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A constant scramble—that’s how Sarah Eisenmann describes it.

Day in and day out, Schade’s Auto Body struggled with the ordering, organizing and checking in of parts, creating delays that infected the entire repair process and made coming to work stressful for everyone in the shop.

That was until she hired Kerrie Kolus.

As general manager, Eisenmann credits the elimination of stress around the Brunswick, Ohio, shop mostly to Kolus’ detail-oriented and streamlined parts process, which has not only improved overall communication at the shop, but virtually eliminated the stress that once plagued the shop.

On top of all that? Kolus, parts manager for Schade’s, has raised paint and materials profits, greatly lowered the number of comebacks and supplements, and helped bring in thousands of dollars worth of parts credits through her diligent communication with vendors.

All of this has been accomplished, she says, through an intense focus on details, note taking and constant communication that keeps the entire shop informed at all points of the day.

I like everything to be organized and clean, across the board. I think before, our system created a lot of supplements and delays and comebacks. It’s been a complete team effort to change that, and I have my part in that process.

I take notes on everything. I keep every email that’s sent out or comes in to me from any vendor or anything like that, and I organize those emails into separate folders for vendors. For me personally, I need to make sure everything is being done the way I want it to be done, because I do take my job extremely seriously and I love working here.

Every morning when I come in to work, I check out our paint-and-materials inventory and make an order right away so we can get it in a timely manner first thing in the morning. We’re using a brand new paint system, so right now I’m transitioning into making that system computer-based.

For now, I just consult our list of vehicles that need to be painted that day, and then I pick up the cans and see if those colors need a refill and order accordingly. For our more popular colors, I like to order back-ups. I’ll check all our materials, like our sandpaper, to make sure we’re at our designated amount, which he determined by tracking our monthly usage of materials. We like to keep everything stocked at a certain number, that way we’re never scrambling for an order. We get it out of the way, right away, every day. I’m sure to mark every detail down, so that way I have a good idea of our inventory heading in there each morning.

We try extremely hard for everybody to be on the same page here. From everyone in the office to parts to the service manager to all of the technicians and the painters. We really strive for everyone to be on the same page and for everyone to know what’s going on, just so everything runs smoothly. While there is a lot of verbal confirmation, a big part of that has been writing everything down. It becomes an assurance for what you talked about, and it becomes a reminder it needs to get done.

We have a service manager with whom I keep in constant contact throughout the entire day. Once the car comes into the shop, he, the technician, the service writer and the painter will go over the car. Once the technician does a thorough teardown and checks everything, he gets with the service writer and tells them what parts are needed.

After I check inventory, then I go to the office and see if any new estimates have been written. I set up a little message area, so if there are any new estimates, they would be in my estimates bin. I touch base with the estimator, see if there’s anything new that’s coming in, or that they need to have ordered, so that way we’re all on the same page. If any new vehicles have been dropped off or towed in if it’s a heavy collision, I go out there right away and discuss what we need.

If there are any new estimates, I’ll go out to to my designated area and order the parts. We generally deal with three companies, so I will call and get quote numbers from them. Usually we order through the LKQ Corporation, but we’ll go factory if nothing is available.

I’m looking for the best possible price, but more importantly, we like to deal with who gives us the best warranty. Even if a company has a better price, we like to guarantee we’re ordering the best possible parts because that saves us time and money in the long run.

Once the driver comes and drops off the parts, I go through every single invoice and match every single part number to that invoice. If something comes up where I get a part shorted or the part number is not correct, I’ll call them and they’ll advise me if either a part has been updated with a new part number, or if the wrong part got pulled.

OPEN COMMUNICATION: As part of her daily routine, Kerrie Kolus checks in with technicians and painters to make sure nothing gets lost in the shuffle of the day to day.I’m also being sure to keep track of all the credits. Any invoices that have multiple parts on it, I make a duplicate copy so that way it stays with me, and the original copy will stay with the file in the office. That way I can keep track of everything that does need to be credited back to our account.

I generally like to go through that once in the morning and once in the afternoon to see what we’re still waiting on. I’ll call the dealership or the vendor and tell them the credits that need to be sent over, or I’ll send them a fax or an email if there are multiple credits we’re waiting on. They will respond pretty quickly because I’ve made a habit of hounding them if they don’t.

I’m also following up with the staff throughout the day. I review estimates with the service writers and the production manager several times a day to see if there are supplemental parts needed or to inform them when a particular part has arrived.

I’m also checking in with our techs and painters throughout the day. There’s no set time I go out and check with them. They’ll either come to me or if I’m walking by and notice something, I’ll ask them if they need anything else. Sometimes their needs get lost in the shuffle, so following up a few times a day helps.

As long as the service writers are not too busy with the customers, we go over everything at the end of the day as well to make sure everybody is on the same page and what parts are coming in the following morning and make sure everything is in order.

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