From the Desk of Mike Anderson: More Best Practices to Make the Most of the ‘Parts’ Portion of Your Business
Written by Mike Anderson, Autobody News
Published August 3, 2020
In a previous column, I shared some best practices shops can use to improve their parts-related processes and profits. Here a few more.
Best Practice: Check the OEM information.
You might presume that checking OEM collision repair information for each repair is something related to just procedures. But it also plays a role in streamlining your parts processes as well.
One way in particular: Identifying any non-reusable or one-time-use parts that need to be on your estimate and parts order. We’re not just talking about clips and fasteners. On some vehicles, there are interior or exterior trim pieces that are one-time-use, as well as some suspension or supplemental restraint system parts.
It’s important to know that while the estimating systems are doing a better job of identifying all one-time-use parts, those systems---nor even the OEM electronic parts catalogs---identify all of them. The only way to make sure you are aware of all of them is to read the OEM repair information.
Not all of the automakers identify one-time-use parts in the same way. Toyota/Lexus, for example, uses a black dot to indicate something is a non-reusable part. Nissan/Infiniti uses a black dot with a white X; sometimes these parts are color-coded in the automaker’s documentation. Mazda uses a white “R,” Subaru uses a star and Ford uses a symbol of a trash can to signal something is a one-time-use part.
There are other automakers, such as BMW, General Motors and Porsche, that currently don’t have a symbol, but instead use wording within the procedures to identify one-time-use parts. It might say, “Remove and replace,” for example, or “Remove and discard,” or “This is a non-reusable part.”
So you can’t just glance at the OEM repair procedures. Take the time to read them thoroughly. And when you list one-time-use parts on your estimate, include a line note indicating that the OEM has designated it as such.
The OEM repair procedures can also alert you about which parts can be repaired and which cannot. Many automakers, for example, say that components of certain strengths of steel should not be repaired, only replaced.
The procedures also can designate “if this, then that” statements related to parts. One example might be “If an airbag deploys,” then certain other parts on the vehicle must be replaced, even if they don’t appear damaged.
The time to have all this information is up front, so you don’t get into a job and only then discover you didn’t order all the parts the OEM procedures require.
Best Practice: Improve the parts information in the estimating systems---for yourself and the rest of the industry.
If you determine a part needed as part of a repair wasn’t shown in the estimating system, or if you find some other information gap, like a one-time-use part not being identified in the estimating system, don’t just order the part and move on. Contribute to the solution!
It’s easy: Visit the Database Enhancement Gateway and submit an inquiry. It’s a quick process, particularly after you’ve done it a few times. The DEG will reach out to the estimating system provider, which in turn will research whether information was indeed missing or inaccurate, and if so, correct it. That may well help you in the future, as well as help all the other shops working on that make and model of vehicle.
If we all work together on this, we can help make the estimating databases more complete. Some may argue you shouldn’t have to do that, given what shops spend on the estimating system. But at the end of the day, complaining does not solve the problem. By taking the time to submit inquires to the DEG, you help control your own destiny.
As Mike Jones of Discover Leadership says, “You can be the wind or the flag. The wind dictates which way the flag blows. The flag is subject to the wind. Always be the wind.”
Best Practice: Maximize efficiency through better parts receiving.
Receiving parts might seem the most passive process in your shop: The delivery driver brings in the parts and drops them off. But the best-run shops use some very specific steps related to parts receiving.
They are mirror-matching all parts, for example. Take the new part out of the box or packaging, and compare it to the old one to make sure at that point in the process the parts for the job are accurate. Given the average body technician generates $100 in gross profit per hour, you don’t want that technician stopping work and spending time to come find you to tell you a part is incorrect or missing.
In my previous column, I talked about the value in using an electronic parts ordering system. Some of those systems can help with parts receiving processes as well. Some allow the parts vendor, when fulfilling the order, to electronically push the parts invoice back to your management system to automatically post the invoice for you.
We did a survey of more than 400 body shop parts managers, and they said they spend at least 40% or 50% of their time just manually rekeying parts invoices. So if your electronic parts system can streamline that, you’ve greatly reduced time spent on a process for which your shop can’t bill.
I can’t write about parts without mentioning one of the mistakes I see some dealership management make. At some dealerships, the body shop isn’t given financial credit for parts sales. I think this a bad idea for several reasons.
I think it reduces the likelihood that someone within that shop is responsible for following up on parts credits, for example. It also could lead to less than ideal repair-vs.-replace decisions; if those making parts decisions are paid on commission, and the shop gets no credit for a part sale, they may choose to repair a part when replacing would be the better decision for the repair.
Do you have questions related to parts? Want more ideas and best practices? Reach out to me, and check out our parts-related videos when you subscribe to our free YouTube channel.