Volume III, Issue 3, Page 22

Stockpiling is for Squirrels

read a lot of message boards that deal with building cars and one familiar refrain is guys saying they are buying parts.  Not buying to install, but buying to have them for some future install. It usually goes something like this, “I haven’t made much progress on the car lately, but I’ve been getting the parts I’ll need when I get back to it.” 

I finished my own long-term project last year, and I did the same thing.  I’m here to tell you that a good way to buy things you don’t need is to buy them when you have no intention of installing them any time soon.  I bought a Viper T56 transmission one winter when it popped up on eBay.  I figured it for a good deal, and I bought it.  Everything went well with the sale and it was sitting in my garage a few days later.  Two years later I sold it.  Why?  I bought the thing expecting to use one type of clutch, but I ended up not using it.  (Oh, and I had bought a clutch too).  I’ve got a bunch of similar stories that all have a common theme: buy the part when a good deal comes up, store it for a while, then sell it when the need it supposedly met is “overcome by events.”

For my next project, I’m going to try another method.  It’s one introduced by Japanese car-makers in the 80’s (or at least Americans became aware of it then): just in time production.  The idea is to buy a part and install it, or put another way, buy the part just in time to keep your project moving.  I submit that doing it this way will save you time and money for several reasons.

First, it keeps the money you are spending on your car tied to the current task. Zipping up money in parts that aren’t useful at the moment is wasteful.  Accountants call this the cost of money.  Money spent now for a future task costs more than money spent in the future for the same task.  The idea is to keep your car-building cash flow working on the same stuff you are working on.

Second, it reduces the space you need to store parts.  I don’t know about most guys, but I ended up needing to build more shelves to store all the parts I acquired that just collect dust.   More storage in your current garage or workshop means less room to work on the car, which leads to less productivity when you actually get to work on the car.  I’ve seen it taken to ridiculous heights. A guy will have so many stockpiled parts that he’s forced to store them on, in, or under the car itself.  How in the world can you work on the car in that situation?

Finally, (and I admit this can be a downside) not buying parts until you need them allows flexibility for your build plan.  You can change your mind when something new comes along or you are forced to change direction for another reason.  When you do that, you won’t have to sell that shiny part that you got a great deal on last year.  Of course, there’s no way you’re making money on that. 

In order for this to work efficiently, you’ll need to work out a build sequence.  You don’t necessarily need to plan every little detail for every bit of the project, but you will need to do that for the immediate task at hand.  The idea is to break the job up into several high-level tasks, put them in order, and then turn the high-level job into a detailed plan as it gets underway.  As you begin a new high-level task, you figure out what you need to buy, and the order you need to buy it in, just for that task.  You don’t need to buy all the stuff for all the other high level tasks out there.  As the parts come in, you install them as you go.  It will keep your storage needs down, and more money in your pocket. 

That’s my plan for my next project.  Right now, my high level plan is to sell my last project.  There are some cool splash panels available for the Factory Five GTM that I’m gonna do next.  I can get a great deal on them if I buy ‘em now.   I’ll let you know how I make out.  


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