Panel of shop owners at Global Automotive Aftermarket Forum in Chicago tackle the thorny question of theyre really looking for from their supply chain.
Jobbers who attended the Global Automotive Aftermarket Forum in Chicago last week can be forgiven for looking a little shell-shocked following a panel discussion featuring four U.S. shop owners.
“We always learn something at GAAS,” said event chairman Dennis Welvaert at the end of the presentation. “We now know that the new standard for parts delivery is three minutes!”
Asked what kind of delivery times he expected, John Vallely, owner of McLean Auto Repair in Elgin, Ill. simply said, “My parking lot backs up to my main supplier. So… three minutes.”
All three shop owners were part of a discussion called “What Shops Really Need,” led by Bill Moss of Ferris EuroService Automotive in Warrenton,Virg.
Together they outlined some of the qualities they’re looking for in a jobber.
“Your part becomes our part the minute we put it on the car,” said Moss. “That’s how the customer views it. It came from us, not you. So if there’s a problem with it, it comes back to our door.”
He said shops want to know that quality parts are available to them so they can side-step the kind of performance issues that plague low-cost alternatives.
“The number one concern for me is quality,” agreed Walter. “I want something that is going to work for my client. My second concern is availability. If I can’t get it, I don’t care how good it is, I can’t use it.”
Shanahan pointed out that DIYers frequently seek inferior no-name parts online, but full-service shops need to have a quality offering.
“They can buy an alternator for $39 at a local discount big box store. No name they’ve ever heard of, but it comes with a lifetime warranty,” he said. “I often explain to customers, do you know how many alternators like that you have to buy before you get a good one? You don’t want to pay us three times to do that.”
He said quality is particularly important to his technicians. “They want to do a quality job. You give them inferior parts and the part fails, it looks bad on them.”
Vallely told of an experience he’d had with multiple failures of a premium tie rod end. After much frustration over several years, the company rep finally told them they were supposed to torque it on by hand because the fast rotation of an impact tool would cause the plastic inside the joint to melt.
“That was something that we should have known about long before. It should not have taken years to figure this out,” he said. “If you’re seeing a part come back frequently, if you know there’s a problem, help us figure it out.”
Moss said technicians are motivated to solving problems like that. “Their livelihood depends on them only having to do that job once,” he said. “Help from the manufacturer or distributor would be welcome.”
It boils down to both sides of the equation understanding each other’s needs, said Vallely.
“I depend on my supplier to problem-solve when we’re stumped. They may have products that will work. They might have ideas,” he said. “If I buy from an online dealer, there’s no relationship there. The relationship I have with my suppliers is very important to me and my business. It’s one-on-one.”
Shanahan said the relationship he has with his jobber store is a huge benefit.
“I know that if I have a problem, I can call on them,” he said. “I like that the first question my jobber has when I call is, ‘Is there anything I can help you with? Is there anything I have to deal with?’”
Shanahan said has punished vendors who didn’t act quickly or who broke promises… and sometimes they don’t even notice.
“I want to deal with someone who notices if I’ve stopped calling!”
4. RETURN POLICIES THAT WORK
“When you buy a part from a supplier, you want to know that they’re going to be there if there’s a problem,” said Shanahn. “I don’t want them to beat us up every time on how many miles it’s seen, or if it was abused. We wouldn’t be asking to replace it if it wasn’t necessary."
He said a lot of times there was an application problem, or some uncertainty about which part was being shipped. “We’re not always sure we’re getting the right one.”
“People tend to think of defects when they discuss part returns,” said Moss. “But there are a lot of reasons for parts to be returned that don’t include defects.”
Moss, who is also director of the Automotive Service Association’s mechanical division, said ASA is working on a parts-return form that is not intended to point fingers, just improve the communications “so you guys don’t talk about 60% of perfectly useable parts coming back in a bin. We can all agree that’s wasting your energy, and everybody’s time and money.”
“We’re using online ordering a lot more,” agreed Shanahan. “I wish the aftermarket would get to the point where we’re ordering by VIN. I know it’s a difficult and expensive thing to do but it would be great. If we could even just have more pictures or illustrations that would help. See the connector, or how many pins it has. That’s what we need.”
All the shop owners said clarity in ordering means techs don’t have to open the box and risk returning the part in non-resellable condition.
“Anything that comes back that’s not pristine goes back to the manufacturer as a defect. It’s not defective. We just received the wrong part,” said Shanahan.
6. MANUFACTURER REBATES
Help finding manufacturer rebates for consumers makes shops look like heroes, said Walter.
“It helps at the counter if we can say there’s a rebate out there on something they need. It helps ease the pain. We want to make sure the customer gets that rebate, so we’ll make sure they dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s. We process it for them and help move it on.
“Whether we recognize it or not, whether we like it or not, we are partners. I want to use aftermarket parts. I got nothing against dealerships, but I don’t want to support my competition,” said Walter. “I need you, you need us, Let’s open the lines of communication. If we communicate better, we’ll do a whole lot more business and make a whole lot more profit. Everyone does better.”
Shanahan said communication should be open at all levels of the supply chain.
“I like it when rep comes to us and ask what we like. It really feels like the information is going back to head office. Nothing worse than hearing, ‘Those guys don’t listen to me.’ ”
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