Scarborough seeks efficiency through parts partnership

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SCARBOROUGH — The 48,000-square-foot public works building at 20 Washington Ave. isn’t spotless, but it’s close.

Everything has its place, even in the busy repair rooms. Replacement street signs are organized and hung together, enormous pieces of equipment are shiny from recent power washes and even the floors are free of dirt and grime.

“We try to keep things pretty neat around here,” Public Works Director Michael Shaw said.

In addition to keeping the facilities clean, Shaw is hoping a new partnership with National Auto Parts Association, or NAPA, will also clean up the parts ordering and replacement system.

“Before, at least four people would touch each purchase order for every part,” Shaw said.

And for a garage that handles all 210 of the town’s school buses, snow plows, fire trucks, ambulances, police cars and every other town-owned vehicle, that was a lot of parts and a lot of paperwork.

In order to save employee time and money, Scarborough has contracted with NAPA to take control of the parts room. Not only does NAPA own all of the parts in the garage, it controls the ordering, processing and distribution of those parts. The company can distribute the parts stored in Scarborough to other municipalities or private companies when they order them. A NAPA employee even works on site.

“This is the NAPA of 20 Washington Ave.,” Shaw said. “Until the part gets put on the car, we don’t own it.”

NAPA is obligated to keep 85 percent of what the Scarborough garage needs available on site. Another 10 percent must be less than 24 hours away and the remaining 5 percent is available on a per-order basis.

Because NAPA is a national organization, it often gets parts at a significantly lower cost than the town could if it purchases them on its own. While the company builds a 10 percent profit into the price it charges Scarborough for the parts, Shaw said they are still significantly cheaper than what he was paying before.

Plus, when his parts room manager retired last year, Shaw did not have to replace him, which, he said, saves the town the cost of an employee’s salary and benefits.

Shaw said he began looking into the program four years ago, but the contract wasn’t finalized and approved until last month.

He said NAPA promised to not only provide auto parts, but also janitorial and office supplies, which he hopes the town will begin to take advantage of soon.

“We write one check to NAPA, so there are fewer checks to send, the purchasing orders go away,” Shaw said, adding that the time saved should allow him to redistribute his staff to other areas, such as new federal storm-water regulations the town must comply with, and prevent him from having to hire new workers.

The town has a 60-day bail-out clause in the three-year contract, so if NAPA does not deliver as promised, there is some recourse.

However, leaving the contract would leave the town’s parts room nearly bare. So at the a recent meeting, the Town Council voted to set up a public works special revenue fund in case the town needs to restock its parts shelves. The town then sold all of its NAPA parts back to the company for $67,000 and put that money into the fund in case the contract is dissolved.

Shaw said 18 other municipalities and a larger number of private companies nationwide have already hired NAPA to provide parts on-site.

“When we were looking into this, I spoke with the other (participating) municipalities and had a very positive response,” he said.

In the meantime, the garage is preparing for the coming winter and hoping the warm weather is a predictor of what’s to come. However, if it’s not, just like the garage employees, NAPA’s parts supply is available 24 hours a day when the snow flies.

“With this program, Scarborough can get out of the inventory business,” Shaw said, “and focus on what we do best.”

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net

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NAPA Auto Parts employee Dave Bell finds a part for Scarborough Public Works mechanic Zoltan Panyi in the company’s new parts room in the Scarborough garage. NAPA now owns nearly all of the auto parts in Scarborough’s garage and sells them to the town for a reduced rate in exchange for the storage facility.

A Scarborough school bus is prepped for repair at the Scarborough Public Works garage at 20 Washington Ave. The parts for the job will come from the new NAPA parts room.

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