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Buying Parts for Repair Shops Has Never Been So Easy

Learn how Fullbay is making it easier than ever before for buying parts.

Episode 128: Running a heavy-duty repair shop is anything but easy. One of the challenges has been how much time is spent buying heavy-duty parts. That is starting to change with so many companies leveraging technology to make the parts purchasing process easier than ever before.  

My returning guest today is Jacob Findlay, the Founder of Fullbay. 

Fullbay is an industry-leading shop management software that is changing the way heavy-duty repair shops are being operated. If you want to learn about Fullbay, go back and listen to episode 21 and episode 107

To learn more, go to Fullbay.com 

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Complete Transcript of Episode:

Jamie Irvine:

You’re listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And this is the show where you get expert advice about heavy-duty parts that keep trucks and trailers on the road longer while lowering cost-per-mile. Running a heavy-duty repair shop is anything but easy. And one of the challenges has always been how much time is spent buying heavy-duty parts, and that is starting to change with so many different companies adopting technology to try to help and make that process better. And really with this introduction of new ways of moving parts, buying parts, procuring parts, things are starting to get easier.

My returning guest today is Jacob Findlay, the Founder and CEO of Fullbay. Now Fullbay is an industry leading shop management software that is changing the way heavy-duty repair shops are being operated. If you’d like to learn more about Fullbay, go back and listen to Episode 21 and Episode 107, links will be in the show notes on the website. Jacob, welcome back to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. So happy to have you here.

Jacob Findlay:

Great to be back, Jamie. Good to see you.

Jamie Irvine:

Always great to talk to you. So traditionally, what has been the biggest or largest challenge for repair shops when buying heavy-duty parts?

Jacob Findlay:

So there’s two big challenges, but one of them has traditionally been the big one and that is figuring out what parts do I need to buy. So I’ve got a technician under a truck, techs trying to identify the part. Maybe he is onto it. And he gets it communicated to me effectively. But can I actually communicate that to the vendor? A lot of times just figuring out what the part number is and who do I buy this part from is a massive challenge. And that’s one of the reasons why in the commercial repair space, you don’t see traditionally a lot of electronic parts ordering connected into shop management systems because shops rely on getting on the phone and leveraging the expertise of the guys at the parts counter at the dealership or Fleet Pride or whatever, right? Because they need their help to figure out, first of all, what part do I need to buy? So that has traditionally been the biggest problem and, you know, through COVID and supply chain issues and so forth, it’s no longer the biggest. It might be tied with a parts shortage problem, like actually getting the parts in once you know what they are, but traditionally that’s been it.

Jamie Irvine:

And that’s something that resonates with me. Before COVID I know that McKay company brought out some statistics around parts purchasing, and it was found that right before COVID started 49% of heavy-duty parts were still purchased with a phone call. I believe that’s probably changing since COVID has begun. And so many more companies have been launching e-commerce stores and going more towards the digital sales channel. But we still know that the vast majority of parts, especially on the aftermarket side, you know, repair shops rely pretty heavily on parts experts that work at aftermarket supply and parts distribution companies to help them identify and figure out what they need.

Jacob Findlay:

Yeah. Correct. And with the, you know, we’re in a labor shortage, but we’re also in the skills gap in any blue collar field. And so not only is it hard to find technicians for a shop, but you know, if your parts guy retires and a lot of them are, there’s not a lot of people coming in to replace them that have that kind of built-in expertise. And so that parts manager who retired, relied on the parts house, but also had a lot of tribal knowledge themselves. And so you’re seeing other people who traditionally haven’t built these parts roles, having to step in and just figure out what turns out to be a super complicated situation, like trying to figure out what parts to get those technicians. So the further we go down the road of the skills gap, the harder this tends to get, and there’s, it’s not doomsday, there’s players trying to solve for this. And maybe, you know, 80% of the parts could be sourced more easily with some basic tools in place. But it’s definitely a challenge for a shop and anybody in that role trying to find these parts.

Jamie Irvine:

You’re working with a lot of repair shops. What is the impact on their customers, the fleets who are bringing their trucks to these repair shops or the owner operators who bring their trucks or trailers to the repair shop, what’s the impact on them when parts are hard to identify and takes a long time to actually acquire or purchase?

