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Bodyshop tells us what’s wrong with green parts

green parts for trade repairs
The potential for trade sales of green parts is huge but it's going to take effort and understanding to open up this market.
If we want bodyshops and garages to use more green parts, then we need to understand what they want. After all, they’re the customer and it’s up to us to satisfy their needs.

There aren’t many companies around that operate both a vehicle dismantling yard and a body shop, but MBS of Manchester is one of them. I paid them a visit recently to find out first hand what we need to do to make the option of green parts more appealing.

MBS managing director, Richard Fitton showed me around their dismantling operation, explaining that up until 6 years ago they were only interested in salvage. Since then, the parts side of the business has grown to become a significant sector of the operation. MBS are an NSA member and cover contracts in a number of areas of the country.

Richard explained that if you can increase your sales of green parts to trade outlets then the increased return from each vehicle gives the dismantler the option to pay slightly more for their vehicles. I hope you can see the obvious conclusion here; if you can pay more for your vehicles then you can be more choosey over the vehicles you buy. This then helps the industry as a whole as other dismantlers will need to build their trade sales business so that they can still afford to buy. I see this as a very positive concept as it means we are all driven to better our businesses and should be a winning formula for all involved.

Vincent Shaw, MBS Bodyshop Director
MBS bodyshop director, Vincent Shaw wants to see more green parts used but has seen first hand what can go wrong when you do.
The concept unfortunately all turns sour when we get to the bodyshop. Vincent Shaw, MBS’s bodyshop director was quick to point out that actually using green parts was not a simple as it sounds. A while back they were involved with a trial with insurer AXA and he reckons out of every 10 parts supplied only 3 were OK. During the trial, regular meetings took place between the various organisations involved and two critical issues came to the surface:
Delivery times:
Insurers are paying not only to repair vehicles but also the supply of a hire car while the vehicle is off the road. This puts pressure on the time allowed for a repair and therefore the time taken for parts deliveries was not always acceptable.
Prep time:
If you buy a new panel then prep time is not generally a consequence but with a green part it is. A slight ‘ding’ in a panel maybe justified if the rest is good as the time to prepare is more than outweighed by the savings, but if you have to strip a door assembly, then any benefit soon goes out of the window.

Currently MBS have a contract with a national company who operate a policy of using green parts wherever possible. As an example, Vincent mentioned a Vivaro which had a shunt from the rear. “If we can buy a rear door, even with a bit of a crease in it, we can use some of the funds saved from buying new to repair the second hand unit”. He added that using green parts on commercials is far more attractive as there is much less trim and embellishment involved. It is this embellishment that can often kill the use of a green part as vehicles have so many options and variants during their model lives. Matching the correct item to the correct vehicle requires serious classification.

Then there’s locating the parts you want. There is no system currently that links the bodyshop and the dismantler. Computerised stock control exists for both sides of this equation but until they work together there is no direct way for parts ordering. Bodyshops need to be able to order green parts as easily as they would new parts.
Don’t forget standards.
Not only does the bodyshop want to be able to order these parts easily but also to be sure they are getting exactly what’s needed and to a standard that can be relied upon. As Vincent put it; “If I order a door I want a door stripped out ready for prepping. The dismantler needs the knowledge to remove the parts correctly and safely? The door should be stripped. We can’t use a door complete even if it’s the same colour.” Something I hadn’t appreciated was that you can take 100 doors of a specific colour but due to age, how much it has been washed, how sunny it’s been where the vehicle was operated and a host of other reasons, you will be lucky if one of those doors will actually match your vehicle.

I asked Vincent about the use of mechanical parts. Some parts are OK such as air conditioning components but these must be sealed when removed to prevent internal corrosion forming from condensation. Vincent was far more concerned about the use of potentially dangerous parts such as a front suspension leg and hub assembly. “I simply don’t know the donor vehicle’s history; has it been kerbed at any point - what if the bearing fails, it would be our reputation.” he said.

I hope you can appreciate that from the bodyshop’s perspective there are a lot of issues to overcome before the use of green parts is as common as new. Many of these issues have been overcome in the USA where green parts repairs are common place (take alook at the ARA standards here).

Over the coming months we shall be exploring detailed examples of problems the bodyshop faces and how the dismantler can solve them. In the meantime, if you have any experience in this area or views on how the market may develop, please let me know.

July 2013

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