May 1, 2012
In self-service yards, we all know that it is the vehicle that is inventoried not the parts. Customers want to know if you have the car and they’ll do the rest. Therefore, it becomes vital to use an efficient and accurate database of the vehicles in your yard and that your counter sales staff can quickly find cars for the customer.
A good management system is crucial to your success. If you run your business efficiently and have accurate databases you will be in a better position to expand your customer base.
“It’s important to have a fast, efficient self-service yard system,” notes Dimitri Gerontis of S3 Software Solutions, a point of sale system company specializing in self-service facilities. “You can always try to make current systems do what you want them to, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right tool for the job.”
If you’re going to invest in running a self-service yard, it’s important to invest in using the right tool for the job. For example, you could use a regular car lift and manually drain your fluids or you could invest in drainage volume equipment that would allow you to process many more cars in the time it takes you to drain one manually.
Likewise, you want to use software that will allow you to accurately and successfully run your business. The yard management system (YMS) should be set up to handle the self-service volume, which is different from the systems for full-service yards.
Some large self serve yards push up to 3,000 vehicles per month through one location, amounting to a high volume in sales. Volume will make you money, so your goal is to move them in, sell what you can, crush the remaining vehicles, and collect revenue from the shredder.
Another unique aspect to self-service facilities is that there is no online parts networking, brokering, or shipping involved. Therefore, typical cycles last between 30-120 days.”
The management systems must be able to quickly check in vehicles, pay vendors, and reduce friction in the buying, processing, crushing, and removal of vehicles and their peripheral goods.
Fully Servicing Customers
Even in operating a self-service yard, taking the time to ask the customer if they need help can dramatically increase your sales.
Nordstrom says by listening to their customers they have been able to better direct them to which service better meets their needs.
“We make our Hollander E-Book available to our customers and, if they are new, we show them how to look up parts,” said Nordstrom. “We encourage them to learn how to do it themselves because if there is a line then our representative will not be able to help them immediately. One of our slogans for Ewe-Pullet is “Your Tools, Your Labor, Your Savings” and we help educate our customer so he can do it for himself.
Some customers are not good self-service yard customers and they want the benefits of our full-service so we direct them to that business and vice versa. We have a lot of customers who flip between the two businesses.”
Tracking the Incidentals – They Add Up
When the customer navigates through the yard to the check out area, a good YMS helps to track their incidental charges, as well as the waiver forms customers must sign. The key element of a YMS should be a sufficient Point of Sale (POS) system.
Although some yards don’t charge at all, a majority of yards charge a one- to two-dollar gate fee, and others (not many) charge more than that. There is also an environmental fee that yards often do not charge. However, for those that do, they report that their customers accept it as part of the cost of keeping the yard clean. According to Gerontis, half of the self-service yards charge extra for warranties and some offer an exchange warranty only.
A good POS should help you expedite the checkout process. It should help cashiers to quickly identify a part. Warranties vary from facility to facility so if you offer a warranty on a part, make sure to clearly mark it to make it easier during check out. The POS should also help you to handle core charges, refunds, and environmental fees.
“Most self-service operations are dramatically different than full-service yards,” said Jim Stewart, Advance Data Systems, a 2011 exhibitor at the ARA Exhibition in Charlotte, NC. “POS function can be set up to cater to a less skilled, non-mechanic cashier. This allows for a wider pool of potential employees, often at a lower expense to the yard. Training time and errors are reduced. Overall, this approach makes the system easier for anyone to operate.”
Auto recyclers use different POS systems and each finds the one that works best for them.
“We installed our UPI POS system from day one,” said Nordstrom. “We knew we had to have the quick check out and touch screen capability to make paying quick and easy for the times when it is really busy. Our system is customizable and creates all the reports we need to manage our cash drawers and daily/monthly/yearly reports. This system also allows us to track where our customers come from, handle warranties and returns and manage our rewards program. We would be lost without it. “
“We use an out-of-the-box touch-screen point of sale computer purchased through Dell,” said Dale Bevell, of Bevell’s Pull-IT-Yourself Used Auto Parts in Goldsboro, North Carolina. “It may not be the best, but it works well for us.”