Jacob Findlay:

Yeah. So the hard to identify things always kind of been with us and yes, that one’s getting harder with the labor shortage, but the second problem that has become so big of it being hard to find parts, that is impacting their customers. The fleets, I was recently at a shop in Michigan and there was a truck taking up a bay. I think it had been there for three weeks just waiting on one basic Cummins part that in any other time would have been really easy to source. And yet there it was. And they just couldn’t track down this part. And a lot of times it’s, non-obvious stuff that can’t be found. So for the fleets, they use that equipment to make money. So now they’re down one unit and they’re having to deal with this.

And you’re seeing a lot of, I heard it put the other day, kind of Frankenstein stuff going on where, you sacrifice one of the units to become the donor, for all the others and start cannibalizing your units, just to keep things on the road. Some fleets are having to deal with that. That’s just the reality. Plus it’s hard to find new stuff. And so you have fleets, holding onto things beyond their warranty period where maybe their strategy was to not ever operate equipment outside of warranty. And so you’re seeing some of that and they’re not used to having to do these repairs and they’re getting impacted from both sides, from the shortage.

Jamie Irvine:

So what’s at stake if a repair shop, if they fail to improve, if they don’t modernize their operations, if they don’t advance the way that they go about purchasing heavy duty parts?

Jacob Findlay:

It’s an existential issue. So we see a lot of shops going out of business because they can’t find technicians or they can’t, it’s typically they can’t find technicians, but if they can’t figure out how to find parts to satisfy their customers. Let me put it this way. If you’re a shop that’s not willing to think outside the box in terms of acquiring parts, there’s a good chance that the shop across the street is. Right. They are willing to kind of think outside the box. And if you’ve got the customer’s unit in your bay, you know, for three weeks and the guy across the street is able to move in on your customer and they’re able to better support them and find those parts creatively and so forth. You’re going to start shedding your good customers to those who are willing to think more, I guess, creatively about how to acquire parts and deal with this new reality that we’re in.

Jamie Irvine:

We’re going to take a quick break. We’ll be right back. When repairing a diesel engine, it is essential to only use high quality engine parts. AFA industries manufacturers OEM quality, complete in-frame kits, replacement engine parts, and seals and gaskets for diesel engines at great aftermarket prices. To learn more, go to AFAindustries.com, where you can request them to direct you to a local distributor. Check out AFAindustries.com today.

We’re back from our break. And before the break we were talking about the situation, the reality that repair shops are facing right now. It’s a dynamic place to do business and acquiring heavy-duty parts, purchasing heavy-duty parts has probably never been more difficult than it is today for a lot of different reasons. So you’re working on a solution here. Tell us about Fullbay Marketplace. What is it exactly? I’d like to learn more Jacob.

Jacob Findlay:

Well, ever since we launched Fullbay, we’ve had customers asking us to integrate electronic ordering. And of course I wanted that too because it’s cool and why not? You know, we’re living in the 21st century. Well, the reality was that, like I mentioned earlier, there’s special circumstances around heavy-duty parts that make it difficult because you rely on the expertise of the parts distributors. Plus most parts distributors aren’t set up to take electronic orders, whether it’s EDI or API or whatever. And so as a shop management software, you can only integrate with vendors that are able to integrate back with you, right? So if we had, you know, one of the major parts distributors come to us and say, Hey, we have an open API, please integrate with us. We’re all over it. So that’s not necessarily happening out in the marketplace for whatever reason. And we’re having a lot of conversations, but it’s not something has really been prioritized with most distributors.

So we decided to kind of take matters into our own hands a bit, and at least be proactive in setting the stage for when they are ready we welcome them with open arms. So what we’ve built is it’s still in beta, but we call it Fullbay Marketplace. We started with one partner who is set up to do this, Find It Parts.com. They’ve been a great partner. And the idea is to pull in as many parts distributors as we can, whether it’s pure aftermarket or dealers or whatever to enable the shops inside our platform, when they’re doing the repair to source the parts electronically, get a quote that goes in to our system, into the estimating process where the customer authorizes the repair. Once the repairs authorized, automatically send an order electronically so that that part can arrive as soon as possible without the shop having to go into a different system.

