More dealers are taking advantage of RV Partfinder, a dealer collective that offers an easier way to find parts, connect with distributors and purge old inventory in the U.S. and Canada, the company reported.
An increase in supply chain demand has made sourcing RV parts more challenging, RV Partfinder said. Dealers and distributors are relying more on resources such as RV Partfinder, which reported an 11 percent increase in subscribers and 15 percent increase in visitor frequency this year.
“We have not seen a slowdown at all, and more dealers are using our system daily,” founder and Operations Manager Tom Utterback said. “It hasn’t dropped off since summer and usually we see a drop off.”
RV Partfinder has two main functions tailored to different search methods. The first gives dealers an ability to cross-reference parts within multiple distributor catalogs using a manufacturing number, part description or barcode.
“If you had a catalog for every distributor that you deal with sitting on your desk, that’s what one side of our system does,” General Manager Kellye Janis said. “The other side is our RV Repair Library.”
Geared toward dealers searching without a manufacturing number, the RV Repair Library allows a part to be found by repair number, model number or supplier. Those without a part’s details can search via the Point-n-Click Coach, an interactive feature that displays a virtual RV to select a familiar part from.
Once the desired part is selected, the dealer is directed to the site’s catalogs, where distributors that carry the part are displayed, along with contact information.
“It’s nice for the dealer, especially when you’ve committed to a part for a customer and you call your distributors and they don’t have it,” Janis said. “That’s where we come in. They get to see all the distributors that we have, because we work with the national and the regional. We’re telling dealers about distributors that they might not have known about.”
Janis said distributors such as Northern Wholesale Supply frequent the site.
“To be honest, I use it every day,” said Dan Harris, Northern Supply’s marketing manager. “I have the window open in front of me right now. All the sales staff at Northern are using it constantly. It’s really a great program.”
Harris said Northern Wholesale has a separate tab on its website dedicated to their RV Partfinder page. Dealers pay a yearly access fee, he said.
“We definitely find that for dealers, it’s well worth their money,” Harris said. “Especially on the evenings and weekends, when they can’t call us and have us look anything up for them. They can look it up themselves and see if we have it in stock. It’s open 24/7, is what I’m saying.”
Once a dealer contacts a distributor through RV Partfinder’s database, no other business confirmations are needed, Janis said. The company qualifies every dealer that requests access to the library. If the dealer is not buying through distribution, their request will be denied, because all prices quoted are wholesale.
Getting dealers up-to-date on available resources is important, Janis explained. Other than connecting dealers with otherwise unknown distributors, RV Partfinder helps find cross-overs for old inventory.
“We might have dealers that have been in business for years, and maybe the part on their shelf has an old product number,” Janis said. “Without a manufacturing number, they don’t know if it’s usable… They have the ability to go [on RV Partfinder] and see if we have a cross-over for that.
“We are trying to help dealers get rid of their old, obsolete parts before they go and buy the new ones. Why would you go get the new part, which has been superseded, when you could use the original sitting on your shelf?” Janis said.
The RV industry’s nature includes frequent supplier, distributor and part number changes, Janis said. Companies are bought out and product numbers change, making business more difficult for dealers. Janis says that’s what RV Partfinder prides themselves on.
“For example, if you’re new in the industry and didn’t know that A&E [Awning] is listed under the Dometic umbrella,” Janis said. “You just have to know what supplier to look under for the listing. A cheat sheet that we have helps dealers see name changes, because companies are bought out at some point.”
RV Partfinder recently partnered with Dometic, which uses the site’s library to source its archived parts and manuals. In return, Dometic gives the company relevant supplier information right when it is released, which is added immediately to the Partfinder system.
“They’re really good about getting new information on there,” Harris said. “Sometimes in the RV industry, it can be hard to get updated information. [Partfinder] is good at seeking out new information from vendors and getting their latest breakdowns and part numbers.”
The company’s Dometic partnership plans to enter a Phase Two expansion soon, with details to come.
“We just want to make sure we help the dealers,” Janis said. “I think Dometic realizes that. We have some archived stuff that they might not have, and I’m excited to see what happens with the Dometic Phase Two.”
Janis said the goal is to work with everybody in the RV industry. The objective is helping retail customers get the parts they need.
“And help the dealer find the right part, the first time,” she said. “That’s the name of the game.”
“I feel like the RV industry is a little behind the times on this type of technology,” Harris said. “… I think RV Partfinder is leading the way.”