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My Kingdom for a Caliper


7/1/2003
By Brian Cruickshank

We were'nt looking for a Citron caliper, after all. But even so, errors in catalogs (both print and electronic varieties) cost everyone.
 

 
My poor car. It badly needed a brake job. I know, I know. I work in the aftermarket and should have been more car care aware. Well, time got away from me, and eventually the scraping sound coming from my right rear rotor was starting to scare (and embarrass) me every time I hit the brakes.

So I took it to my local repair shop, which just so happens to have a very good parts store right next door. The service writer had already let the store know what they needed based exclusively on what I had told them a few days earlier.

So when I dropped the car off at the shop early one morning, the parts store was ready for me, and someone brought over a set of pads. Since the old pads were literally biting into the rotors, they sent over a set of rear rotors too.

The technician racked the car and raised it into the air, a position it stayed in for the next four hours, which is unusual for what should have been a routine and straightforward procedure on a routine and straightforward vehicle. But because of a cataloging problem, the correct parts werent found until well after lunch.

The technician pulled the wheels off and found that the calipers were shot. No problem - a set of rear calipers for a 2000 Volkswagen Jetta should be easy enough to find. Well, they werent. The parts were in the system - somewhere. But that doesnt really matter if no one can find a good number to pull.

The counterman went over to his electronic catalog and discovered that the calipers werent listed. This, as we know, is not really an uncommon occurrence.

So, he did what most parts people do in these cases, he went to the books - the paper catalog...not there either.

Hmmmm. It was becoming a personal challenge to find these calipers now. The whole time, I prayed that they werent a dealer-only part.

He called the tech line of a caliper remanufacturer. The tech line guy wasnt quite sure. Apparently, there is a part number for a 2000 VW Jetta GLX and a GLI, but not a 2000 GLS. And of course, there could be a difference among the three.

He called another reman company. They werent sure either.

By then it was 11:30, and all the while my Jetta continued to hang in the air, taking up valuable bay space. Repair shops make money just like restaurants. Restaurants turn tables; shops turn cars. When cars sit on racks, shops lose money.

The counterman called two more remanufacturers, each of whom didnt have a definitive answer. Finally he called a friend at yet anther source and voil - he had a good number.

At last months E-Cat Conference, a group of store managers estimated that 10 percent of all electronic catalogs are incorrect. Add into that missing or incomplete catalog data, and I can understand how returns rates are so high.

This month on page 44, Counterman features an exclusive early look at a recent study on inventory management. One of the key findings is that the industry must be better at managing its data, a point made painfully obvious while searching for this VW caliper. After all, if you cant find the part, you cant sell it and nobody wins.

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