So like I said, from the beginning, our customers have been very anxious to have something like this in place and that anxiety and that desire for it has only grown. And so it’s being demanded of us by our customers and we really want to provide it. So this is our response to that. It’s a first step and we’re learning a lot as we go. And we’re not trying to go out and displace every parts distributor or parts supplier, or anything like that out there. We’re just trying to put a piece of the puzzle in place that turns out to be missing. And we hope that this makes an impact with other potential partners in the industry where they see, wow, Fullbay is really doing something innovative here, we want to be part of that. We are going to start setting up electronic ordering capabilities so that we can be part of that marketplace because at the end of the day, you know this Jamie, in the heavy-duty parts space, the aftermarket space, no one distributor has even double-digit market share. It’s a very fragmented scene. And I think with this kind of new reality that we’re going through post-COVID and with the supply chain crisis, it’s a great opportunity for those distributors who are willing to think creatively to significantly increase their market share because they’re, they’re willing to kind of think of things in terms of new models and to think outside the box and so forth.

Jamie Irvine:

I’ll tell you a story from my past. So when I was a new parts person, my mentor was the founder of a very successful aftermarket parts distribution company in Western Canada, well, he was a co-founder. And him and his partners, one of the things that they did is they invested in nine delivery vehicles before they had enough deliveries for one. And people were like, why are you doing that? Well, guess what? In less than one year, those nine delivery vehicles were being driven all day, every day, full of parts. And they very rapidly grew. Now this is back in the eighties, but principally speaking, what did they do? They just made it easier to get parts for the customers of that day and the customers responded immediately.

And so I kind of look at that with the situation we’re in today. It’s 2021, almost 2022, but it’s the same principle. It’s like, whoever can create the least amount of friction and get the parts to the customer the fastest, this is a recipe that has been proven to be successful in the past and will continue to be successful moving forward. And we don’t just see it in our own industry. We see that same formula being replicated in lots of different industries. So anybody who’s doubting whether or not that’s a reality, you know, they just have to look at, at some of these success stories to see how important it is. But I think the piece that’s difficult for our industry is we’re a little bit behind on technology compared to even, let’s say our cousin industry, the automotive industry. And so it’s like, how do you integrate this technology into your traditional company and how do you properly leverage it? And it sounds to me like what Fullbay is doing is they’re listening to their customers and they’re actually building a conduit for parts distribution companies to make it just a little bit easier for them to provide that frictionless buying experience for the ultimate customer, the repair shop or the end user.

Jacob Findlay:

Absolutely. That’s all we’re trying to do. We figure that we put the right pieces in place, provide a toolkit for distributors to integrate with easily. It’s the classic, if you build it, they will come. We believe that’s the case here. I think it’s going to work. So the demand is there. We’ve got a lot of positive feedback. It’s at this point, you know, we just have, on our end, we just have to keep blocking and tackling and executing and continue putting the pieces together.

Jamie Irvine:

I like to focus people’s attention on economic impacts. So, you know, we already talked a little bit about the economic impact of failing to modernize your repair shop, but what could be the potential upside for someone to take the appropriate steps here on the parts distribution side and join Fullbay Marketplace? Like how much could that impact their business?

Jacob Findlay:

What I mentioned earlier, we’ve grown to the point, we’re very fortunate to have grown to the point where we have a significant portion of the heavy-duty purchasing occurring. At least in North America, crossing our platform. Very significant, so significant that we would be a top five parts distributor, if we were distributing those parts. And it continues to grow. We are growing and our growth is accelerating. So any manufacturer willing to drop ship or distributor coming in and selling through Fullbay Marketplace is tapping into that massive stream of parts purchasing. So you’re getting right into the workflow of the shop, right? When they need that part either for an estimate, or to actually execute an order without them having to go anywhere else. So it will move the needle on your volume. I mean, it’s a top line argument. So you want more volume. We have this fire hose of volume here. You want to be a part of it to come on over, be a pioneer. So big, I think top-line benefit going to any distributors that are the first movers.

Jamie Irvine:

We’re going to take another quick break. We’ll be right back. Are you tired of overpaying to accept credit cards for your business? National Credit Card Processing Group is the premier payment processor for the heavy-duty truck parts and repair industry. They will lower your fees in two steps. First, they’re going to review your statement. Second, they’re going to show you how to drop your fees. It’s that easy. Find out exactly how much you can save head to NCCPgroup.com today.

We’re back from our break. And before the break, we were talking to Jacob about Fullbay Marketplace, a very exciting new marketplace that connects parts distribution companies and the repair shops that are ordering parts. Jacob, how will the fleets and owner operators be impacted in a positive way when they are bringing their trucks to a repair shop that uses the Fullbay software and has access to Fullbay Marketplace?

