Return on investment can be calculated in many different ways, however there are some investments that can be considered priceless, and this could certainly be the case for the eleven UK and Ireland auto recyclers who visited the ARA Convention in Charlotte during October. Co-organiser, Andy Latham reports on the trip
Together the group of yard owners, managers and staff, along with developers of yard management software invested over $22,000 to visit recycler yards across Virginia and North Carolina, hear from the best trainers and teachers at the Annual Convention and network with the global recycling family; one of the group said that his yard “was going to be very different in nine months time as a direct result of what I have learnt this week”.
Our trip started in Washington DC where some of the group were able to sightsee the capital city; the following day we travelled to M & M Auto Parts in Stafford and Fredericksburg meeting the owners and staff as we toured both their facilities. This first visit set the tone for the rest of the week’s travels; a very warm welcome awaited us all along with an openness that few expected.
Since 1960 M&M Auto Parts has been a proud family owned and operated recycler and now has over 50 acres and 205,000 square feet of warehouse space. With the majority of their business being wholesale, they are a full service recycler that dismantle and store parts at both locations and the group were privileged to be given tours of both of these, very different, facilities – one being a sprawling yard with lots of space, the other a large warehouse with limited outdoor storage. The quality of both sites reflected the owners standards and highlighted to the group how important customer service is to the US auto recycling industry.
Following an overnight stop in Richmond which served as the capital of the Confederate States of America during the American Civil War we travelled to Chesterfield Auto Parts. The business was formed in the 1930’s and purchased in 1947 by the family who, after three generations, continue to own and run the business. Chesterfield Auto Parts is a self-service operation and felt very different to the previous visit, with much quicker vehicle turnover, much more customer interaction and an operating style that felt similar to how the majority of UK and Irish yards operate. Again a full tour was given, lots of questions asked and answered with plenty of information to digest at a later time.
Lacy Auto Parts provided yet another perspective on the best that the US has to offer, a business that started in 1940, is now run by the grandson’s of the founder, and recently moved to a large site near Charles City in Virginia. We were all amazed by the expanse of the site, the landscaping out front and that from the road it did not look like an auto recycling facility at all. This state-of-the-art facility continues the legacy started back in 1940, Lacy Auto Parts are developing new strategies, raising quality and utilising new computerised methods to continue their development and provide the highest quality service for all types of used vehicle parts.
A quick switch of states found the group at an overnight stop in Goldsboro, North Carolina and a visit to Wayne Auto Salvage. Founded in August 1970 Wayne Auto Salvage are now located on a 25 acre site and they combine a full service and self service yard into one operation with a dismantling and crushing facility separating the two sides of the yard. Again, a full tour was given to the group where we were able to see vehicles entering, going through and exiting their process. Like all they yards we visited, very efficient, clean, tidy and well run.
Each evening of the trip the whole group could be found in a restaurant going over each days’ events, the yards visited and what had been learnt. Two of the major ‘take aways’ that our group had were Cores and Warranties.
All of the businesses visited in the US were much more advanced in how they dealt with vehicle cores, especially adding core charges to the sale of used parts, and the up-sell of extended warranties. Neither of these are a strong focus for UK recyclers currently. We were also very impressed by the facilities available in the full service yards for packaging and despatching of the parts. This reflects the very high standards that all yards have for customer experience, making certain that the parts arrive on-time, with no additional damage, and in a manner that gives customers confidence to return to that recycler for future purchases. The US has a lot to teach the UK here.
We were also very aware that our yard management software is more advanced on the integration with E-Bay when selling parts, so I am sure that we can return a favour or two.
Another group member who brought two of his staff members with him said that, “over the course of the trip we are re-defining how the business should be run and updating all the processes we currently follow,” and a third member said “my staff will be hiding when I get back to work on Monday because they know what I have learnt this week will mean changes.”
However, this was just the beginning as we reached Charlotte and joined up with the rest of the global auto recycling community gathered for the annual convention.
As a group we would like to thank our hosts at M&M Auto Parts, Chesterfield Auto Parts, Lacy Auto Parts and Wayne Auto Salvage for their hospitality, kindness and openness to share during our visit, and offer an invitation to them all to come and visit our businesses the next time they are in the UK. I would like to finish with one final quote from another member of the group. “Visiting the yards along the way to Charlotte and the conference itself has given me a wealth of knowledge and ideas on how to take my business and yard forward, both in selling quality recycled parts and offering a better customer experience, along with improving my workplace environmentally and for the good of my employees and customers.” I call that Job Done!
Thanks to Chris Floate at ATF Professional (http://www.atfprofessional.co.uk) for allowing me to share this article.