In a previous post, Why Parts Buyers Use the Phone and Not Online Search, I talked about one method buyers use to find truck parts: Calling on the phone. But as some of you wrote in to remind me, there are several other ways you track down those parts you need. So I’ve decided to give them equal time...
First let me say again that finding a part you need right away is no easy task. Even if you have the entire part number (which is a rarity), the problem comes up when no dealer or distributor that can deliver it right away actually has it in stock. On the flip side, say you don’t know a part number or only have a partial part number, but as luck would have it, someone right around the corner has the part... if you could only figure out what it is.
Out of necessity parts buyers have had to become some of the most creative people in the world when it comes to identifying a part, the correct part number and the part's location. The mechanics don’t care how or what they do to get those parts, as long as they get them fast. And all the truck owner is interested in is getting the truck fixed and back out on the road where it belongs.
So what are the ways parts buyers find those need-it-now parts? We held focus groups with parts buyers, mostly from independent maintenance shops, and asked them how they looked for hard-to-find, gotta have ‘em right away, parts. What we found is that there are four common things they all do to accomplish their goals.
So here are the Top 4 Ways Parts Buyers Find Truck Parts:
Finding Truck Parts Method #1: Pick up the phone and call your favorite supplier. This supplier is usually your best go-to company because they have one or two very knowledgeable people who are also good detectives. But, even though they may be able to figure out the part number, that doesn’t guarantee they actually have it in stock, or carry it at all. So it’s back on the phone, armed with the part number, dialing and redialing looking for a company that has it in stock.
Finding Truck Parts Method #2: Go to the OEM dealer and see if they can do a search from the VIN number of the truck. If the VIN is current, you might get lucky. However, it the truck has some years on it, the VIN may not be current or the dealer part may already be obsolete. Then you need to start a new search to find an alternative part.
Finding Truck Parts Method #3: Try the manufacturer’s website. First you need to see if you can determine the exact part number. Then you can check to see if they have a list of dealers near you where you can buy it. But as you probably already know, not all manufacturer websites are all that helpful. They don’t go down to the part number level, or they don’t tell you who sells their products.
Finding Truck Parts Method #4: Try Google, Bing and other search engines. Enter in a partial number or description and you might get a full part number... or you might get a vacuum cleaner part... or you might get a zip code. But when all else fails…
All of these ways are at best only partial solutions. None of them solves both parts of the finding parts problem: 1. Figuring out what the correct part number is, and 2. Finding out where it can be purchased.
According to the people in our focus groups, these are the main benefits they wanted from a parts search:
- To spend less time on the phone
- A way to find the right part number fast, even if they only had partial information
- A list of who carries it in their local area
- An alternative part number if the original is not available
- All the various part numbers that may be listed for the same part. (For example, the OE dealer part number might be different than a distributor part number for exactly the same part.)
What I want to know is: What other solutions have you come up with to find those hard-to-find truck parts? There have to be more creative, time-saving, methods that also have those benefits. Let me know in the comment box below.