience working with lumber, but we never use it for prototyping. Our pit is bordered on three sides by our own storage and equipment, and we string a cord across the front when we’re done each night. (At least we say we do. It doesn’t actually happen.) The original purpose of setting up our pit full time was so it didn’t take up storage space and so the 100-ish students rummaging through that room every day knew where the classroom ended and where the robot room started. They know very well that the pit is off limits, but if we leave tools out, they wander off.
  • No. Our pit’s a thing of beauty that a mentor and his grandson welded together our Rookie year. We don’t really have the space and that mentor probably doesn’t have the time to do that again. This hasn’t been a very noticeable problem for us because we don’t have the people resources to need two pits. One of our biggest problems is that almost all of the work end’s up passing through 2-3 students and 1-2 mentors. Thankfully, those exact students and mentors have changed just about each year, but it’s still an issue.
    *]The more your pit crew can practice working together and getting comfortable, the better. One thing we’ve also done more through convenience than intention is that our pit crew ends up designing and building the robot cart themselves. We make a new cart each year, tailored to the robot and the crew using it. The pit crew always enjoys making their cart and puts a lot of pride into their robot cart, and I think it helps in subtle ways.

Like others have said use a variety of clear bins if possible. We buy these bins with plastic covers so the part don’t fall out and stack better. Labeling also helps.

A few years ago we converted the side wall into a storage rack. All of our parts are stored there. Raw material like wood, pvc tubing, sheet metal and aluminum tubing get stored in the machine shop.

One big organizing theme is to set aside areas for electronic items (sensors, motor controllers vs mechanical (wheels, motors, transmissions). When a new student asks where something is, I can say the electronic stuff is on the right side. This quickly narrows down their search area.

We also have an area for pneumatic parts, bolts, belts, wheels, bearings, hubs and chain.


Our parts management was revolutionized for the better last year when we bought one pack of these, labeled them, and put them on a bookshelf:
Cardboard Storage Bins

Definitely one of the highest productivity ROI’s we’ve ever had.

We recently took over one of my tech rooms where we had a racking system installed. All our parts are labeled according to parts stored in totes. During build season the parts will be further broken down to sub teams. Electrical has their own tool box with spares. All of our aluminum is stored in a cabinet in the metals shop. Programmers have their own closet along with media and promotion. We made this move last season and it really helped out managing parts and knowing what we needed to order quickly. Having everything (besides aluminum) in one room really helps the students find items and get things back to their proper places so we don’t “misplace” them. ha

Plugging one of our partners: If you have a local Fastenal retailer, see if they would like to help your team out. We were able to make a connection with them this year for discounted hardware (government account since we are school-based). They even loaned the team a nice hardware storage system with a printout labeling part locations that includes pictures of each part. This is a great help for our students to learn the different types of fasteners and make sure they get back in the right spot.

We also use many Akro bins and racks. Need a better stock metal storage system though.

Wow thanks for the quick feedback.

I have been using a lot of these, and was wondering if there was a better system.

To refine my earlier post how do you get student buy in to keeping the parts organized?

I recommend taking your team through 5S methodology. We are in the process of adopting this on 1678, it’s a great way to teach student an industry standard AND get more buy-in on continual organization improvement. My workplace uses 5S extensively.



Thanks for the share Mike! We do most of these informally, but after seeing this, its a great resource start to make it more formal.
My students are going to hate me even more now!:slight_smile:
I’m anal about everything at our shops.
My quote in life…“Everything in life should be parallel and perpendicular!”

+1 to doing this in the workplace. Both internships I’ve had do the same.

I follow, in both our mechatronics lab and in my home work shop, the Adam Savage theory of first order of retrievability. Tool stack drawers are truly the death of hand tools. When working you can never find what you need and have to move other stuff to get to it. It’s nice to see everything that you have and nothing is hidden. The main part of the system is that the things you use the most are the easiest to access. Some stuff can still go in drawers, but you can easily do away with a bunch of tool stacks. I recommend you check out some of Adam’s tool organization techniques on