As more and more wholesale customers look to move away from phone, email and fax in their parts-ordering processes, parts departments are turning to electronic procurement methods to improve the accuracy and efficiency of their parts deliveries. Some are doing so voluntarily, while others in the collision repair industry have begun to adapt as OEM certifications and DRP agreements require the use.
From CollisionLink to PartsTrader to MyPriceLink, the systems have ushered in a significantly different process from the traditional methods of ordering parts for body shops. And while the process may change, many have reported that using the systems has resulted in added efficiency and a decrease in the number of steps needed.
Rydell Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac—a two-facility Grand Forks, N.D., dealership (General Motors and Honda/Nissan) for the 68-location Rydell Group—uses electronic parts procurement systems for nearly every order that comes through its parts department. The parts team has come to embrace the systems, parts director Dan Stinar says, and appreciates the efficiencies they’ve added to Rydell’s $850,000-per-month wholesale business.
Stinar breaks down how he manages operating through multiple parts procurement tools, the process changes and the differences it has made.
Competition is the biggest challenge that Stinar faces every day. Some of the larger players in his region do up to $1 million more than Rydell in wholesale parts sales each month, so Stinar says the parts department stresses volume and moving as much product as quickly as possible.
“I stress the volume part of things as compared to the older-school guys that want to retain and maintain a gross profit percentage,” he says. “I just move product, move product, move product.”
However, Stinar says that pushing volume only goes so far—and that’s where placing an even greater premium on customer service comes into play.
“I just pound that into our guy’s heads all the time,” he says. “Take care of the customer, don’t give them ‘no’ for an answer, help them as best as you can.”
In an effort to always say “yes” to the customer, Stinar says that convenience is a huge factor, and over recent years, that convenience has meant new technology that’s changing many of the traditional processes.
“It’s just a matter of keeping ahead of our competition as far as service is concerned and adhering to the new programs and procedures that GM and the industry often throw at us,” Stinar says.
From GM implementing MyPriceLink last August and eliminating list pricing to more shops utilizing electronic parts procurement systems like CollisionLink, RepairLink and PartsTrader, Stinar says that his department really only had to two choices to maintain its high level of customer service: Operate through multiple parts procurement tools or adapt the business model.
Rydell began using PartsTrader and OEConnection’s CollisionLink and RepairLink more than three years ago, and added GM’s MyPriceLink beginning last August. While the former systems weren’t mandated, Stinar says the department ultimately decided to make the commitment to learn the systems before it was a necessity.
“In this case here, if something new is out there and customers are using it, we’ve got to be ahead of that and be set up to say, ‘Yes, Mr. Customer, we can take care of you through CollisionLink, MyPriceLink or Mitchell,” he says.
While Stinar’s experienced team of 12 sales consultants is typically an asset, he worried that the learning curve might be steep for some of the more tenured employees. Fortunately, that’s where the ingrained culture of learning and remaining ahead of the curve paid dividends.
“Some of the guys that have been here for a long time who used to use the microfiche and the parts carts, they’re doing a very good job adhering to it, as well,” he says. “It hasn’t really been a challenge as far as programs go. It’s just more programs to learn, more steps.”
Stinar relied on his program representatives to both alert him of new systems, as well as provide training on those systems. And, he says that after learning one system, learning others is less of a challenge. The shop adheres to a strict threshold of no more than five minutes before an order must be handled, and he says that the systems have helped speed up that process even more.
“On our side, it’s a matter of clicking a couple more buttons,” he says. “You take the order in, take a look at it, fill the order as best you can, hit submit/commit; it goes back to the customer and they have a note section where they can talk back and forth with us.”
Finally, Stinar also implemented AutoPoint, an electronic parts estimating and ordering system that the department uses internally with the service department.
“As far as parts procurement through the main shop, we’re completely opposite of what other shops do. This is huge from a dealership who is wanting to push service department efficiency,” he says.
Instead of the shop’s 35 technicians having a parts counter and waiting in line to get their parts, the technician sends an inquiry through the system to the parts department, which then has an 8-minute threshold to get the order done and sent back to the service advisor. After the quote is approved and sent back through the system, the parts staff delivers the parts directly to the technician.
“We went to flat rate three years ago. Before that, they were hourly. Tech efficiency is huge,” Stinar says. “Keeping them producing hours, turning more hours, is the name of the game for this place for sure. They’re our biggest customer and we always have to keep that in mind.”
Not only has efficiency increased for sales consultants, Stinar says the number of incoming and outgoing phone calls has dramatically decreased. And, by starting early on learning those systems, Stinar says it has made it easier for the team to train both new employees and customers on systems that are becoming more prevalent, such as MyPriceLink.
“With MyPriceLink coming out here, that’s going to be kind of a challenge for us because a lot of our customers still handwrite estimates out there,” he says. “We’ve had a couple GM reps come up here and give us a walkthrough with the integration.”
When it comes to new employees, they will first shadow other parts consultants before working with systems used in the main shop, allowing mistakes to be fixed more easily.
“If they’re going to make a mistake, I’d rather them make a mistake with one of our technicians than one of our customers 200 miles away,” Stinar says.
Ultimately, Stinar says adopting parts procurement systems comes down to having a team that’s willing to adapt and work with those systems to learn the nuances and shortcuts.
“It’s going to be a matter of, ‘Parts consultant A, how did you do the order as compared to parts consultant B?’” he says. “We’ll find shortcuts and efficiency. We live and breathe the efficiency part of everything. It’s in our culture and our blood.”