At this point in his career, Brian Walker can comb through computer files with peerless precision.
When he’s trying to find where an error occurred in his employers’ monthly reports, Walker, the parts manager at Atchinson Ford in eastern Michigan, can usually unearth it in short order. Perhaps an employee ordered three items, yet only received one and didn’t document that, or parts didn’t get fully receipted, for instance.
“I’m not kidding; 99.9 percent of the time, I find where the mistake was, as long as it was within the last year,” Walker says.
These days, however, Walker is rarely required to examine issues with reports. Business is better than ever in his parts department, partially due to the fact that the staff’s digital recordkeeping is impeccable.
“Inputting the right information into the DMS,” Walker notes, “makes life so much easier.”
Without attention to detail when inputting information for monthly reports, a parts department can create a host of inefficiencies for itself. Fewer parts might be ordered than necessary, for example, causing repair delays. And the resulting bottlenecks can irritate technicians, service managers, GMs and clients.
But that’s seldom an issue at Atchinson Ford, where Walker shares every ounce of his expertise with staffers. Below, the 42-year industry veteran explains how parts departments can ensure that their DMS monthly reports are accurate.
Train Employees Extensively.
Walker pridefully mentors his employees, letting them know that he’d love to see them advance in their careers. As a result, his five employees in Michigan tend to take ownership of tasks like inputting information into their DMS.
“Parts managers I’ve watched over the years say, ‘I only want to do [DMS reports] myself, because that way they can never get rid of me,’” Walker says. “My attitude was, ‘This will make my life so much easier if I teach you how to do it.’ … When I train my people, I show them everything, and I hold nothing back.”
Engaged, well informed employees, Walker says, help ensure that the parts department has inventory that’s documented meticulously.
Besides, he adds, “as a parts manager, there’s enough to do anyways. And if you’re sitting here doing paperwork all day … that, to me, is a big waste of time.”
Remember: Haste Makes Waste.
On the rare occasions in which one of his employees inputs data incorrectly, Walker makes a mental note. Eventually, he will pull the staffer aside and show them how the mistake was made.
Typically, employees get the message quickly, and learn that it can be costly to log data too hurriedly.
“My people, I tell them, ‘Take your time to get the information in correctly,’” Walker says. Otherwise, “you’ve got five mechanics standing there waiting for a part. Take your time to make sure it gets inputted properly, otherwise it’s going to tie up more time than it would have.”
Study Archived Information.
One of Walker’s favorite tools within his DMS is the data archiving function, because it usually helps solve the mystery of how information was noted incorrectly. The archiving function provides countless notes about parts throughout their lifespan, including information such as when a part was receipted or sold.
That way, Walker explains, “I can go back to see who’s causing the problems. Is it Tim, Mary, or Harry? And what I tend to find is, it’s usually one person making the majority of the mistakes.”
If Necessary, Ask for Help.
Many parts managers are hesitant to ask colleagues for help—a phenomenon by which Walker has always been baffled. After all, in his career, he has found that fellow parts managers are usually willing to offer advice about issues like DMS reports.
“Call them and say, ‘Hey, I’m having this problem, could you help me?” Walker suggests. “And most parts managers would help a fellow parts manager in a New York second. Always ask for help—put your pride and your ego away.”