Tim Thomas makes simple, succinct demands of his parts department employees. Case in point:
“I tell the guys, ‘If there’s paper on the printer, grab that repair order and get it done,” says Thomas, the parts and service director at Honda of Oakland (Calif.). “Because, the sooner that’s done, it just alleviates all the stress of having people waiting for you.”
Yes, Thomas, a veteran of nearly two decades in the industry, knows that technicians don’t typically enjoy standing around, waiting for the parts that are necessary to complete their next repair.
“Techs aren’t usually kind when it comes to that kind of stuff,” he says. “If that repair order’s been written, and … they haven’t pulled the parts yet? They’re going to be giving those back counter guys a bit of crap, like, ‘Hey, what’s going on here?’”
That’s why one of Thomas’ chief demands of his parts employees is that they efficiently, and consistently, prepull parts. Thomas feels a solid prepulling process is necessary for all parts departments—whether they’re 10,000 square feet like his facility in California’s Bay Area, or whether the department is run by single staffer in a rural area.
“Every parts department should prepull parts, no matter the size—it’s extremely beneficial,” he says. “Because it’s all about keeping the technician working. The quicker you can get that stuff done and out of the way, the more efficiently you can get other things done.”
Below, Thomas explains how to ensure that your parts staffers are prepulling parts efficiently and diligently.
Explain the Importance
Thomas feels it’s imperative to stress the importance of prepulling parts to your staff. It also helps to explain how prepulling parts can balance a counterperson’s workload, he notes.
“This will help you,” Thomas says. “Because, especially on a single-person back counter, that guy is constantly running. So, I would pitch it like, ‘You know, when you have those down times, doing this is going to help you spread out your workflow throughout the day.
“And, it helps you avoid making mistakes, because you’re not rushed all the time.”
Have a Detailed Process
Earlier in his career, Thomas often noticed parts department employees getting flustered when they got buried in repair orders. These days, he helps his staffers avoid such stress by preaching a thorough process for prepulling.
The prepulling process entails the following key steps: Once advisors write an RO, a copy is promptly printed at the back parts counter. Ideally, a counterperson will quickly see the order, locate the necessary parts and bag them, note the RO number on the bag, and place that on a designated shelf. That process of getting parts ready for a technician is usually completed within roughly 15 minutes.
“It just saves time,” Thomas says of the prepulling process. “And, it helps prevent that bottleneck.”
Do Periodic Bin Counts
In order to prepare parts for repairs in a timely manner, parts department employees obviously need to have a firm grasp of where all inventory is located. At Honda of Oakland, the eight parts department staffers keep close tabs on their $650,000 in inventory by checking bins often.
“Having your parts personnel helping the parts manager with perpetual inventory bin checks,” notes Thomas, “and then rotating employees through it, so they’re all doing different bins at different times, it helps them stay familiar with where things are located.”
Ultimately, while every parts department differs in some respects, Thomas is confident that prepulling parts has universal value.
“If you’re having service technicians that are constantly complaining at the back counter,” he notes, “this is the way to alleviate that.”