Every year, Americans buy almost 17 million new cars and trucks. There are approximately 40 million used cars and trucks annually.
That means there is a steady demand for automotive machinery parts. Some of these parts will come from the original manufacturer, of course. New cars get a warranty and dealership repair shops routinely use OEM.
Those 40 million used cars, however, are a different story. Many owners look for an aftermarket auto parts supply. So, what qualities should individuals or part stores look for in an auto parts supplier? Keep reading for some surprising qualities you should look for.
It might seem secondary, but you want a supplier that uses an established distribution system. Here’s why.
Let’s say you need a part tomorrow. Special ordering that part from across the country tacks a heavy shipping fee onto the total cost. That happens when an auto parts supply company has poor distribution in big parts of the country.
For example, they lack regional distribution hubs where they warehouse parts for fast shipping to individuals or businesses.
Waiting a week for a part to arrive through normal speed shipping isn’t viable for people who need a critical component. Paying out extra shipping costs for parts from a company with bad distribution is a bad strategy short-term and long-term.
A little time researching online can often reveal whether an auto body parts supplier can deliver parts quickly and regularly.
High-Quality Machine Tools
Some car parts come with a generous amount of tolerance. The part will work as long as it gets close or as long as the attachment mounts fall in the right place. Windshield wiper blade replacements, for example, often use a universal attachment mount that works on multiple car models.
In other cases, there is very little room for error. Some replacement parts must have precisely the same dimensions as the original or they won’t work. Wheel bearings, for example, must offer the same dimensions as the original.
Getting those precision fits doesn’t happen by accident. It takes high-quality machine tools, like those used by this company.
If you need custom work done for a rare vehicle, it also takes the work of skilled machinists operating the machines.
CNC machining is one way for a parts company to achieve those precision fits.
A CNC machine uses a 3D computer model of a part. This model helps establish the tool paths that will get the right dimensions for the final part. Then, the machine cuts the part based on that model and the input tool paths.
The result is a very precise part that requires minimal human intervention during production. It’s a largely automated process.
Speaking of automation, that brings us to the next topic.
Like it or loathe it, automation is part of the game when it comes to manufacturing. If you can only produce 100 units of a high-demand part each month and an auto parts chain store needs 2000 units a month, the chain will buy from another company.
Automation lets a car or truck parts supplier scale the volume they produce to meet current demand. It also lets them access economies of scale.
If they take an order for 3000 units of something, they can order the raw materials for those units at a better price. That better price lets them offer a better per-unit price for the part.
The better price saves customers money without sacrificing on quality.
Research and Development
Replacement parts for vehicles must meet certain demands. A sensor must use the right connector and deliver the right information to the vehicle. If it can’t do that, it’s not very valuable to anyone.
An engine bolt must provide the same level of durability as the original engine bolt. Otherwise, it might snap or sheer under normal usage.
While parts must meet these kinds of requirements, it doesn’t always mean that part must use the same materials as the original part. This is where R&D comes into the mix.
A good parts supplier will use engineers in the development process. Those engineers will prototype and test parts using alternative materials. In many cases, they find less expensive alternatives that deliver the same level of performance.
This lets the company leverage cheaper source materials and economies of scale. The result is that company offers better prices on its parts with minimal loss in performance.
Reliable Supply Chain
Whether the company makes RV parts and supplies or parts for Ford trucks, it needs a reliable supply chain.
Let’s say the company makes spark plugs. A spark plug is a fairly simple part in terms of materials. A basic spark plug consists of a ceramic insulator, a steel shell, and a copper core.
While none of these materials is especially exotic, a parts company needs ready access to a consistent supply. A reliable material supply becomes more important if the company produces high-end spark plugs with platinum or iridium cores.
With the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting supply chains across the world, a reliable materials supply is more important than ever.
Spotting a Good Parts Supplier
A good parts supplier isn’t always obvious at first glance. Any business will put its best foot forward with a slick website and nice packaging. You must look beyond the obvious marketing trappings and get into the details.
Does the supplier maintain a good distribution network that minimizing shipping times and delivery costs? Do they use quality machine tools and CNC machining? Do they integrate automation into their production process?
Do they keep engineers on the payroll for R&D and testing? Is their supply chain reliable?
A company with all of these things locked down is likely a good parts supplier.
Looking for more automotive repair advice and tips? Check out our repair section on this site.