Efficiently Acquiring Vehicle Parts
Timing is everything—especially in a repair shop. From the moment a customer walks in, the clock is ticking. The length of a repair can leave the customer with a lasting impression. A delay in the process can lead to a negative review and result in a lost customer. However, getting a vehicle repair completed on time is not as easy as it looks. Behind closed doors, specific issues, such as locating a certain car part, can add on more time than necessary — as was the case with Doug Runge, owner of Martin’s Automotive Service, LLC.
For Runge, efficiency and accuracy are two components for which the shop strives.
Runge’s father, Mark Runge, took over Martin’s Automotive in 1987. Runge grew up in the shop, sweeping floors and later working on cars alongside his father. After high school, Runge got a mechanical engineering degree. When he heard that his father was putting his shop up for sale, Runge decided that he wanted in. In 2006, Runge bought the business from his father.
“It seemed like an opportunity that I didn’t feel like I could pass up,” Runge says. “Once I bought it, I was thrown into the fire pretty quickly.”
After taking over, Runge became the service writer and added four full-time technicians to the 5,000-square-foot shop. In June, the shop serviced roughly 313 cars. While each day is different for Runge, he constantly works to find ways in which the shop can better benefit his customers.
Working as the shop’s service writer 90 percent of the time, Runge was responsible for contacting dealerships to track down parts so his four technicians could spend their time working on the cars. Because the shop serviced so many makes and models, keeping track of the exact parts needed or how to search for them was next to impossible, so Runge had to rely on the dealerships, which, a few years ago, meant making a phone call.
“I would look at the car, write the VIN down, call the dealership, give them the VIN, and if the parts guy could figure out what I needed, he would give me the price,” Runge says.
The phone calls didn’t stop there, however.
“Then I would hang up, call the customer and see if they’re on board with it, hang up and then call the dealer back to order the part,” he says.
Runge was wasting valuable time on the phone. Hunting down the part, getting the price and contacting the customer was not the most efficient way.
“In the old days, you would call the dealer and say, ‘Hey, I need this part,’” and if you couldn’t come to an agreement with the parts [worker] about what you needed, they would fax you the [parts] diagram,” Runge says.
The parts diagram would arrive via fax and sometimes, Runge would realize that the diagram still wasn’t correct and the shop needed a different one.
“All of a sudden, you’re spending all of this time on the phone and waiting to look at the [new] diagram,” Runge says. Meanwhile, the vehicle is sitting on the lot waiting to be repaired, and the clock is ticking.
For Runge, spending time calling several different resources and waiting for faxes to find one part didn’t feel efficient enough. On top of that, if a customer doesn’t answer his or her phone, it puts a roadblock on moving forward with the repair. All of this back and forth wasted valuable time.
Runge discovered the RepairLink technology by OEC — a free one-stop shop for OEM parts — following a suggestion from a local Chevrolet dealer. RepairLink sources original equipment parts from over 4,000 franchised dealers across the nation — and it’s all online.
With the program’s ability to connect shops to local dealerships and provide owners with illustrations showing all parts needed for a repair, Runge was sold on the technology.
“[Product diagrams] are where RepairLink really shines,” Runge says.
RepairLink provides independent repair shops with a fast way to source a part through a dealership; however, that dealership must be on the program in order for a shop to access their parts pricing and availability.
First, the user enters the VIN of the customer’s vehicle. Users then select dealerships that cater to the vehicle. Once a dealership is selected, users can view the parts diagram, select which part is needed, and order it.
“When you have it hooked up the way that I do, I load a customer’s license plate into my management system one time, it pulls the VIN from that and then my management system, Mitchell, has hot buttons where I can order parts,” Runge says. “The VIN is decoded by RepairLink, so I’m only looking at parts and diagrams associated with the exact vehicle and then I’m looking at the part that I need. On top of that, I’m getting the best list for the part and whether or not the dealer that I’m linked up with has it in stock or not.”
If a part is in stock, users can add the product to the cart and then purchase the needed part.
The stress from previous back-and-forth communication is no longer part of Runge’s day at the shop. Since utilizing the program, Runge has saved around an hour of time per day trying to locate a certain part.
For those dealerships that aren’t yet signed up for RepairLink, Runge has communicated the importance of being on RepairLink in order to continue business with the repair shop.
“It saves a ton of time from the parts ordering standpoint,” Runge says. “It’s also no cost to me — so there was nothing for me to lose there.”
Although the program is free for Runge and any independent repair shop via RepairLinkShop.com, there is a cost for dealership participation. At first, Runge’s go-to Kia dealership was not part of the program, which put a roadblock in the shop’s new way of finding a product.
“I called the Kia dealership that I buy from traditionally and told them, ‘I’m not going to buy repair parts from you anymore because the other Kia dealer in town signed up with RepairLink, and it’s hands down the way I’m trying to order parts.”
“I’ll buy the car parts from anyone that signs up for RepairLink, regardless of the discount; I might pay an extra $5 or $10 for that part, but it saves me enough time that I’m OK with that.”
“There isn’t a product out there that compares to it,” Runge adds.