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Sewells best practise: How secure is your parts department?

'Finding out that an employee is thieving is a devastating experience. But sooner or later every dealer principal or garage owner has to deal with such an incident. In our experience, the parts department is often where temptation lies. And 'temptation' is equally often the problem. Lack of security can present the opportunity and an employee succumbs.

So what can you do?

You have to recognise that theft is a possibility. And we don't just mean the more obvious lines like tyres and in-car entertainment, which can be easily sold on.

Service and repair parts are equally tempting, and we have come across many cases of parts department employees stealing these to supply 'kerbside mechanics' who are sometimes employees of the same dealership.

A secure parts department is the most obvious deterrent to theft. The area must be physically separated from the rest of the dealership, blind areas limited, and the number of entrances kept to a minimum.

Valuable items should be kept in a 'cage' if possible. Entrances should be locked during working hours and only authorised personnel permitted to have keys and access. Outside working hours, the whole parts department must be locked down like Fort Knox. Oh, and when it comes to physical security, don't forget the waste bins.

It's surprising what can walk out this way.

Stock checks are a deterrent, and a way of discovering problems. Randomly check the contents of stock bins on a regular basis and use your stock record system to identify abnormal stock movements. Carry out a full stocktaking once a year and don't take discrepancies for granted: follow them up. Stock control systems, manual or computerised, should be treated as a 'secure area'.

All routines connected with booking parts in and out, and credit systems, must have an audit trail – nothing must arrive or leave the parts department without making a record. Credit notes, for example, must have full contact details and we recommend phoning up occasionally to check the returns are genuine.

As for employees, always take up references when they start with you. Make all employees aware of your security policy, and look out for unusual behaviour.'

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