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Keys for Effective Quality Control

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Special-order parts were piling up at the parts department of Tri-City Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram in Somersworth, N.H., and Kirk Dupre, the parts manager, knew the clutter was causing inefficiencies.

“Special-order parts,” Dupre says, “they are an obstacle―you know, getting [customers] to come in.

“Getting the person in here to get that [job] done, it’s as difficult as getting the part from the manufacturer.”

Dupre punctuates that last statement with a short laugh. He can look back and smile now, after tweaks to his department’s quality-control process fixed the situation. Yes, a couple years ago, a few minor changes made a major difference in Somersworth.

 

Getting Back on Track

Previously, if the dealership had to handle an air bag recall, the requisite special-order parts would have sat in Dupre’s parts department at length.

Nowadays, Dupre’s staff gives customers a prompt, decisive call to action.

The in-house automatic data processing (ADP) system helps the dealership quickly email customers, notifying them of recalls. And, one of Dupre’s top counter men reaches out to clients as often as necessary to schedule an appointment so the recall situation can be resolved. That has helped avoid any pile ups of inventory and, thus, increased departmental efficiency.

“He’s on point,” Dupre, who oversees a four-person department, says of the counterman.

“He’ll just barrage” customers, urgently hoping to address the safety issue.  

All told, a handful of quality-control initiatives helped Dupre get his parts department in top form.

 

Quality Control Keys

1. Pre-schedule when possible. At Tri-City, service department staff make it a point to communicate with the parts department regarding appointments that are a few days out. The service department will send over a “pre work order,” allowing Dupre’s staff to have parts on hand by the time the appointment rolls around.

Similarly, the counter person in charge of check-ins takes note of which warehouse the parts will be arriving from and, if it’s a warehouse Tri-City doesn’t typically use, will make the service department aware that there could be a longer-than-usual wait for parts.

2. Develop detail-oriented employees. The second that employees notice a damaged part, they’re instructed to bring it to the parts manager’s attention. When his parts area becomes the slightest bit cluttered, he makes sure that customers are called to come in and get their special-order parts, so it doesn’t create wasted inventory. Eventually, employees commit such instructions to memory, resulting in a supremely organized department.

3. Limit data entry errors. When it comes to keeping tabs on elements like obsolete parts and turnover rates, Dupre makes sure to have each staff member consistently stick with a specific, designated task. That way, each employee can usually quickly assess where they may have made an error, if such a documentation issue arises.

“It’s finding where that person fits in the loop,” Dupre notes.

4. Keep parts areas clean. Dupre has recently instructed staffers to file parts away in a consistent area of the department, with each specific part getting put in a corresponding bin, which has greatly aided workflow.

“That made it a lot more efficient,” the parts manager notes. “Because we used to

chase our tail trying to hunt down these special-order parts.”

5. Clarify customer concerns. If there’s one thing Dupre has learned in his three decades in the industry, it’s that you can’t ask customers enough questions in an effort to satisfy their requests.

“We ask a lot of questions,” Dupre says, to “make sure that the customer is telling us what he really wants, and to make sure that we really know what he wants.”

 

The Takeaway

Over the last two years, gross profit is up 10 percent in Somersworth, Dupre estimates.

The parts department currently has around $170,000 in inventory on hand and he says the last couple months have been among his best ever professionally.

Communication with the service manager has also never been better. Parts are moving in and out of his department fluidly.

“The biggest lesson: You’ve got to have the right people,” Dupre says. “I don’t know how to [sugarcoat] that. That’s just the facts. I mean, there’s a lot of people out there right now that … can’t do this job.

“You get the right people and things just flow smoothly.”

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