Using Tech to Manage Inventory (and Make Sales!)

Apr 1, 2024 | Toolbox

Exploring and embracing technology can help streamline your inventory management.

By Theresa Colbert

What comes to mind when you think of “inventory management?” Some people may think about the management system that you use. To me, it’s so much more. I have always said that the second most important job at the yard is inventory.

Step #1 would be buying. Think about it: if you don’t buy vehicles that your customers want and need, your sales-people won’t be able to sell those parts. Auto parts are not “impulse buys.” You never hear anyone say, “Oh, I think I am going to buy an extra steering wheel to keep around in case of a rainy day.” And, yes, before you yell at me, there are plenty of people buying 6.2 drop outs for fun. I get that. But in general, auto parts are needed when you have a broken or malfunctioning item.

Now that we are all on the same page – back to buying. You must buy enough to “feed the beast.” As my friend Fran Reitman likes to say, “if you ain’t buying, you’re dying!” So, you need to buy enough product and you need to buy the right product. I don’t think a dozen 1998 Mercury Tracers are going to do any of us any good. There are software tools available to you that help you buy the right parts for your yard/your customers. They analyze your past sales/requests and your current in-stock inventory (my business uses Bidmate). Are you all in agreement that you must buy an adequate amount of “good” product for your inventory? Good, we can move to step #2.

The software available to us can help you buy better, inventory smarter, take photos, and audit your inventory to uncover problems.

Step #2 is delivery. In inventory management, delivering the product in a timely and correct manner is critical. This is not as easy as it sounds. There are a lot of recyclers out there not doing this correctly. I don’t mean to call any of you out here, but if you see yourself in this scenario, give me a call and I can point you in the right direction.

ASK YOURSELF:

Does my inventory person have the correct tools to do his or her job?

Do they have a good device for taking pictures (laptop, tablet, or phone)? (I am a firm believer that my iPhone takes better images than any tablet out there, but that is my personal opinion.)

Do they have access to a VIN decoder program? (We use VIN Match Pro.)

Do they have a good program for doing the inventory itself?

At my business, we use the Checkmate management system and we use Part-mate with $martList to inventory the vehicles. If you have another management system, there are other programs that you can use.

One of these days when we build a new shop, my dream is to have a couple of bays just for doing inventory. (I know some of you already have that and I am very envious!)

Technology is a huge help in managing your inventory. The software available to us can help you buy better, inventory smarter, take photos, and audit your inventory to uncover problems or inconsistencies in your data.

But at the end of the day, it’s the people using the software who make it or break it. When a yard needs some inventory help, there are two common symptoms:

1. RETURNS – BECAUSE PARTS WERE NOT INVENTORIED CORRECTLY. This has your customers and your salespeople losing faith. What is your return ratio? When a part is returned, do you know why it’s returned? Do you keep track of your “not inventoried correctly” returns?

2. SENDING SOMEONE OUT TO CHECK PARTS SEVERAL TIMES A DAY. This tells me that your salespeople do not have faith in your inventory. I hear them say things like:

“Let me put my hands on it, that car has been here 5000 days and I am pretty sure we crushed it.”

“Oh man, our inventory guy is terrible, let me make sure that’s the correct part.”

“I think we sold that last week, let me make sure it’s still here.”

You all get the idea. We have all heard variations of the same theme. The theme is “I have ZERO faith in our inventory, and I am not afraid to tell my customers that.” That’s not a good theme for your business to have.

Maybe it’s because our yard is newer and we don’t have a lot of employees, but we don’t have anyone to “go check” all the time. We take a lot of pictures and we try to get the inventory right the first time. Am I saying we are perfect? Hardly! But I am saying that we try really hard to list our parts with good descriptions, good pictures, paint and trim codes, and to price them.

You see, to me “inventory management” is getting my inventory in front of the customers in a way that they can see and understand exactly what they are getting. I want to be the Kohls or Target of auto parts. I want customers who are seeing my parts on Car-Part.com, estimating systems, eBay, or anywhere else, to know EXACTLY what they are getting and how much it costs. I don’t want there to be any surprises for my salespeople, my drivers, or my customers. Yes, we are a “baby yard” right now. But I know a lot of big yards who do exactly this. We want to be just like them when we grow up.

As always, if you have any questions or comments, please reach out to me! TheresaC@car-part.com or text/call at 859-802-2382.

Theresa Colbert is a Sales and Training Specialist at Car-Part.com. Her goal is to find the correct product to fit each customer and make sure that they are trained to use it. Reach Theresa at 859-802-2382 or email TheresaC@Car-Part.com.

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