Putting Together a More Cohesive Parts System

Oct. 1, 2017

Tired of an unorganized parts ordering and delivery cycle, Jason Lewis devised a new system that slashed cycle time.

Jason Lewis, general manager of Mid-Town Body Repair of Greensboro, N.C.,  remembers walking “into quite a fiasco of parts” almost 20 years ago when he started as the parts and production manager. All types of parts were placed in all sorts of bins with no cohesive rhyme or reason as to what part belonged to what car, and whether that was the right part to even begin with.

“We’re going to stop this. We’re going to bring you the parts, we’re going to go through them when the car is on the floor, mirror match everything and make sure you’ve got what you need,” he remembers saying.

He immediately knew that organization was going to go a long way, especially since he started with a system that had no structure.

Lewis took a process that consisted of no tracking and turned it into a system that, to this day, is still in place to help the 18,000-square-foot, $3.2-million shop operate as effectively as possible.

The Problem

Prior to Lewis’ arrival, the shop’s parts keeping system was anything but organized. Parts were being ordered and put into bins without any form of coding.

There were thousands of dollars of parts that had been there for long periods of time, whether they were duplicates, their corresponding vehicles had been declared as total losses, or customers didn’t show for the cars in which the parts belonged to.

Two people would frequently call for the same parts, resulting in duplicate parts and loss of money, which resulted in communication problems since employees weren’t alerting each other when a certain part would be ordered.

Since the system was so unorganized, parts were ordered the same day that the vehicle was dropped off, causing an increase in cycle time.

More importantly, the techs were spending too much time—sometimes up to two hours per day—searching for parts. Lewis says the techs grabbed parts out of the bins, and didn’t realize they were incorrect until opening the package at the last minute.

And in the meantime, the techs were losing money because they were spending too much time searching for the parts they needed in order to complete their repairs. As flat-rate commissioned techs, Lewis says this was cause for constant frustration.

The combination of access of parts and lack of processes led Lewis to implement a simple, yet impactful, change.

The Solution

The first step Lewis took was to go through and actually organize what parts the shop had in its possession. After determining what was needed, Lewis spent the first six months of his employment getting a majority of the unnecessary parts returned.

After sorting through boxes of invoices to make copies and sorting through returns for credits, Lewis found it useful to keep the parts that he knew catered to the shop’s vehicle demographics, such as parts for Toyota Camrys and Honda Civics.

The next step was creating a new system. Now, the shop uses a rack system that ranges from “0” to “10.” The parts are then organized according to the last number of the RO number. For example, if the RO number is 5487, all the parts will be in bin 7.

When the part comes in, it is matched to the order by type and price, and then it’s mirror matched if the car is available. The parts manager will then print a label that has the RO number, the type of vehicle and the part number that corresponds to the parts order.

Lewis says that this way, when the car comes in, it is easy to find the parts according to the RO.

The final step was to remedy the poor communication. Now, Lewis has dedicated each writer to order his or her own parts, including supplements. There are three service advisors, including Lewis, who handle their individual orders. This way, there is only one person per order and duplicate parts aren’t ordered.

They’ve also started ordering parts electronically, which saves several hours per day spent on the phone and is easier to track.

Once the parts come in, the parts manager is then responsible for mirror matching and tagging and labeling them. The parts manager will then either bring the parts to the car or directly to the bins if the car is not in house.

The Aftermath

Although Lewis implemented this system almost 20 years ago, he says the team continues to get better at using the system and become more thorough. It initiated a more thorough blueprinting process that minimizes supplements and keeps a ratio of only one work order to one parts order.

But throughout the entire process, Lewis was grateful for the support that the shop’s owner, Dennis Reittinger has shown him. With his open-mindedness, he was a key to making this change happen.

Over the years, the system has slashed cycle time by 2–3 days. The revenue also went from $1.5 million in 1999 to just over $3.2 million today.

When it comes to becoming better at using the system, it starts with the advancements of management technology. With the use of CCC ONE, the staff is able to track its parts system even more effectively.  

Now that everything is electronically ordered and tracked, it helps Lewis better manage where everything is, especially since there is documentation to show dates and price. It’s a feature that helps the production cycle flow much smoother.

More importantly, the techs no longer spend time searching for parts only to realize they were the wrong ones. The shop also uses parts carts to help the techs organize all their parts while working on a car.

The Takeaway

For Lewis, the biggest takeaway is very simple: everything is organized, structured and placed where it needs to be. While it may seem minimal, since implementing the system, it has helped the shop’s production run much better.

SHOP STATS: MID-TOWN BODY REPAIR  Location: GREENSBORO, N.C.  Operator: Jason Lewis  Average Monthly Car Count: 120-140  Staff Size: 18  Shop Size: 18,000 sq ft; Annual Revenue: $3.2 Million  

Expert Advice

Grant Sunday, owner of Don’s Body Shop in Olathe, Kan., says he has to make the absolute most of his $2.8 million, 10,000-square-foot shop—so an organized parts system is a must. Sunday has refined a model from Mike Anderson and adapted it to fit his own shop. He spoke with FenderBender to share how his system operates.

The System:

Sunday took his team, stripped his shop down, cleaned it and mapped out the locations of equipment and parts carts on the floor.

Every repair order has its own parts cart for disassembly. Once the part is ordered and available, it is then mirror matched to the vehicle and placed on the cart for that repair order.

The idea behind the system is that you want nothing on the floor, so Sunday has mezzanine racks along the shop walls that hold totes for parts that are taken out of a car that don’t need to be replaced, trim panels, headliner and seats, etc.

He also has dedicated storage bins that techs can place their bolts and hardware in to keep everything tidy. Sunday and his staff all pitched in together to create this system, which he says helps with employee buy-in.

Sunday says the other piece to this process was the management system. Having dedicated roles for each person helps keep things running appropriately. The technician's role is to put the parts on the cart. The parts manager’s role is to order the parts, mirror match them as they come in and address any issues with the part.

The Implementation:

Sunday recommends creating the system and sticking with it for 30 working days. If it is working well for your shop and you can stick with it for 90 days, then you can begin refining it.

One of the struggles he has found is that sometimes something can work very well, but when a new hire, who is not properly trained, comes in and starts using it incorrectly, it can ruin what you’ve worked hard to create. Make sure you enforce the way your system is intended to work and train your employees properly in doing so.

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