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Heavy-Duty Parts Management in the 21st Century

I was recently invited to be a guest-presenter on Diesel Laptops webinar about their heavy-duty parts management tools.

CEO Tyler Robertson was in the studio and I called in from my office.

Missed the live webinar? No problem! Click below to view the replay!

A Powerful Free Heavy-Duty Parts Platform

The webinar starts with an overview of how to create your free account to gain access to Diesel Parts. From there we quickly talked about the free tool that allows you to cross-reference any heavy-duty truck part to find OEM alternatives, more cost-effective solutions, or simply search your inventory for compatible parts.

Nate Knorr is the head of the Parts Data Team and Tyler talked about all the great work Nate and his team are doing to make the cross-reference data clean and accurate.

Parts Cross-Reference Tool

This is an advanced heavy-duty parts cross-tool. Not only because of the data they have in their database, but because of all the advanced features as well.

Favorites, VMRS codes, images, buy links, and so much more has gone into the development of this software tool. You can even take Diesel Parts on the road with you because they’ve built the platform to be totally responsive for desktop or mobile users, with a mobile app coming soon for iOS and Android.

What makes the cross-reference tool truly special is more what it’s not trying to do – they’re not trying to sell you any specific parts, they’re not leaving out parts, and the platform is 100% free for every user. Once you sign up for an account, you can do unlimited parts crosses for life, plus access all updates, all mobile versions – the whole 9 yards – absolutely free.

One other thing you’ll notice is that Diesel Parts has a very clean database. They’ve stripped out all the prefixes and suffixes so each part is in the database only ONE time.

The other is direct and indirect crosses. Direct crosses – the world knows about. These come from manufacturers, catalogs, etc.

Indirect crosses are what’s really neat.

Say you have:

  • OEM part A123
  • Aftermarket Manufacturer X crosses to A123
  • Aftermarket Manufacturer Y also crosses to A123
  • Here’s the problem – nobody knows that X and Y also cross!

Why? Nobody has ever built that network or that web that’s able to make those connections before. When the Diesel Laptops team first turned this on, they got over 32 million additional cross-references that nobody knew existed!

They’ve gone through and validated over 15 million of those crosses, with more being validated all the time.

Another cool thing about Diesel Parts is if you don’t get a  heavy-duty part to cross, their team is automatically notified so they can validate and add crosses – so keep checking back because the platform is constantly being updated.

Parts Lookup Without a VIN

We also talked about the newest heavy-duty parts innovation from Diesel Parts, Parts Lookup, which allows you to find and cross-reference truck parts without a VIN or serial number in two distinct ways.

The first option for parts lookup is called Exploded Views and it allows users to lookup engine, transmission, and trucks by Year, Make, and Model. The second option is called Component Search, and this allows users to lookup heavy-duty parts by category. For example, if you were looking for a Diesel Particulate Filter, you would start with Aftertreatment, then Diesel Particulate Filter, and then you specify the Engine Model.

My Role at Diesel Parts

I enjoyed talking with Tyler about the Advanced Tools on Diesel Parts during the webinar and how all of these tools come together to make parts management nightmares a thing of the past. From mass cross-referencing to finding hidden savings in your business, to winning parts bids and more.

It was great to not only be a guest-host on this webinar but also to be introduced as a Senior Consultant for the Diesel Parts platform. As a consultant who has been working with Diesel Laptops since January 1st, 2020, I am very proud to be able to fulfill this role for them.

Solving the Heavy-Duty Parts Identification Problem

Diesel Laptops has conducted several surveys in 2020 to better understand the heavy-duty parts market. One result showed that 63% of those surveyed said that “time wasted when sourcing parts” is one of the biggest challenges that affect their business.

Let’s look at the main ways to source truck parts today:

You can take your VIN or your serial number and call a dealer or you can call an aftermarket heavy-duty parts distributor and try to get them to get the part you need.

There are several problems with these two options:

  • Sometimes the part number from a dealer is incomplete or the part number has changed, so it’s very difficult to cross.
  • It’s not the price point you want to pay – you may not want to buy an OEM part they have in stock.
  • A lack of knowledgeable parts people on the counter – you hope when you phone in you’re gonna get that person that knows what they are doing, but they’re always overworked and usually not available.
  • Parts aren’t necessarily available all the time.
  • When you do have to phone in, it can take 15+ minutes just to get a hold of someone.

Your only other option is to try and find these parts on your own using the thousands of aftermarket websites. These can have conflicting information, inaccurate pictures, and you’re really not 100% sure you’re getting the right part the first time.

The real problem here is that downtime is a serious issue – the longer it takes to source your part, the more money gets eaten up in the process. So you really want to be able to get the right part, the first time, for the right price.

That’s what these advanced heavy-duty parts tools are here to solve for you.

No VIN, No Problem!

As if a huge cross-database wasn’t enough – they’re changing the game again, allowing you to find and cross those parts even without a serial or VIN.