“We are using QuickBooks Point of Sale,” said Joe Bessler, Bessler Auto Parts, Wilder, Kentucky. “It works okay, but Intuit is hard to work with. It was fine in the beginning, but as our business has grown we have outgrown its usefulness, so we are about to install the CRUSH system. We were impressed enough to buy it so time will tell if we like it or not.”
We use Counterpoint for our POS system,” said Cheryl Nelson, Butler U-Pull-It, Inc. “It allows us to have touch screen and we use Hollander for Interchange and yard print outs. CounterPoint isn’t perfect, but I’m pleased enough to stay with it.”
“My advice is to look at the individual needs of your operation when choosing a POS system,” said Stewart. “There are many POS systems to choose from. Our POS system is very efficient and offers easy implementation and a great deal of analytics at a very economical price.”
There are many options for POS systems out there. Here is a comparison of two different companies, Advanced Data Systems and CRUSH software.
Advance Data Systems
Advance Data Systems, (ADS) specializes in POS solutions. Their ROM-based, hybrid cash register system, with a program customized for self-service yards, has been well received thus far by the industry, according to ADS.
“We have consulted extensively with yards around the country over many years to design a simple, cost-effective, reliable, easy to use product,” said Stewart. “Our POS solution tracks sales of parts, core charges, warranties, and environmental fees and, in addition, store credits via a cloud-based system. Our solution is very scalable to all types of yards, which means we can customize the configuration and number of terminals for any given location. We have installed terminals in cargo containers, which is testimony to the ruggedness of the solution. The system also offers a very robust back office reporting solution, allowing the yard to get detailed information by date range, along with other traditional operational reports.”
Feedback from present offerings helped ADS in the development of a PC-based solution that will offer additional features needed by more sophisticated yards. In this system, customers are tracked via driver’s license scanning, and autos within the yard are recorded by location. It also has a customer tracking system so the yard can have a record of all purchases made by a customer.
“An important feature is a built-in customer loyalty system for use with frequent customers,” said Stewart. “A customer viewed digital signage solution will display marketing information to the customer and also display purchases.”
What differentiates ADS from what other companies offer in one notable way, according to Stewart, is that they evolved into the auto recycler space from a POS background. “Although yards have many unique demands of their POS system, their businesses are much like many others. They require reliable reporting as related to taxes, hazardous material handling, tracking of their products and product location, staffing, customers, etc.”
ADS has consulted with, and evaluated the needs of, different specialty and concept stores for nearly four decades. This background gives us the unique ability to consult and develop the best solution for our customers. We are a POS technology company, and therefore are constantly monitoring the trends and tools available in the market.
CRUSH™, a system developed by S3 Software Solutions, is a comprehensive yard management system designed specifically for self-service auto recyclers. It is comprised of an inventory program, point of sale, yard scanner, ATM, and management reports to provide yard owners with a complete system. CRUSH™ was designed by veterans in the self-service auto recycling industry.
“Only CRUSH will incorporate your truck scale, provide integrated interchange information, track your commodities, interface your inventory to a point of sale and automate NMVTIS submissions,” said Gerontis, a principal of the company. “We can integrate a cash dispenser to increase vehicle purchasing and also eliminate the risk associated with cash payouts.”
Gerontis feels that CRUSH’s advantage over competitors is that it was specifically designed for the self-service recycling industry. “We were not a restaurant or full-service system point of sale that was adapted to accommodate self-service.”
Also, Gerontis says that his background is an advantage. “I have yard operational experience, so my perspective is that of one in the industry not that of a software engineer. That allows me to develop software that meets the self-service operation’s specific needs and makes their work easier and more efficient.”
“Auto recycling is different than any other retail operation out there in that when you need to ‘stock your shelves’ you cannot call a supplier and get cars for parts,” adds Gerontis. “You have to compete in the marketplace for them. CRUSH is designed to help you gain a competitive advantage with the ATM and weight-based bidding and purchasing systems.”
No matter what POS you use, the goal is to create an experience for your customer that is seamless and smooth, and helps them meet their specific parts needs. If you can accomplish this, you are well on your way to a profitable self-service operation.
Michelle Keadle-Taylor is a freelance writer based in Northern Virginia.