BEST EFFORT

The Quandary Of Quality Control



Clint Wilson

When I first opened my business at the bright-eyed and bushytailed age of 27, I had big dreams about quality control. I remember telling my wife, “I’m going to have an entire work station with bright lights, polishers, waxes, wire brushes, sand paper, paint, primer, window cleaner, solvent, cotton rags, etc. and not one of my parts is going to go out without being thoroughly inspected and detailed to the nines!”

I still feel this way and I do have a nice detailing station which is used daily. The reality of the situation however is that sometimes we all get busy or the yardman is having an off day, or the delivery driver puts a suspension on top of a door glass or, well if you’re in the auto recycling business then I’m sure you know what I mean. But at the end of the day I still think that I, and many of my recycling friends, do a pretty good job at sending out a clean product. I preach quality control like the gospel to anyone who will listen.

So you can imagine my chagrin when I recently began hearing from collision and insurance industry insiders that the high plateau of quality we once occupied has been dropping like a basement-bound elevator. This was confirmed after I brought it up at a liaison meeting between British Columbia recyclers and body shop owner / managers just a few weeks before the writing of this article. So after asking around and talking with my own brethren there has been a theory forming as of late.

I truly believe that the current economic downturn is causing many of us to send out parts that we wouldn’t normally try to pass off on our worst enemies. Think about it. When the phones are ringing and the fur is flying, “Sorry this bumper cover has a little tear, I don’t think you’re going to like it, but I took the liberty of finding you one elsewhere, would you like the yard’s number or shall I order it up for you?” Which really is the way it should be, at least when dealing on insurance claims. But when things grind to a halt and the payroll isn’t getting any smaller, and the price of salvage is through the roof because we didn’t have a decent winter last year and we’re all fighting over the same meager table scraps, “Hey that’ll fly, let’s throw it at the wall and see if it sticks.”

Ninety-eight percent of those who have worked the counter in a recycling yard have been guilty of this at one time or another and the other two percent are liars! So what do we do about it?

Firstly we all have to get out into our holding areas more often and look at the stuff we are shipping before it is wrapped or sandwiched between two doors on the back of the delivery truck. And for the parts that don’t pass your scrutiny? You all know that you can still sell them to rebuilders. But, if your sales are still hurting enough to want to try and pass less than perfect parts on to big quality collision shops then you have to pick up the phone and represent your product accordingly. If they were never going to use your parts in the first place then now is the time they will usually tell you, saving both of you costs and hassles, but stay truthful and you will at least keep the lines of communication open. I find that trying to talk them out of using a part sometimes works best. If they are basically begging you to send the door with three hours on it because it’s the last one in existence, what do you think the chances are they’ll return it now? I sell many damaged parts to large chain shops, and most of the time they like what they are getting. Why, because I am getting them out of a jam and giving them what they expect.

Do what you can and more importantly, sell what you can to ride out the current economic storm. Look at your parts with both eyes, polish what can be polished and pick up the phone to accurately represent what can’t be. Your customer will like you a lot better for it.

Clint Wilson is the president of Ideal Auto Wrecking Ltd. in Chilliwack, British Columbia. He is the vice chairman of the Automotive Retailers Association (ARA) and a past chairperson of the British Columbia Automotive Recyclers (BCAR).

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