Menefee: Voting Yea or Nay on Parts Programs

Dec. 22, 2022
Columnist Tiffany Menefee makes a firsthand comparison of the pros and cons.

Let me just get straight to my opinion: I don’t particularly care for all of these parts programs. There are a handful of them out there now, and most of the time I feel like all they do is cause me a headache and more frustration. I understand they are supposed to save me time and money, but are they really doing that? Most of the time, it just feels like they are over promising and underperforming. 

I go in phases of trying to use them, thinking that they will save me money and I’ll be able to price-match all my aftermarket parts prices and get all OEM parts. It never seems to be the case though, and then I get frustrated and stop using the programs. I’m just coming off of one of those cycles now.  

I recently decided I was going to give these parts programs another try, hoping they had improved since the last time we had used them. I logged back into the three main programs I was already set up with and used them for two weeks straight instead of using electronic ordering through my management software. I felt like two weeks’ worth of vehicles would give me a good grouping of repair orders to test out.  

The main thing I found that I liked was being able to select all of the parts and vendors I wanted to order from and send in one electronic order for everything. I also liked that sometimes we got slightly better prices on parts, but it was really not that often because we already have really good discounts with our vendors.  

Now, the list of what I did not like about the programs is very long. Some of the programs couldn’t import the estimates, causing us to manually key in parts, which wasted too much time. Some imported opportunities and estimates generated so many emails to us I was overusing the program in the first two days. I didn’t like that on most of the programs, once I received the parts quotes back, I couldn’t see the prices I was being paid for on those parts from my estimate. That caused us to pull up the estimate in our management software or print the estimate so we could compare what we were being paid versus what prices they were offering us. This caused more work than I think we should have to be doing to use some of these programs. 

One program was great at price matching, but it was price matching the list price I was being paid on the estimate and not price-matching my cost. It wasn’t saving me any money and most of the time it would have cost me money if I had ordered the parts. Another program wanted me to go in and alter my estimate to list everything as aftermarket parts and then lower the price on everything, as a best practice, before I exported my estimate to their software. This was a huge time waster for us, just to try to save a few dollars. 

My biggest issue was none of the programs had a way to import what we had ordered through them back into my management software. One was able to import notes and place it on the line item for that part. None of them though were able to import into my parts tab for my management software and list those parts as ordered and where they were ordered from. If we wanted to track our parts in our estimating software, which we pay a lot of money each month for, we had to go in and manually enter everything. We would have to toggle back and forth between screens or print the parts order to then key it in our software, more time added to everything we are already doing. 

After two weeks, I was overusing the programs and went back to electronically ordering through our management software. We are able to order fast with the electronic ordering and it marks where we ordered them from right when we order, not making us do more steps. I’ve also requested that all of my vendors that I order electronically from have set up the electronic invoices. That way when the parts get to the shop, and we go to check them in, the electronic invoice pulls up and we select which invoice we are checking in and everything gets pre-populated with all the details of the invoice we have in hand. We just have to mark off how we paid for the invoice. It saves us a ton of time when checking in parts. 

I know everyone says they get better prices through these parts programs, but I didn’t see that. I’ve made an effort to negotiate my discounts through my vendors each year and for the most part my discounts were the same if not better most of the time. I also attribute that to the fact that we try to go out and see most of our vendors a couple times out of the year and bring them goodies and just check on them. We found it really helps us get the best prices and services with our vendors.  

We did save some money here and there on parts, but it wasn’t a significant amount. What it did do though was increase the time and effort my team spent on parts ordering and tracking. If I weigh how much more time my team spent on using the parts programs and how much I pay them, then the little money I saved was wiped out. Ultimately, for my shop I felt the benefits from using the parts programs did not outweigh the drawbacks. My advice is do what works best for your shop but don’t just listen to these parts companies or me. Test things out and see what works the best for your shop and what is the most efficient way for you to order parts and make the most money. Also, never forget to account for how much money your employees’ time is costing you.  

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