Counselling / Pixabay

There’s been some talk at some of my clients lately about labeling – whether it’s necessary, or just another way to slow down production.  (I know, some of you are beyond this stage, but it might be helpful for those who are still deciding whether to implement or not…) I follow the conversations with interest, as I’m all about streamlining, but also all about systems, and the pros and cons fall squarely in one camp or another.


  • can prevent costly errors
  • helps easy identification of parts that may look similar
  • allows faster double checking of order prior to shipment


  • labeling takes too much time – my guys are experienced and don’t need this
  • it’s too expensive (for materials as well as labor)

While both of these points have their merit, I fall on the side of Pro for this one.  (Those who know me aren’t very surprised by this…)

Let me offer some alternatives to what you may be thinking.  Labeling, when I talk to those who are resistant to implementing it, is always perceived as words on a sticky piece of paper – often handwritten by the disassembler who laboriously hand marks the parts (any parts where confusion could occur, at a minimum).  

Although that definition is certainly one application of labels, there are much easier ways to label parts that don’t involve writing at all – namely, using color coding wherever possible so you can tell from a greater distance the status of a part, box, or assembly.

Shipping options – One client has different pieces of cardboard tucked into the flap of the box:

  • Red is overnight
  • Blue is 2 day
  • White is hold for pickup
  • Green is regular freight


  • labeled for day of shipment / pickup

This allows them to know at a glance whether overnight shipments have gone out, what the status of freight is, etc.  

These cardboard labels are removed prior to final shipment, and re-used over and over – a quick way to see what needs to be processed for FedEx/UPS/LTL/hold for pickup visually, without needing to go ‘read’ anything.

PIX1861 / Pixabay

Have some colored file folders hanging around?  Cut ‘em up to use as shipping indicators, AND put up a key or legend for folks so they know what color means what!  A sign near the scales typically works well…

Similar parts – differentiate parts that appear similar – use color coding for:

  • different manufacturers
  • different model years
  • etc.

as well as the typical “which side” labels    

Run out of “L” and “R” stickers?  If you always use the same colors for the same side (“left” is green and “right” is red), you can use unlabeled red and green stickers in a pinch (again, put this color code up for all to see).

And, labeling isn’t just for parts…

In the office – accounts receivable (and the system works for A/P also)

  • red for accounts past due
  • yellow for accounts due within 10 days
  • green for all other accounts

For my work – while at a client site, you may have seen me refer to folders:

  • blue are the most common or applicable legislation/standards I refer to (environmental, health/safety) often;
  • yellow is work-in-progress awaiting response from someone else before I can proceed;
  • green is active work in progress;
  • red is critical – past due or attention needed (like who I need to call and get status from, who’s late with information to me, etc.)

I try to keep the red folder empty…. ☺

I use this system so I can see, at a glance or even if the tabs are not facing me, which folder I want to grab.  And when my red folder has something in it, it reminds me to get on it right away.

PIRO4D / Pixabay

When setting up client files, I often set up colored files or use colored paper for

  • Preventive Maintenance – by week, month, quarter, year – different colors are different intervals.  A quick glance can help you decide what to work on first, what can perhaps slip out a week or two, etc.
  • Regulatory submissions – different colors are different requirements (after a rainfall for a catch sample for stormwater vs. at a specific calendar time submission, for example – grab the blue file and materials for post-rainfall sample capture, vs. grab the yellow folder for OSHA 300 recordable, vs. grab the …. You get the idea.
  • 5S /6S – list of daily, weekly chores are differentiated (these are printed on different colored paper) or different assignments – yellow is done by disassemblers, green is done by warehouse, blue is done by office, white is done by sales, pink is done by management.

A quick search of an automotive supply house shows that there are lots of options for labeling – blank labels, labels that comply with Hollander, Pinnacle, or CheckMate, dots, rectangles, hang tags, tags ready for filling out, and more.  

So next time you’re wondering if you should bother with labeling, get creative (and colorful) with your solution and clearly mark your parts.  Your customers, and your pickers, will be happy you did.

This article was published in Automotive Recycling magazine, the official industry publication of the Automotive Recyclers Association,