5 Common Traits I See in Successful Auto Recyclers

Sep 1, 2021 | Industry

By Vince Edivan

One of the projects I get to work on in my role at ARA is producing video facility tours. Let me explain how this came about. Each time I go to a city for an industry show, I always try to build time into my schedule to visit recyclers – both ARA members and non-members. After the 76th Annual Convention in Charlotte, I accompanied a group of recyclers from the UK and Poland, where we toured several facilities in MI, SD, and IA. It was an amazing tour of very diverse facilities. I thought to myself, everyone needs to visit them!

Last year, when the decision was made to pivot the convention to a virtual format, “ARA EDGE 2020,” I suggested that we maintain the facility tour, a highlight of the in-person ARA Convention – but make it virtual, too. We filmed a tour of B&R Auto Wrecking, viewable at ARAUniversity.org/facility-tours, creating an experience that would closely replicate being there first-hand.

We also wanted the tour host to be an auto recycler who would know what to ask and what to highlight. Immediate Past President Jonathan Morrow volunteered for the job and it was perfect. Three installments of the tour aired during ARA EDGE 2020, with each one followed by a live online Q&A with myself as moderator, Jonathan, and Jeff Mackie from B&R. We struck gold and received tons of positive feedback. 

We have since produced a tour featuring Wilbert’s U-Pull-It in Williamson, NY, and Nordstrom’s Automotive in Garretson, SD, also found on ARAUniversity.org.

Finding the Magic

As I have toured more and more facilities, I have begun to see some commonalities that run through the successful operations I visit. And it didn’t matter if they were full-service, self-service, or a hybrid, these traits existed.

Although I could list more, I have compiled a list of five of the most common traits I have seen at growing, progressive, successful businesses. They are common sense, but if it’s on this list, it’s because

I’ve also been to places where these traits didn’t exist and you could tell the difference. They are:

Everyone can press pause. This is the practice of empowering any employee, at any time, to press pause in the process. This is critical and probably the biggest benefit of this is ensuring quality.

When someone in the shipping department can stop the process because they just noticed a broken tab on a headlight, then you just avoided having an upset customer. Sure, they may be a little upset if you have to delay the part delivery, but not as upset as they would have been for receiving a bad part. If your employee is more concerned with upsetting another employee somewhere up the food chain than they are ensuring a quality part goes out the door, you may have a culture problem to address. Everyone should be able to stop the machine for the right reason.

Listen to the employees. I know this sounds elementary, but this is more than

just taking time to hear them when they talk. This is asking them to contribute.

If you haven’t already watched the virtual facility tour of Nordstrom’s, you should. There are a few instances where Shannon Nordstrom talks about a process, or part of a process, that came from listening to the employees who do the job. The employees doing the work can often bring the best ideas about the environment that they work in.

Fix the problem now and fix it right. Band-Aids are meant to be temporary. Very temporary. The truth is, if you don’t fix the problem quickly, correctly and thoroughly, you will deal with the direct or indirect consequences for a long time. Do not create a culture of “work arounds.” When you encounter a problem, spend the time getting to the root cause and install a process that will prevent it from happening in the future, while maintaining the integrity of the workflow.

Look at each department as its own business. This is a quote from Mike Gagel, at Gagel’s Auto Parts in Riverview, FL. This approach ensures that you can measure, isolate, evaluate, adjust, and improve performance across all departments.

• Don’t create rules or processes for the exception. Before you evaluate and solve a problem, ask yourself how often the problem occurs, and what is the cost of dealing with it. Sometimes it’s better to leave it alone and count it as an acceptable loss. Knowing when not to act is as important as knowing when to act.

One more commonality that all these facilities have is that they are active in the industry through membership and support of ARA, and their state affiliate chapters.

If you are interested in learning how you can improve your business, I encourage you to watch the facility tours we have produced. You can also reach out to ARA to ask about our Peer-to-Peer Mentoring Program. It has also had great success! But that is for another column.

Vince Edivan is ARA’s Director of Member Relations. In his role, he represents ARA at state industry events, working to connect with current and potential members. 

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