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Batteries Not Included
Updated Part Definitions - What's New in the World of Parts Grading
Batteries not included.

This is the most dreaded statement we have all encountered when we purchased a toy or some electronic tool because, unless we have a battery on hand, we don’t get the satisfaction of using the new toy or tool right away. It is all a matter of expectation and perception.

As recyclers we have all run into similar situations when selling a part or assembly that does not contain all the components the customer thought and expected they were going to get. Here is an example.

Clay Conley of Aurora Auto Wrecking in Seattle (they specialize in high end European cars) sold a Mercedes diesel engine to a customer in New York. Because of the distance, before even removing the engine from the vehicle, they took pictures of it and sent it to the prospective customer along with a picture of the odometer. When the engine got to New York they immediately got a call asking where all the accessories where, such as the power steering pump, AC compressor, alternator, etc. To make a long story short, the customer returned the $3,500 engine because he expected to get all the low miles components as well. There are similar stories about customers asking for a part by name and then returning it because it was the wrong part unaware that they caused the error by using the wrong name.

Mr. Conley states another example where the sale of a “window mechanism” resulted in a call from the customer because the motor was not included, or one when a customer who asked for the crankshaft pulley when what they really wanted was the harmonic balancer. These may be more subtle example than the Mercedes diesel engine but they still result in parts returned.

Many years ago, the Automotive Recyclers Association (ARA) began work to alleviate this problem by defining part types by name and what components are generally included and excluded when purchasing a part. The listings were very limited, focusing exclusively on body parts since many of the conflicts revolved around sales to body shops.

The time was right for an update and expansion of the standards, primarily because the wide use of e-commerce presented the potential for mistaken identity or misaligned expectations to the general population, most of whom, unfortunately, know less about their vehicles than the professionals.

The ARA’s E-Commerce Committee and the ARA Educational Foundation initiated the revision and updating process for part definitions resulting in a database of over 350 part listings that will be available to the general public as well as offered for licensing by entities such as estimating systems, e-commerce applications, etc. The goal is to provide everyone with a standard of what a part is called, what is included when purchasing the part, and what is not.

To develop the new standards, the goal was accuracy, completeness and transparency in the way the standards were created. We started with a new draft of the definitions that was submitted for review and edited by committee members.

The preliminary set of definitions was approved in late March, at which time it was sent to over 40 representatives from body shops, body shop organizations, estimating system providers, part locating services, four of the major insurance companies, providers of yard management systems, and fellow recyclers. Over 60% of those receiving the data either were comfortable with the draft or submitted suggestions for changes. These suggested changes were then submitted for voting (approve or reject) by the ARA E-Commerce Committee members and all the changes were either approved or definitions rewritten to be acceptable.

Sending the data out for review also achieved another key objective. One of the problems with previous drafts was that it was not widely known that they even existed. This process not only gave reviewers an opportunity to help define the standards but also created awareness and acceptance.

The definitions will be published within the Standards page of the ARA web site as a web service. Users will select the part to be defined by using either a section or sub-section of the vehicle, the name of the part (including many aliases), or the Hollander part type number. The initial response will be the formal name of the part, a generic image, a list of included components, and a list of excluded components, comments relating to the part or its use. Subsequent screens will also provide a definition of exact and non-exact Interchange criteria defined by Hollander and the criteria for grading the part. By linking the part types to Collision Industry Electronic Commerce Association (CIECA) codes will help integrate the definition standards into estimating systems and the part grading criteria will offer valuable information to users when looking at internet part listings.

Look for the new standards to appear on the ARA Web site in early 2013 to see it for yourself. With this, you can begin comparing the standards to your practices to help you reduce customer issues due to using the wrong part name and returns due to not meeting customer expectations in the included components.

Batteries may still not be included, but at least we will have gone a long way toward making sure that the customer’s expectations and perception are in line with ours.

Avi Pelc is widely known in the industry having been a recycler for almost 15 years and for his work with Hollander until his retirement last November. He now consults with the ARA Educational Foundation and other clients. Pelc was instrumental in working with the E-Commerce committee in the development of the part definition standards and for driving forward the process for its acceptance and implementation.

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