Weathering the Storm

Weathering the Storm
Auto parts, jobbers, winter weather, contingency plans, Ideal Supply, Epicor (Photo: Huw Evans)

Minimizing the impact of Canada’s climate on the automotive supply chain.

Winter. If you operate in most of Canada, chances are you have to contend with snow and ice on a fairly regular basis between November and April. Winter weather can make driving and transportation very difficult at times, as businesses that rely on parts deliveries know only too well.

Tricky situations

For automotive jobbers, the situation can prove especially challenging if a winter storm hits and service providers are wanting to get parts delivered as soon as possible.

“Nobody wants that call that the parts aren’t coming,” says Allan Wood, Branch Manager, Ideal Supply, in Orangeville, Ont.

So, what’s the solution when a shop needs to get a vehicle R/O completed, a bad snow storm hits the region and parts are going to be delayed?

One is having contingency plans in place. Wood says that if a delivery run to the customer has to be cancelled, the jobber needs to have a back-up strategy in place. “Sometimes it might mean going to a competitor, just to ensure the shop gets the part,” he says. At the end of the day, it’s about the end customer, the motorist getting their car fixed and back on the road. And sometimes, even if the jobber has to take a loss on the part, in many cases they’d rather see their service provider customers able to get the job done than not at all.

Good software

Besides contingency plans, a good software program that allows jobbers to accurately track back orders on parts becomes critical in such situations.

Today, “smart” features are allowing jobber locations and their staff to look up parts orders faster than ever before, provide complete vehicle system visual interfaces with embedded intelligence to present not only a detailed view of the components that make up that system, such as ball joints, springs, dampers, links, tie-rod ends, control arms and bushings (for front suspension), but also who carries the part (OE or aftermarket suppliers) as well as any additional information such as warranties and installation instructions.

Epicor Software continues to advance the concept of parts inventory management via products such as its new Epicor Vision solution as well as specific tools such as PartExpert GFX.

This particular product is designed to expedite the parts searching and ordering process, ensuring that not only are parts counter staff able to find the right parts for specific repairs with greater efficiency, but when it comes to the jobber’s customer—the service provider—providing the complete parts breakdown also ensures a much more accurate picture of how much the motorist can expect to pay for repairs from the outset. All this becomes even more critical when the parts supply chain is impacted by Mother Nature.

More opportunities

There are additional benefits, too, such as greater sales and growth opportunities. Anthony Swigley, Information Parts Technology Manager at Cost Less Auto Parts in Vancouver, Wash., just across the border from B.C., says that not only do tools like PartExpert GFX “make it so much easier to break (the job) down and show the customer what they’re looking for and what else they might need to replace,” they can also assist with “add-on sales and bigger sales tickets.”

For Allan Wood, having a successful parts delivery process at all times comes back to maintaining your inventory system. “If you know what’s been invoiced for and what hasn’t and then you know what can’t be shipped because of safety reasons, you can come up with an alternative solution pretty quickly.”

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