Smaller Scale, Same Issues
Jeff: We’re Indy’s Busted Knuckle Garage, we’ve been here for 3 years. I started out about a year before that at my house. I’m kind of a grassroots guy, I started this business with 1,800 bucks and hard work. A lot of times, what we’re trying to find now is ways to make it easier for us to get cars in and out. And one thing we’re finding out is that parts are kind of tough. At times, me and Justin are both on the phone trying to get parts and we’re wasting a lot of time that we could be doing other things. Shop improvement, talking to customers, shaking hands, etc. So we’re looking for ways to make the business flow a lot easier for us. And we’re just a small shop, can’t imagine what it would be like to be on a bigger scale with 10 or 12 bays, 8 techs. So we checked out the email you guys sent us, looked at the video, and said, “Wow, that would be great for us. We wouldn’t need to look at 3 or 4 vendors individual, we can just look at one. Know who’s got the best price and even sometimes use that for leverage and say “hey, so and so has got that $10 bucks cheaper. Will you price match it?” It saves me in the long run. So we like the fact that we can do that, and be able to save time in and out of cars. And it saves us money by doing that.
Erik: How do you guys shop for parts today?
Jeff: Well, it’s kind of a process. I remember a couple years ago when I was doing parts, strictly doing parts at one time, it was a lot of phone calls. You would have to call. Right now, we look up online, but sometimes we have to call in, because sometimes – not always, but sometimes – what it’s showing in inventory is not actually in inventory, so you can’t always go by that. You have to call in. Some people’s are better than others, but you have to individually go to each store. We had an example this morning where we were looking for an idler pulley for a ’04 Mazda 6 3.0 liter, and I had to go to 3 different vendors just to find it. And I had to call the other vendor to make sure they had it. So, it takes a lot of time to do that. I probably wasted 10 to 12 minutes this morning just chasing one part. If I do that 3 or 4 cars a day, that’s half an hour or 45 minutes that I could be doing something else to improve the business other than chasing parts.
Erik: So when you say you’re looking around from vendor to vendor, can you specifically tell me what that looks like?
Jeff: Well, sometimes when you go vendor to vendor, you have a big price gap in part price sometimes, sometimes you don’t. You have to go, year make model. Each one, year / make / model / engine. Is it SE, S-series, what model? We have a fleet account where we have to make sure we have the exact model in there because, on the Towncars, they have Executive L, Series L, sometimes stuff matters, sometimes it doesn’t.
So it takes a lot of time typing that in repetitively all the time. Cuts down on keyboard strokes, cuts down on phone calls. With this, I like the way it shows it all there and I can pick who I want. If it’s a specialty item, I can even order from some of the vendors you have. Maybe I have to special order it, but at least I know where I can get it and I don’t have to search the web. With Google and other search engines, you get a lot of ads and stuff popping up when you search Google for a part – I don’t want to see all that. I just want to see where I can get it, how long it will take and the best price.
Erik: When you’re shopping, is it always about price?
Jeff: Is it about, at times, price. But Quality, I’d rather spend an extra fifteen bucks on a part if I know it’s going to be a quality part. So it’s not all the time about price. Availability: if one vendor can get it here in 20 or 30 minutes versus 2 hours, I’m going for the 30 minute one. But price is a factor on anything, because if I can save my customers money, I feel like in the long run they’ll come back later on and spend it on tires or brakes or other things they’re going to need. I can stretch their dollar a little bit more. I wouldn’t say it’s 100% all the time about price, but a lot of times I do because people need other things other than what we’re working on. So stretch the dollar out and have the consumer where they can afford later on – “you don’t need tires now, but in 3 to 4 months you’re going to need tires” – I’d rather save them money now and I tell them that.
On that Mazda, we actually saved the guy almost 80 bucks by ordering online and having him wait till Monday. We were able to see that when we used that.
Erik: Generally, what other challenges do you guys face as a repair shop?
Jeff: The big things that we have right now are size, we’re a smaller shop. We only have one lift. So, a lot of times, we don’t mind doing big jobs like transmissions or engines, but that ties up the bay and puts me working on the cars on the ground. We’re trying to expand, so we’re kind of in between that niche. We’re working on getting another lift in here.
But for our size shop, it’s really more about efficiency. And that’s where [PartsTech’s] program – it’s more efficient for us, so we can be more efficient. The more laid out your are, the more organized you are, the better you are. Especially in a smaller shop. That’s one of the things we’re struggling for right now: size and efficiency.
Erik: What other technology tools do you use? Do you have a shop management system?
Jeff: We do. We have Trackum.com. It’s a father and son system that was designed in the mid-90’s. I was paying a lot of money for a system when I first started, not knowing. You kind of learn as the business goes. With Trackum, I was able to buy it outright. It tells me how many Fords I do a month, how many Mazdas. Who’s my biggest customers for the month, shows me my percentages on parts profit and labor. So that helps me know exactly where I’m at. It can manage my parts inventory for me also, so that helps me out a lot. They’re a family owned business, really good guys, and I just bought it outright from them.
Erik: One last question, when you think about your parts distributors, would you like to see more of your parts distributors on a system like PartsTech?
Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. We try to keep it to two to three stores, but we can buy from as many as 7 or 8. We have some specialty guys, like we have Circle Distributing, which is strictly Motorcraft and ACDelco. I like to put Motorcraft back on Ford if I can, and ACDelco if I can on a GM. I would like to see dealerships would be really great too. There’s some items that you can’t get from the aftermarket, it would be nice to see a dealership option, too.