Streamline Your Shop’s Parts Process

Order Reprints

When most shop owners think of reducing their cycle time, few associate that possibility with streamlining their parts process. Even fewer believe that a shop’s cycle time could drop 40 percent by altering how they handle parts. 

It’s true, according to Steve Feltovich, a consultant with a specialty in collision repair shops. He says the parts process is critical to running a successful shop and is tied directly to cycle times. Feltovich is the owner and CEO of SJF Business Consulting, LLC where he has seen massive success in getting shops on track. He boasts numerous testimonials attesting to his innovation and a can-do attitude.

With an eye on streamlining the parts process, Feltovich says it all starts at disassembly and carries through to how your estimator operates, how your parts are delivered, and whether your parts suppliers are interested in saving money. By putting his process into practice, Feltovich says shops can nearly eliminate the need to return parts altogether.  

As told to Caleb Brooks 

The Problem with Parts

I would say that 90 percent of shop owners do not realize that parts are the most critical component of their shop’s success. You cannot generate labor, paint, or materials sales until you have the right parts. So many shops get their process wrong. 

The industry average for supplements per car is three, most of those are ordering parts that were not originally ordered. Every time I step into a shop, I say that the premise around parts is critical because you need 100 percent of the right parts to finish a vehicle—period. Why stop the progression of a car to wait for a part that should have been ordered in the first place?

If the above description sounds eerily familiar, I would highly encourage you to implement my parts procedure in your shop. 

Damage Analysis Process

A shop’s damage analysis process is the starting point for implementing these changes. Having excess parts to return is a symptom of not having a solid DAP. I am not only talking about repair diagnostics, but a 100 percent disassembly before ordering parts. If you are still using your ratchet counter-clockwise when parts start to arrive, you are doing DAP wrong. 

While a complete disassembly may seem time consuming, it ensures that the right parts are ordered the first time and it is the fastest way to reduce your cycle time. According to my company’s statistics, on average, cycle times are cut by 40 percent if a shop implements a full-disassembly policy. Furthermore, it cuts the number of supplements needed to complete a car to nearly zero.

Performance of Estimators 

If your estimator is always in the office and not participating in the disassembly, they do not understand the importance of their role. Opting to rely on the insurance companies’ estimations guarantees that the wrong parts will be ordered. Insurance focuses on keeping costs down, while your estimator should focus on the accuracy of the parts and repair. 

Parts Personnel’s Responsibility

Now that your team does a complete disassembly and your estimator knows exactly what parts to order, the next step is to develop a working relationship and protocols with your suppliers. 

The first step in this process is to schedule deliveries from different suppliers at different times—never have all of the deliveries arrive at the same time. This allows your parts personnel to physically inspect the parts with the suppliers present. If something is damaged, or if a wrong part was delivered, it allows your shop to catch it and the suppliers to correct it immediately.

Working with Vendors

Whenever I pitch this idea to shop owners, I am met with the same concern: “But suppliers will not do that for my shop.” Trust me, this concern can be worked through. To get your supplier to schedule your deliveries, frame the idea from the perspective that it will save them money. 

It is a tale as old as time: a vehicle technician breaks a part and calls the vendor saying it was broken upon arrival. Tell your supplier that they can avoid this liability by having their employee inspect the parts at delivery. Additionally, ask them if they would rather make three deliveries for one car, or just one. 

If a parts vendor is unwilling to work with a shop, I advise the shop to drop that supplier. If they are not interested in saving money, it is not a supplier you want to work with. Find one that will work with your needs and then watch your cycle time dwindle. 

Eliminate Parts Return  

While it may seem counterintuitive, the best way to reduce parts return is to eliminate the need. By following my method, I will decrease your cycle time and reduce your parts storeroom by more than 75 percent, virtually eliminating the pesky problem of returning parts.

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