Monitoring both the origin and performance of replacement parts may make dollars and sense for progressive tire dealers and service shops.
Here's why these concepts are especially timely.
Owners and managers of busy automotive repair facilities have asked me what brand of replacement parts I recommend.
They have reported premature failures on new replacement parts — products carrying brand names they once trusted. They aren't referring to unknown goods in unlabeled packages and boxes.
For example, the owner of a large, reputable service shop described switching to a brand-name product line of new water pumps. After the changeover, he logged five different pump failures within a year.
Specifically, the pumps began leaking after several months of operation. Unfortunately, he failed to record the origin of these water pumps.
Because I have known the man and his operation for more than 20 years, I trust his information.
In another instance, a foreman at another large shop described remanufactured alternators that were failing in less than 20,000 miles of operation.
I have known and collaborated with this fellow since 1998, so I'm well acquainted with his diagnostic routines.
Biopsies revealed disintegrated brushes inside these failed alternators. All things being equal, alternator brush life typically reflects the quality of the brushes.
Fortunately, simply switching suppliers of "reman" alternators solved this problem.
Now, let's keep a sensible perspective here.
First, automotive manufacturing and remanufacturing are global businesses. Replacement parts — including genuine OEM goods — may come from anywhere in the world.
Meanwhile, parts may be manufactured in places ranging from U.S. and Mexico to Asian countries.
Second, remember that a supplier may offer premium-quality products as well as low-cost ones. When a colleague complains about premature parts failures, does he or she clarify which level of product was involved?
Third, both OEM and aftermarket companies may change suppliers without notice.
Often, the only way you actually learn the origin of a replacement part is when it's in your hands. Unfortunately, many bosses I encounter don't pay much — if any — attention to the origin of the parts they're buying.
Presently, you may not have any serious concerns about the quality and reliability of the replacement parts your business installs. Nonetheless, in the minds of many motorists, your reputation is only as good as the quality of the last repair you performed for them.
Like it or not, many motorists unconsciously label the job and the parts involved with your name instead of the supplier's name. Part of meeting or exceeding customers' expectations is installing trustworthy parts.
I urge everyone from the owner or manager to the shop foreman to stop relying on memory alone. Instead, establish a policy of noting the origin of parts in every customer's file in your database.
Yes, this may take a wee bit more time than you used to spend on that file, but logging this information can be invaluable to spotting trends in premature parts failures or parts performance issues.
For example, over time you may find that rear brake shoes sourced from Country A tend to bark like a seal during application.
But rear brake shoes from Country B always work seamlessly and quietly. Perhaps you notice that air conditioning relays from Country D don't last more than 12 months while relays from Country E last for years.
No, this may not be a perfect system but it's a start. At the very least, recording a part's origin at every opportunity helps you flag problem trends quicker and more accurately than trusting your memory.
The sooner you identify a potential problem, the sooner you can address it — even when it means changing brands.