Maximize Your Driver
A customer calls in asking for the estimated arrival time for a part order—how do you respond? In order to retain customers and build parts clientele, it’s important to focus on accuracy for parts orders.
In 2008, Andrew Hirschmann, then-assistant manager of Ken Garff West Valley CDJRF in West Valley City, Utah, knew his parts department could do better.
“We had three people in the warehouse total,” Hirschmann says. “Two people were parts drivers and one was the dispatcher.”
Hirschmann didn’t feel like this was the most efficient way to run his operation and wanted to grow the department. He knew that, to grow, it’s important to go for it and evaluate processes—even if it means adopting a new mentality and rethinking individual roles.
“When we got here eight years ago, it was every man for himself and, now, it’s a team,” Hirschmann says.
As a former parts driver, Hirschmann knew the role well and realized that, in order to change the way the department worked, the momentum for growth needed to start with that role.
As a result of that thinking, Hirschmann, who today acts as the parts manager, has expanded his staff size from 3 people to a 25-member team. In addition, Hirschmann increased sales in the parts department by 400 percent to $16.2 million with a $1.9 million inventory.
Hirschmann discusses how taking a closer look at how the parts driver’s role can be expanded allowed his team to become more efficient.
1. Evaluate Staffing.
Depending on demand, additional drivers may need to be added in order to reach customers.
After Hirschmann began looking at his drivers’ routes and where they were traveling to, he realized that the department needed to hire two extra individuals to cater to other regions.
“You hit a point where you’re looking at, how many deliveries are these guys doing, [and asking yourself], ‘Am I maximizing them?’” Hirschmann says.
To maximize drivers, Hirschmann determines what the average delivery time is, as well as the time it takes to reach customers within a 5-, 10-, and 20-mile radius, in order. Then, he evaluates whether additional drivers are required to fit the needs of customers and cut down on delivery time. Although the pay-off isn’t seen in the beginning, it happens over time, bringing in more customers, he says.
“If [a customer’s] average delivery time is 43 minutes and they love it, but now I bring it back down to 32 minutes because I hired somebody—I go sell that to somebody again and maybe they want to buy more,” Hirschmann says. “Right now I’m selling them batteries [and] I’m increasing some sort of sale to that customer to pay for what I’m doing.”
Takeaway: Increasing your staff size creates further outreach, accommodating current customers as well as creating new ones in the process.
2. Cross-Train Staff.
There are busy times and slow times, so rather than having drivers sit around or lack the necessary number of drivers, Hirschmann cross trains his staff.
“Even in the warehouse—they’ve all driven, they will all drive at any time, and all of my drivers can work in the warehouse,” Hirschmann says. “They all can dispatch, they all know the processes, they all know everybody’s job; they might not have that job, but they know what to do.
“That’s helped with how you make it faster.”
Takeaway: By focusing on cross-training, all staff members are able to work in positions outside of their own—keeping the process time steady.
3. Track Your Driver.
After you’ve determined the number of drivers needed and the routes they need to travel, it can be beneficial to track your drivers in order to determine how else delivery time can be decreased. Hirschmann’s department began to focus on electronically tracking parts drivers, as well as ensuring that drivers’ locations are communicated to the staff and customers at all times.
Roughly five years ago, the parts department brought in a dispatch system, Elite EXTRA, that pushed the dealership to focus more on switching from handwritten notes to an electronic system.
“Everything is time-stamped, so you know right away from here’s when the order is printed to here’s when it was ready for dispatch to here’s when the driver got it,” Hirschmann says. “Ten years ago, I was never a fan of tracking a driver, [but] now I’m all for embracing that.”
By moving to an electronic method, it’s cleared up headaches and made the working process easier to understand.
“From where that started eight years ago to where that started on paper and you just hand-wrote every invoice and you put a time down and then you were looking at that, so now it’s all computer-done for you,” Hirschmann says. “That’s been a big help.”
Takeaway: Electronically tracking parts drivers can provide customers with quick answers on where the driver’s location is, as well as an estimated arrival time for a part.