The Sum Of The Parts

Successful Dealer Staff April 10, 2012

6 tips fleets can learn from dealers to manage inventory more efficiently

When it comes to managing a parts department’s inventory, there’s always room for improvement. A well-run department can be a great asset, while a disorganized department can become a financial burden and have a negative effect on productivity.

Truck service providers that consider their parts departments an asset say it takes constant improvement and attention to detail to keep things from becoming the latter. They know that providing timely service can make or break a relationship with a truck fleet – and having a ready supply of parts on hand is a key component to providing timely service.

With careful planning, carriers can make their parts departments more organized.

Many of the methods used by truck dealers across the country can be integrated successfully into a fleet’s service department. Whether it is located at a dealership or on the edge of a fleet’s maintenance bay, the parts department serves the same purpose – to get the right parts to technicians so they can put trucks back on the road as quickly as possible.

Darry Stewart, president of DWS Fleet Management, says parts inventory is the single-most vital contributor to an efficient fleet operation – and the most overlooked. “A parts shop should be as clean and well-organized as a supermarket,” says Stewart, who estimates he’s reorganized more than 250 parts shops in his career.

A parts foreman has control over keeping technicians productive and getting trucks back on the road. “If you figure it costs you a dollar a minute every time a technician is looking for a part instead of installing it, you see how quickly your repair costs can escalate.”

1: Know what techs need



A parts department’s main goal is to have a realistic inventory of usable parts at all times.



The first step to creating an effective parts department is understanding who needs the parts and how they do their jobs. John Wilson, operations manager for Empire Truck Sales, says that talking to technicians, drivers and shop foremen on a routine basis can help a fleet predict common repairs and parts requirements.

“When it comes to your parts department, you have to be proactive in planning your inventory,” Wilson says. “Market demand drives your inventory, so you want to try to look at your fleet and know what they are going to need.” This means closely examining equipment needs, the parts and components used on that equipment, hauling schedules, routes and road conditions.

Careful recordkeeping is another vital element. Consistently tracking repairs – types of breakdowns, repair times and parts used – gives an operation a baseline as to the types of repairs it handles more routinely. Wilson says a fleet probably won’t see two repairs that truly are identical, but with research and consistent recordkeeping, it can identify trends and common problems – and the parts stock to meet those needs.

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