The Benefits of Using an Electronic Parts Catalog

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Parts Insight

Back in the day, Nicole Glenn says, information moved from vendors to dealership parts departments with all the speed of continental drift.

Then, a seismic event—the advent of the electronic parts catalog—left the landscape forever altered. And Glenn, the service and parts director at Freeway Honda in Birmingham, Ala., is eternally grateful.  

“Before we ever had the online catalogs,” she recalls, “if there was an updated part number, we wouldn’t find out for 24–48 hours, at least. And then you had to go back and call the part vendor. Because the vendor, back when we used a paper catalog, could take 5–7 days to even let you know.

“It was a very big hassle.”

An electronic parts catalog, or EPC, of course, allows retailers to identify parts for repair or maintenance. And, an ideal EPC allows for supreme accuracy with regard to parts identification, and allows parts department employees to quickly locate parts they seek. 

In short, EPCs offer a dealership ideal efficiency, Glenn says.

Below, Glenn, who has worked in the auto industry for 15 years, describes some of the underrated benefits that EPCs can lend a parts department.  


Immediacy is Offered.

Hands down, Glenn says, parts managers need to use an online, electronic parts catalog, considering how much they can help you keep tabs on inventory.

“And,” she says, “another benefit of an online parts catalog is you can automatically look up, right then and there, without picking up a phone, to see if another local dealership has it. That’s a major benefit.

“It’s a much faster process. It’s quicker for the technicians and the client.”


Updated Part Numbers.

Glenn, whose parts department occasionally approaches $90,000 per month in wholesale sales, appreciates how fast Honda’s EPC updates part numbers.

“The technical publishers, they can make changes and it’s updated to the electronic parts catalog in real time,” she notes.


Ease of Use.

Not all that long ago, web-based parts catalogs often featured tabs with options like “chassis,” and “electrical,” and clicking on one of those options simply began a meandering process to locate parts. In 2018, Glenn notes, a parts manager can simply type in an EPC’s “search” box, or copy and paste in parts descriptions, aiding efficiency.

“Now, with the search bar, it’s 10 times quicker,” she says of online parts hunts. “You’re not having to wait. It simplifies the parts lookup.”


Help Desk Assistance.

In recent years, Glenn has become appreciative of the fact her OEM has a “help desk” associated with its online parts catalog. That means part searches rarely get as stressful as they used to.

“With the online parts catalog,” she says, “you can shoot an email over. That’s a major thing; it’s so much quicker now.”


Moving on from Paper

Mind you, Glenn isn’t suggesting abandoning paper-based parts catalogs entirely. Those old-school, black-and-white brochures still have some merit—for instance, in the wake of a power outage like her facility experienced following a tornado in 2017.

But, by and large, paper-based parts catalogs are passe.

EPCs represent both the present and the foreseeable future for parts departments, in Glenn’s estimation.

“EPCs increase the time efficiency, the productivity, and help keep our costs low,” Glenn says. “If we didn’t have that [EPC], then the dealership wouldn’t make as much money, the technicians couldn’t provide for their family.”

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