What they found is there’s a lot of commonality between trucks. Around 70% of the parts on a truck are the same as any other truck on the road – and from there, you only need to identify the other 30%.

At Diesel Parts, they’re focused on the high failure parts on trucks, and they’ve combined technologies to make it easy to not only find your part but also cross-reference it as well.

You can see from their coverage that they’ve got a wide range of information in their database, from complete trucks like the Kenworth T680 to suspensions, transmissions, and a whole lot more.

They push updates to this site daily, so make sure you keep checking back!

For the demo in the webinar, they took the example of an Eaton transmission – they’ve got a ton of Eaton data in their database – and for the purpose of the webinar, they looked at finding a RoadRanger valve.

Once you identify the part you’re looking for the exploded view gives you all the details to verify that the part that is recommended is what you need. These drawings are original artwork done by Diesel Laptops which shows you the lengths they are taking to ensure the quality of the information.

Now once you’ve found your part and located it in the parts list table, simply click on it and you’ll be able to cross that part inside of the Diesel Parts database, without ever having to leave the site!

Advanced Tools

When we have a customer that has a mixed group of equipment, trucks (on, off-highway, etc) and they put their parts purchases out to bid, they’ll provide a list of hundreds or even thousands of heavy-duty part numbers that you need to quote on.

So what happens?

Some poor parts person spends the next 8-16 hours trying to manually cross one part at a time to try and build that quote. That’s up to 2 working days when I’m sure that a person’s time could be better spent.

Mass Cross

Using the Mass Cross tool, you can take an excel spreadsheet of all those part numbers from your customer’s fleet and submit the file to the Advanced Tool Data Team at Diesel Parts.

This advanced feature allows the data team to cross all those part numbers extremely quickly. All they do is upload that file into the program – it’s going to auto-populate all of the crosses that are available based on that data.

Sometimes part numbers aren’t very specific, but the system can match those because of the description, and when you start typing the part number, you can quickly grab the matching description.

Once they’ve done that, it has taken 8-16 hours of work and brought it down to just a few minutes. From there, the system will generate the cross report, and you’ll get an email once the report clears through the servers.

You’ll end up with a spreadsheet that has your part numbers, your description, direct crosses with descriptions, and also additional indirect crosses as we discussed earlier, which gives you a better value add for your customers – being able to show them crossing parts they may have been totally unaware of!

That’s the real power of the Mass Cross tool – it’s going to save you so much time, plus give you the ability to go back to your customers and add value based on these detailed reports.

Compare Manufacturer

Let’s say this same customer has his same mixed fleet of Mack, Volvo, Kenworth, etc. – you want to show him what inventory you need to supply the fleet so you can service his fleet most effectively and eliminate downtime.

When you put two manufacturers into the advanced manufacturer compare tool, you’ll get back a report with all the part numbers in their system that are identical between the manufacturers you chose.

As you see, you’re now able to tell your customers what parts are identical, saving them money, but you’re also giving them the opportunity to choose the most cost-effective solution and reduce their inventory. Now your customer knows when they need to go to the dealer and when they can stock that item in-house.

Inventory Analysis

This is the most powerful tool, allowing you to reduce inventory and increase margins without sacrificing sales or downtime (and without any extra work on your end!)

When you want to do an Inventory Analysis you start with an export of your inventory, including:

  • Part Number
  • Part Description
  • Manufacturer
  • Your cost (optional)

This information will go through the same process as before – making sure the data is all synched. You’ll notice some names are slightly different, so just make sure the manufacturers and your parts match the manufacturers and parts in their database.

Once you submit the data, you’ll get a file back that identifies every place where you have duplicate inventory.

One of the things you can do is not only reduce inventory but also identify opportunities for increased margins. For example, if you’re selling two identical parts – one for $1.35 and one for $1.45 – you know the part sells at $1.45, and now you can raise the price of the identical part by 10 cents – making more money for no additional work.

On average, they’re seeing 5-10% of inventory turns into frozen capital and a further 2% average on margin opportunities. When you add all that up, you can put significant cash back into the business, when you’re talking about a typical parts room with $1MM+ in inventory.

VMRS Codes

VMRS works in much the same way as the other premium parts tools. Upload your spreadsheet and receive a report with coded VMRS information inside. This is especially handy if you’re working with a fleet that requires VMRS codes – simply generate a report and you’re good to go!

Another great benefit of running these VMRS reports is that you can finally standardize your VMRS codes across your client’s fleet. That means more accurate failure reports, better buying decisions, and most of all, saved time and money.

Diesel Laptops are always researching new and innovative ways to bring their parts database to new uses. They’re currently building a tool that will allow you to search for an aftermarket part, and pull up a list of dealerships in the area that carry that part or service the trucks that need that part. And that’s just one example!

I really enjoyed being a presenter on this webinar and I hope you’ll take advantage of Diesel Parts today!

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Author: Jamie Irvine

Jamie Irvine is the host of The Heavy-Duty Parts Report and a consultant that works with manufacturers, distributors, and SaaS companies serving the heavy-duty truck parts industry.


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