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Preventing Parts Process Mistakes

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Getting easy access to the correct parts you need, when you need them, is critical to getting the estimate written and the repair completed, says Danny Panduo, owner of Fix Auto Sun Valley in Sun Valley, Calif.

Unfortunately, he says, there are a wide variety of reasons why this process doesn’t always go as planned.

“When I joined the business full-time, it was chaos,” Panduro says. “We would order parts based off the original insurance estimate, even though we hadn’t seen the guts of the car.”

To remain competitive, Panduro implemented a streamlined parts process.

It’s something that has helped his shop maintain a high touch time with low cycle time and supplement ratios.

FenderBender spoke with three industry experts to diagnose and offer solutions to the top mistakes that kill parts process.

Mistake #1: Ignoring the Small Stuff

Any part that is required to send a job home needs to be considered critical, says Danny Panduro, owner of Fix Auto Sun Valley in Sun Valley, Calif.

“We’ve found that often you have enough parts to get the car to paint, but most of the time when you’re stuck getting a car out the door, it’s not the hood or headlight missing, it’s some kind of hardware that’s prohibiting you from getting it reassembled.”

That’s why small parts like clips, screws, nuts, bolts and miscellaneous hardware need to be mirror-matched, too.

“The first thing we ask shops is what percentage of parts they’re mirror-matching. Most people say 85–90 percent. Then once we get into it, we realize they’re maybe mirror-matching 50 percent of their parts. What happens is that the parts managers become pretty good at the easy stuff, like headlights and fenders. But where it takes detail and discipline is in the smaller parts.”

To make sure his employees stage and mirror-match every single part, Panduro has implemented small tackle boxes for each technician.
When a technician removes a part, he places it in the tackle box, identifies the part and includes the quantity needed. Next, the repair planner spends the necessary time identifying the part, having a conversation with a technician, and finding the part online. The parts are then staged on a parts cart and mirror-matched when the new parts arrive.

“People think that it takes too much time, but when you compare the time it takes you to look it up and properly identify it to the time you lose not being able to finish the job, it pales in comparison,” Panduro says.

Mistake #2: Lost Parts

Many parts are lost in the shop simply because they never had a home to begin with. In fact, Panduro says that when he began 5S projects to simplify the work environment by reducing non-value-added items, he found thousands of dollars of lost or misplaced parts in his shop.

“When we started cleaning everything out to eliminate waste, we found three to four dump loads of brand-new parts behind toolboxes and under benches,” he says.

Because the parts didn’t have a designated place to go upon arriving, some would go inside the car while others would go in boxes or on shelves.

“When you went to start working on the car, you’re looking all over for the parts,” he says.

Panduro has now implemented parts staging, which occurs in three areas. The first staging area is for all parts that are on hold or waiting for new parts to arrive. When parts arrive, they are moved to Staging Area 2, which is where the mirror-matching takes place. Once all the parts are complete, mirror-matched and the critical parts are there, it’s moved to Staging Area 3. At that point, if a technician sees a car in that area, he knows that all the parts are there and the vehicle is ready to go.

Mistake #3: Depending on Estimating Software

Not utilizing electronic parts databases and depending only on estimating software to research parts needs is a one-way ticket to missing parts.

“The estimating software is limited in terms of how much information they can put in their system,” says Panduro. “It’s not uncommon to do 100 percent teardown and come across a part that’s not in the database.”

In fact, Ron Kuehn, principal at Collision Business Solutions, says that scrubbing the VIN isn’t even sufficient.

“The VIN is not necessarily going to tell you if they’ve got heated mirrors, specific body packages or add-ons that the dealer has done,” he says.

Instead, Panduro emphasizes using technology, such as Toyota’s Auto Parts Bridge and factory and dealership diagrams as additional resources.

“Instead of calling the dealership and trying to describe the part, most of the information is online,” he says. “We don’t replace the information provider’s system; it’s just another resource.”

If possible, Kuehn encourages obtaining PDR files specific to that VIN number.

“The reason for that is that the root cause for the majority of parts issues—other than parts price increases—is a lack of understanding of the parts based on the diagrams they are looking at in the estimating system,” he says.

Mistake #4: Sacrificing the Parts Manager

Brad Zara, owner of Zara’s Collision Center, and Panduro, admit they were both guilty of it: Letting the parts manager go when business slows down.

Panduro says this line of thinking couldn’t be more backwards.

“If parts are the number one reason why a car doesn’t leave on time, then why on Earth would the parts manager be the first person you let go?” he says.

Rather than assuming technicians need to work harder, Panduro says he realized the parts manager was key in setting the technicians up for success.

“What we realized was that our technicians are only as capable as we allow them to be,” he says. “If we want them to be able to start a job and finish it in a quick manner, then we have to stage it for them. A parts manager plays a huge role in that.”

Zara says the parts manager is also instrumental in orchestrating price-matching opportunities, understanding the importance of getting OEM parts in every case possible, setting expectations, negotiating deals and mirror matching parts on arrival.

“If any shop doesn’t place a great deal of value on their parts manager, I think they’re terribly mistaken,” says Zara. “That level of knowledge he provides is huge.”

Mistake #5: Not Researching OEM Documentation

Panduro says that although a part may look fine upon removing it, there is a documented reason from the OEM that the part cannot be reused.

For example, if a quarter panel is replaced on a Nissan Versa, the headliner and center pillar upper trims must be removed, as well.

“There is a bulletin in ALLDATA straight from Nissan that says if you do that, that trim must be replaced because it affects how the airbag system deploys,” Panduro says. “If you take the part off and it looks fine, so you put it back on, you’re doing an incomplete repair.”

Instead, he says to be sure to use systems like ALLDATA and CCC One to double check the OEM-recommended repair methods.

Mistake #6: Ordering Parts from Insurance Estimates

Zara says it was the No. 1 problem in his shop for years: ordering parts off preliminary or insurance estimates.

“We would order the parts off of that and then deal with having parts that we did not need or needing a door shell versus a door skin once we got into the job,” he says. “It immediately rendered that first parts order almost useless and then we would have multiple additional parts orders throughout the job to get to completion.”

His delay rate was running in the 60 percent range and his accuracy was downright dismal, he says.

The solution was to implement a 100-percent teardown to discover all broken or damaged parts. Now, Zara says the shop does not preorder parts unless it is deemed a fast-track job.

Kuehn says this is how to determine if a complete teardown is occurring: “If I mirror-match the part after with the replacement part, can I throw the old part away? If the answer is no, then there’s still something attached to it and that part is not 100 percent disassembled.”

Since implementing a disassembly process, Zara says his “delay rate” now runs roughly 10 percent and the shop’s accuracy rate is 90 percent.

Mistake #7: Underutilizing Vendors

Finding the right vendors to work with is another important step to streamlining the parts procurement process.

“Understanding the value of the supplier’s part in the whole process is huge,” says Zara.

He says that rather than looking only at price, he began to look for dealers and suppliers who could provide expertise and point out potential errors.

“It’s all about not only who can get us the parts quickest, but who can provide us with the expertise that isn’t just filling parts orders,” Zara says. “What I mean by that is that if the dealer or supplier simply fills the parts order exactly as submitted, many times we would have mistakes.”

Steve Trapp, business consultant at Axalta Coating Systems, has even worked with shops to create preferred vendor agreements, which outlines what the shop expects out of its vendor. He says that by having both parties sign the agreement, it streamlines communication and can be referenced if an order does not go as outlined. 

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