About 1,000 General Motors Corp. dealership service departments, a couple of Ford Motor Co. shops and at least one DaimlerChrysler service point have no problem keeping track of their specialty tools. That's because they've subscribed to SPX Corp.'s tool organization system.

The manufacturer claims that a well-organized specialty tool area positively affects productivity, customer satisfaction and the bottom line.

"This system encourages the use of the recommended tools to give the technicians a better chance of doing a better and faster job," says Charles English, SPX Corp.'s tool organization manager. "It helps with standardizing procedures, which the OEMs want and need shops to use."

In addition, Mr. English says the SPX tool organization system improves tool inventory management, makes tools easy to find and return and saves time and money by having repairs done right the first time.

Installed, the system consists of a series of 4x7-ft., two-sided high-quality peg board panels that hang on a wall and can be moved like the pages of a very large book.

But that's only the final product. Much of the system's benefit comes before the panels go up.

Once a dealership signs up for the system, tool organization specialists analyze the shop's list of recommended tools. After they eliminate tools that should not be on the active list, the specialists divide the number of active tools by 120 to get to the number of panels required.

"I think it was a good investment because they went through and discarded the (tools) we didn't use as often," says Kevin Vanatta, owner of Newberry Motors in Newberry, MI. "We used it as our tool audit for GM."

Mr. Vanatta, who sells and services Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick, Oldsmobile, GMC, Chrysler, Plymouth, Dodge and Jeep in Michigan's sparsely populated Upper Peninsula, says the whole process took about a week, with the inventory segment taking the longest.

After the inventory is taken, the tool organization specialists install and paint the pegboard panels. Tools then are organized numerically and hung on the board.

"It's pretty much a custom fit," says Mr. English, who says that a large Chevrolet dealership might need 10 panels and a smaller Buick-only shop may need only five.

Mr. Vanatta's dealership, which only sells 400 new and 350 used units annually, required 19 panels to org- anize his special tools. That's because he's required to stock so many tools to take care of so many brands.

"It is laid out very efficiently, is user-friendly and it's attractive," says Mr. Vanatta. "(The tools) are much easier to access because they're on the board. Basically there is no time lost getting what you need."

Before the SPX system was installed, Newberry Motors' specialty tools were kept on a makeshift pegboard. "When we ran out of room and a new tool came in we would keep it in a box on a shelf," Mr. Vanatta recalls. "And technicians would have to look through a bunch of boxes to find the right tool. It was the right thing to do."

The tool organizing system cost Newberry Motors $9,155.

Mr. English says costs to dealerships vary because each dealership's needs are different.

But he says that basically dealers can determine the number of panels needed, then multiply by the $220 cost of each panel.

Mr. English estimates that the system will need a kit of hooks, decals, storage pouches, lists and part checkout supplies which range from $475-$775.

The service or inventory analysis segment of the system ranges from $1,800 to $2,400 for a small dealership to $2,700 to $3,200 for larger shops.

The cost of the service depends on the travel required and the size of the organization project. SPX uses independent contractors to consult with dealers and install the product and makes no money from that.

"It will work for virtually anyone," says Mr. English, who says the Saab Training Center in Atlanta and the BMW Training Center in New Jersey have purchased versions of the SPX tool organization system.