Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The Evolution Of The Modern Day Parts Manager Part One: Circa 1980 - 1990

Our May edition of "Smart Parts" will take us back over thirty years to see what it was like to be a Parts Manager "back in the day", starting with the 80's and eventually leading up to where Parts Managers are today.

Our journey back in time begins in an era before computers were even used in the Parts and Service Departments. Believe it or not, repair orders and parts counter tickets were hand written in most dealerships until well into 1980's.

Parts and labor were billed manually with pen or pencil, using a calculator to add up labor fees and parts totals. The 3 C's, (complaint, cause & correction) were actually spelled out by the advisor and the parts counter person would have to detail each part number, quantity and price...line by line.

So!...How did we record parts sales on each service repair order? The parts counter person would slide a piece of carbon copy paper, (some called an "onion skin") under the first sheet of the three part repair order to create a copy for the Parts Manager for posting.

Many technicians who worked on vehicles back in the late 70's and early 80's would say that the vehicles manufactured back then were much easier to work on even though "on board" computers were making their debut. In my opinion, the 80's were the launching pad for many automotive technological advances.

It was also an era of "trial and error" as many new vehicle models were introduced, bringing on a new meaning to the word "recall". New vehicle warranties changed drastically from the standard 12 month/12,000 mile warranty to three times the amount in time and mileage or even higher.

Parts Managers in the early 80's were also on the leading edge of the technological evolution. Prior to computers, the parts inventory was managed in several different ways. Inventory cards, stock out sheets and manual parts order pads were common ways to keep up with and maintaining proper inventory levels.

Checking parts availability was also quite interesting as many of us used counter inventory pads, inventory card "tub" systems, (how about that one!) and for many of us...just remembering part numbers or where the part is by bin location or group.

If the part wasn't there?...we either tagged the bin location for re-order, or we located the part at another dealer.

Daily stock orders and overnight dedicated delivery were non-existent as weekly, bi-monthly or even monthly stock orders were the standard.

Parts orders were often mailed into the P.D.C., (Parts Distribution Center), or maybe sent via "teletype" for delivery or "will call" pick up at the local P.D.C. If you don't know what a teletype is...send me an email and I will explain further.

In many cases, it was not uncommon to run out of parts with reorder lead times anywhere from seven to over thirty days! Guidelines for parameters such as days supply, phase in, phase out and source ranking were very different to today's guidelines.

One of the benefits of being a Parts Manager back in the 80's was lower number of parts applications. For example, a set of brake pads could fit the same and multiple applications for several years where as today, it could be the exact opposite. One application could have several part numbers to chose from in the same model year!

Looking up parts has also come a long way from big, thick catalogs lining the parts counter, leading to microfiche and eventually computer cataloging. Remembering part numbers and bin locations were a common practice "back in the day".

Also..."back in the day" discounts from the manufacturer were much better. Accruing return reserve, stock order discounts of 8%, supplemental order discounts of 4%, promotional and truckload discounts in the double digits were very common, unlike today.

Alas! we moved further into the 80's, computers replaced the pen and pencil and we were on our way! Even though many early versions were quite primitive and had their issues, it was definitely a big step forward.

In my opinion, the biggest issue was people....people accepting this major change to our lives and accepting that it was here to stay.

As we approached the end of the 80's, computers were pretty much a normal part in the every day operations of most dealerships. The difference in the computers back then and now is...No Windows, Apple or Internet!

The only purpose and design for these computers were to support the D.M.S. (Dealer Management System) with no other function.  

Lastly, as I look back on Circa 1980 - of the biggest recollections that I have is that this is when we lost a lot of our service and parts business to the aftermarket. As dealers, we took our customers for granted as more choices became available.

As we venture on into the next two segments of "The Evolution Of The Modern Day Parts Manager"...keep one thing in mind. Technology will never stop advancing, but providing Extraordinary Customer Service will always remain the number one success ingredient for all times....

Stay tuned as we explore "The Evolution Of The Modern Day Parts Manager Part Two: Circa 1990 - 2000 in our June issue of "Smart Parts"!!!

Dave Piecuch is the Vice President of Automotive Consultants Group Inc. and is the Head Coach for Smart PartsTMThe only "Results Based" High Return Training, Coaching, and Consulting company in the world!  Dave can be reached at Cell 786-521-1720 or E-mail at Vist our Website at

No comments:

Post a Comment