Bryan Klugh, Chairman and CEO, Phil Lustbader, Vice-Chairman and Scott Jones, President
Parts inventory control is essential in vehicle dealership businesses, requiring the use of sophisticated and efficient solutions to maximize off-the-shelf fill rates while minimizing capital investment. It has been proven that satisfied service and parts customers return to the same dealership to buy additional new and pre-owned vehicles. And the key to satisfying customers is having required parts available at a dealership when they are needed.
With his five-decades in auto dealership fixed operations management, Bryan Klugh, Chairman and CEO of SmartCo Services, is an expert who has experienced this firsthand. He foresaw an opportunity to combine the power of technology, the reach of the internet and the experience of real-world parts managers to form a collaborative delivery model that could vastly improve the vehicle manufacturer to the dealer to retail customer delivery of service parts. In an effort to provide a better way to manage parts inventories, Klugh paved the foundation for SmartCo Services, a company consisting of people with real-world parts experience.
The firm's flagship product, PartsEye™, is a unique web-based inventory planning program and management system that is currently being used by nearly a dozen manufacturers and approximately 4,000 automotive dealerships globally, with more customers being added constantly.
By analyzing dealerships' parts data and using SmartCast, the company’s internally designed parts planning algorithm, the most sophisticated in the industry, PartsEye can predict, with an extremely high degree of accuracy, when to add specific parts to a dealership’s inventory and when to stop stocking them. This solution has become a successful tool for both large and small dealerships. In fact, the parts suggested by PartsEye are sold by dealerships 97 percent of the time in a short period while helping PartsEye’s clients maintain exceptional fill rates.
THE NEW-AGE INVENTORY PLANNING AND MANAGEMENT SOLUTION
PartsEye uses the current data available from the dealership, regardless of the dealer management system (DMS) in use, to create the most efficient stock order suggestions. Working with over 70 different DMSs and establishing a direct connection with the dealer's interactive data network, the company gathers in the cloud all data needed for its planning formula. "Using our SmartCast forecasting tool, demand analysis, and sales history, we provide stock order suggestions and optimize the parts inventory to maximize order fill at the lowest possible investment cost every day," says Klugh.
While PartsEye has established and proven planning parameters, it is extremely flexible, making it customizable at the manufacturer and/ or dealer level, based on stock order schedules, lead times, or how aggressive or conservative a user might want to be. Parts planning can literally be done at an individual part number level and for a single user if desired.
PartsEye's flexibility, sophisticated planning algorithms, ease of use and exceptional customer service is what differentiates it from other parts planning systems in the market.
"By using our SmartCast forecasting tool, demand analysis, and sales history, we provide stock order suggestions and optimize the parts inventory to maximize order fill while at the same time minimizing the parts inventory capital investment and future buildup of obsolescence"
PartsEye's capabilities are not limited to suggesting the right parts at the right time. Its reporting capabilities are extensive, including providing monthly performance reports generated for every customer that identify and track key performance indicators, providing a roadmap for parts managers to improve parts department operations. PartsEye easily makes new parts managers look like seasoned veterans. And experienced parts managers find they have more time to sell parts versus concentrating on ordering them. Critical reports are built into the system, including special order parts tracking and aging, and obsolescence tracking.
The service also includes a Dealer– to–Dealer (D2D) locator and purchasing option which helps dealers obtain urgently needed parts from nearby dealers. The CrossHairs™ portion of D2D promotes the sale of obsolete or excess inventory to other dealers who are still experiencing demand for those parts. While PartsEye facilitates these transactions, the vehicle manufacturer handles the accounting on items transferred between dealers. With no requirement of payment between dealers at the time of purchase, the program makes the process quick and easy. D2D transactions are handled with no commissions or handling fees.
"We also manage independent repair facilities for dealers who stock parts, and we're working on a communications task tool to improve the communication between the parts department staff and customers," says Scott Jones, SmartCo’s President.
Another SmartCo product is its inventory control web application called PartSentry™. Used in manufacturing and distribution, this application fulfills a growing need for customer management, credits and adjustments, and inventory transfers.
HELPING CUSTOMERS WITH HANDS-ON TRAINING
Learning how to use PartsEye is easy and is accomplished in a one-on-one session by a PartsEye trainer conducting a 30- 45 minute remote training session with each dealership’s parts personnel. The training concludes with the submission of the dealership’s first PartsEye stock order. No additional training is necessary unless there is a personnel change.
By having PartsEye control all parts planning parameters, dealership parts managers need not focus on their DMS settings. The goal is to allow parts managers to focus on selling parts and not spend time trying to decide what to stock. PartsEye also manages the returns process for unsold parts after a specified period, which varies depending on the manufacturer. Since PartsEye was designed by parts people, parts managers can easily and quickly review stock order proposals and monthly returns for efficient submission.
The total system, which includes the PartsEye computerized planning, full-time parts planner customer support from industry experts, and reporting tools, is designed to assist dealers with maximizing their parts operation’s ROI. As a result, PartsEye continues to be recognized by parts managers as the number one inventory planning system currently in the market. "PartsEye is a great product with even better support staff! In my 30 years’ experience, it's by far the best inventory management system I've used," says one PartsEye user.
PURPOSE-BUILT PRODUCT PORTFOLIO
In addition to PartsEye, SmartCo also provides fixed operations consulting solutions that include in-dealership training, workshops, performance groups and performance reporting. These value-added services focus on improving key systems and processes at the retail dealer level which results in improved parts and labor sales, profits and owner retention. Topping the list is InSight-SCT—a custom in-dealership training service offered by SmartCo Consulting and Training, an affiliate company of SmartCo. Dealers have found this service to be of tremendous help to take their parts managers and departments to a higher level in a short period of time while minimizing personnel mistakes. Insight-SCT also provides workshops to vehicle manufacturers and dealer groups, providing a roadmap for the attendees by focusing on maximizing parts and labor sales, profits, and their Customer Satisfaction Index rating.
MADE BY AND FOR "PARTS PEOPLE"
While SmartCo may appear to be a software/IT company, most of its employees come from a parts operations background. In other words, PartsEye is designed for parts people by experienced parts people, with customer support being provided by knowledgeable parts people.
"The best part about working for SmartCo is knowing that there is a vast resource of knowledge about the industry in the building. Somebody in the company will know the answer to any question you may have and they can explain it thoroughly; they've been in the same spot and figured out the best way to perform a process or handle an issue. We constantly work on improving and streamlining processes that can help employees and customers alike, while utilizing the system," said one SmartCo employee.
THE NEXT BIG THING?
With a team of passionate "parts people" and clients like Nissan, Infiniti, KIA, Subaru, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Isuzu, Hino, Renault and additional new manufacturers coming online like Hyundai and Genesis, SmartCo is also focusing on research and development of several additional offerings for future sales efforts, including outsourced management oversight, accounting tools, and task tracking. The company continues to look into innovative technologies—including telematics and artificial intelligence—to further improve their system’s predictive capabilities. They also provide a "lite" version of PartsEye which can be used by companies in other industries with smaller volumes of replacement parts sales.
"Our focus has always been on continuous improvement by constantly analyzing current practices and streamlining wherever possible. So, if you are looking to maximize your fixed operations efforts, sell more parts and labor, increase profits and maximize owner retention, then reach out to the team at PartsEye today. You will wish you had done so much sooner!" concluded Phil Lustbader, another founder of SmartCo and its top marketing officer.