Jacob Findlay:

Well, we have plenty of internal shops, they use Fullbay too. So they have access to the extent that they use Fullbay in their internal shops. But at the end of the day, what we’re trying to do with Fullbay is minimize unit downtime. So maximize fleet uptime and the benefit there is the faster you can get parts in place, parts identified and ordered, the fewer downtime hours that you’re gonna have on your units. The less downtime that you’re going to have. So the more you can deploy your units, obviously as a fleet, the more money you can make because they are revenue generators for you. So this is a problem that’s kind of cropped up, like with the parts shortage. So anything that we can do to get the right parts to the right truck at the right time is going to cause more uptime for the fleets, massive economic benefit. And in fact, you know, when you talk to the fleet managers and those who really run the numbers, they would argue that it’s almost an order of magnitude more important than any other issue related to the fleet is uptime. So direct benefit for unit uptime.

Jamie Irvine:

A conversation I’ve had with one of the very large fleets is they still have an issue with losing visibility of parts that they’ve purchased. And so anybody that can provide more visibility around where are the parts, when are they going to be delivered, it just empowers those fleets to make better decisions or the repair shop who’s working on that fleets vehicles to make more effective or better decisions about when to put a truck in a bay and in what order to do repairs so that they get the maximum output of each bay. I think this is a very, very big issue. And perhaps it’s much larger than we realize, but maybe with the supply chain issues or something, it just seems like it’s coming to the top of everyone’s consciousness right now.

Jacob Findlay:

Yeah, for sure. And for those parts distributors who integrate us via an API versus EDI, you have the ability to real-time push updates and estimated delivery times, and so forth. So to give the shops and the fleets that benefit of seeing exactly when that part’s going to arrive. So lots of tools available you know, in 2021 to really solve this problem, we just all need to get on board and do it.

Jamie Irvine:

Right. And one of the big things I think that would hold back some distribution companies, it’s just that they haven’t invested in the technology yet. And there is a lot to it. I mean, it’s not just a simple matter of turning on an e-commerce website, there’s all this background work that has to be done with the data around every part. You know, there’s something called PIES and that’s all the weights and sizes and descriptions and all that critical information. So when it comes to getting their house in order, is there anything that you’re doing to help those distributors in this beta? Or are you just at this point, setting it up and just trying to learn as much as possible?

Jacob Findlay:

Well, it’s a little, both. We were definitely trying to learn as much as possible but in terms of help for parts categorization. So whether it’s ACEs and PIES yeah or the VMRS or whatever, we’re putting together material to help distributors with that categorization. And by the way, the whole issue of not being able to identify the correct parts, the lack of good parts fitment in the heavy-duty space is a solvable problem to a great extent. So you’re never going to get to a hundred percent not needing the expertise that you’ve always traditionally needed in the heavy-duty space, but probably, you know, 70, 80% of the way there with the right automated tool. So providing them those categorization tools and help, and then also a toolkit for integrating with us to make it as easy as possible. So come to us as you are, if the best you can do is EDI we can work with that, CSV. If you have an API all the, all the better, and then we have other solutions as well, very pragmatic and tactical.

So at the end of the day, Jamie, my personal goal I mentioned Fullbay’s goal is to maximize uptime but my personal goal is to make sure that all medium and heavy-duty vehicles on the road are driving safely so that you and I, or our families when we’re sharing the roads with these vehicles, the likelihood that something catastrophic happens is less because of our efforts. I believe it’s possible to get the fatalities related to poor maintenance down to zero at the daily fatalities, whereas today they are at four or five. So yeah, we are willing and ready and able to help distributors. Don’t feel bashful about where you are. Trust me, we’ve seen everything and we can meet you where you are and drive top-line revenue for you too. At the same time while solving this problem for the fleets in the shops.

Jamie Irvine:

So if a listener would like to get involved, what’s the first step that they should take?

Jacob Findlay:

Contact us at [email protected] or contact me directly. You can hit me up on LinkedIn and the info email will always get directed to the right person.

Jamie Irvine:

Fantastic, fantastic. Even listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report, I’m host Jamie Irvine, and we’ve been speaking with Jacob Findlay, the Founder and CEO of Fullbay. To learn more about Fullbay Marketplace, you can visit fullbay.com and we’ll also include that email in the show notes as well, so that you can reach out directly. Jacob, thank you so much for being on The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. You are now a three-time guest, you’ve reached that milestone.

Jacob Findlay:

Thanks, Jamie. It’s my pleasure. Anytime.

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