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Boggs: Improving Your Parts Game

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When I was growing up I used to play ping pong in our basement with my dad and brother.  They would beat me every single time we played. Whenever they needed an easy point they could hit it to my backhand, which was my weakness. After many beatings I decided to play every shot with my backhand, which eventually made the games closer in score.  

When I went off to college I played a lot of ping pong with my friends. My dad joked that he thought my major in college was ping pong. After I graduated, I never lost a single game to my dad or brother again. I strengthened my weaknesses to the point that they were no longer hindering me. I tell you this story because I believe it relates to the current state of getting parts in our industry.  

My weaknesses, whether playing ping pong or procuring parts for repairs, always hurt me more during stressful times.  

In our company’s 50 years of operating, we have never experienced a more stressful time in getting parts. And I’m sure you are dealing with the same issues as you read this. So, how do we improve our game to eliminate some of our weaknesses? 


Processes

The first thing a shop must do is create repeatable processes to get consistent results. Do you have any processes for ordering/receiving parts? Do you have processes in place to determine what parts are needed to perform the repairs? If you don’t, I suggest pouring through old copies of FenderBender and reading every article you can on parts processes that other shops have implemented. There is a wealth of knowledge to gain. Don’t reinvent the wheel; just copy some processes from shops that have gone through the pain of working out the details. 


Repair Vs. Replace

Recently we were waiting on a bedside panel for over 3 weeks. After the third week with no ETA in sight we decided to make a pull on the existing bedside and were all shocked at how well it came out. The panel went from a replacement to a repair. Our big mistake was not making that pull in the blueprinting stage. If the panel was repairable in week three, it was repairable on day one. If you think a part has a chance of being safely repaired, find that out as early in the process as you can. Don’t wait until it’s the only option to make that determination. 


Exhaust All Options

We’ve all learned over the years that there are other options for a new part. We recently repaired a Toyota that was assembled in Canada. We needed a liftgate that was so far backordered we had no clue when the vendor would get it to us. After waiting over a month for the liftgate we asked our vendor to search for a liftgate that would match the same model that was assembled in Asia. Sure enough there was one available and we had it the next day. After careful inspection it was the same exact panel. We wasted a month waiting for something because we accepted backorders as the norm. I could write an entire page of stories that are similar. Bottom line, get creative when searching for a part that will match the part you need. 


Uber Is Your Friend

I’m limited on space here, just saying think outside the box and use Uber when you find a part too far away to drive and pick up, but close enough to have an Uber driver get it for you.   


Check Yard Sales

Ok I don’t mean a neighborhood yard sale. Check with all the used vendors you can think of when you are in a pinch. We all likely have one or two vendors that are our go-to when looking for used parts. It’s easy to go to them; we have their email or phone number on speed dial. But these are not normal times, so we cannot behave normally. It’s frustrating to make 10 phone calls and get told “No, we don’t have the part you are looking for.” But that feeling when you call the 11th vendor and they have it, man that’s worth it!  Don’t give up until you find the part. 

Our weaknesses in our parts processes will impact us more in stressful times. And few times have been more trying and stressful than the past year in getting parts. It’s not likely to improve anytime soon. Instead of complaining about how difficult it is, spend your energy on improving your weaknesses. Just like I started beating my dad and brother in ping pong, you’ll start beating your competition in the parts game. And right now that’s an especially important game to win. However, the benefits of winning the parts game now will outlast the supply chain issues, and your team will reap the rewards for years to come.  


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