Parts Department

Maximize Your Use of a Parts Runner

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Maximize Your Use of a Parts Runner
A look at how parts runners can boost a parts department’s overall efficiency.

Back in 2008, when Lexus of Bellevue (Wash.) moved to a sterling—and massive—new facility, Derrick Albrecht embraced his new workplace with open arms.

But, before long, Albrecht, the dealership’s service and parts director, felt rather overwhelmed. The new facility was four times larger than Lexus of Bellevue’s prior building, and the sheer size presented problems with regard to fixed operations. Delivering parts to technicians on the shop floor, for example, would be awfully time consuming.

“You come into a big, beautiful building, and all of a sudden, the space … that you longed for when you were cramped previously, what you thought was your friend, turned out to be your arch enemy,” Albrecht explains. “Because now, all of a sudden, you needed to move not only faster, but you need more people to move the same things, because of the space, the travel time, the steps.”

Knowing the importance of getting necessary parts into the hands of technicians in a timely manner, Lexus of Bellevue’s leaders thoroughly evaluated where their now 280,000-square-foot dealership could shore up deficiencies.

Parts manager Patrick Nove decided he didn’t want his technicians to have to traverse the lengthy distance from the shop floor to the back parts counter. A decision was reached: the Washington dealership was going to add a parts runner position.

And, a decade later, several of Lexus of Bellevue’s former parts runners have gone on to successful stints as parts countermen, or dispatchers. And, with countermen no longer having to deal with many low-level, menial tasks, the parts department’s “sales-per-counterman” figure has spiked to $147,242.

The parts runner position “is a nice way to show young people the pathway through the automotive business from the fixed operations side,” Albrecht says. And “it keeps congestion off the back counter.”

Lexus of Bellevue’s parts department leaders explain how dealerships can get the most out of the parts runner position.

 

Read Resumes Carefully.

Hiring ideal parts runners can be tricky, considering the support staff position’s entry-level pay. At most dealerships, parts runners are paid near minimum wage, around $12–$15 per hour.

Lexus of Bellevue has had success when reaching out to local high schools and junior colleges for parts runner candidates, and often end up with solid, 18- to 24-year-old hires.  

And, during that hiring process, Albrecht seeks motivated workers who are either passionate about cars or simply passionate about getting their foot in the door professionally. He also favors job prospects who are organized, and tend to be self-starters.

“You have to know what the next step is [while on the job] without being told what the next step is,” he says. “Because it is fast moving, and fast paced.”

 

Utilize Parts Kits.

The biggest key to making parts runners beneficial to a facility is assembling parts kits, according to Albrecht. At Lexus of Bellevue, Nove, the parts manager, assembled countless parts kits via his facility’s DMS after adding the parts runner position.

As a result, the Washington dealership’s parts runners are now quickly provided with a list of necessary parts, and are often able to deliver parts to cars before vehicles even leave the service drive. That means technicians rarely have to wait around to start repair work.

“Parts kits, we have quite a few of them,” Nove notes. “Our DMS brings up a list of parts, so we can easily bill out stuff in moments and then pass that list off to a runner to pull parts and deliver.”

Creating parts kits, Albrecht says, “sped us up—at the height of the program, we were capturing about 11 percent of the technicians’ efficiency by having the parts in the car …”

 

Monitor Your Fill Rate.

Over the last decade, Albrecht and Nove have kept a close eye on their parts department’s fill rate, ensuring that their inventory was able to meet customer demand. In recent years, that key inventory metric ascended to 93 percent.

“Fill rate is important,” Albrecht notes. “You’ve got to have the right parts. Then, of course, you’ve got to have those parts readily available; you can’t have a parts runner spending lots of time looking for simple parts, like high-frequency oil filters, air filters—stuff that you’re doing hundreds of times per day. Parts have to be located in a fashion where they’re put together, to be picked up.”

Ultimately, a solid parts runner benefits everyone in their department, from technicians, to back countermen, to their bosses.  

Lexus of Bellevue’s parts runners allow Nove, “a little freedom, where he’s allowed to operate at 20,000 feet,” Albrecht says. “A lot of that has to do with the efficiency that it allows us to explore, like giving other duties to the skilled workers with experience, instead of having a back counterman be the delivery source.”

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