How To Find Parts Quicker

How To Find Parts Quicker

by PROS June 27, 2022

Introducing PROS Parts blog: Tips from PROS

Written by Barry Victor, Owner of PROS Parts

PROS has nearly four decades of experience in the commercial and industrial laundry and dry cleaning business. Throughout our years, we have gathered many tips and tricks that can save you time. Today we launch our blog, Tips from PROS, written by Barry Victor, owner and president of PROS Parts. This month’s blog highlights quick and easy tips on finding replacement parts.

To keep our blog lively and useful, we will feature guest bloggers as well as post other resources for you.  Our plan is to offer a library of “How To” articles along with general information on managing your repair labor and replacement parts expense while helping you to minimize machine downtime.

Please let us know if you would like to contribute to our blog or if there are topics you want to know more about. Please sign up

Finding parts quicker

This month’s post outlines the steps involved in sourcing replacement parts for your machinery.  A critical piece of equipment that is non-operational, operating at less than 100% capacity, or worse yet, operating unsafely, impedes employee and customer satisfaction, and may reduce your profit.  Every plant owner or maintenance person knows the sinking feeling when learning that a machine is down.  Let’s see if we can help you build more confidence to find replacement parts quickly and easily.

Step One:

Define the problem with the machine and identify what replacement parts are needed. An obvious reminder is to not fix it if it is not broken, and don’t play parts roulette. 

Step Two:

Determine the correct replacement part by at least one identifying number.  A description for your parts supplier of “the red thing that is on top of the black thing” is probably not going to be sufficient. Spending time upfront to gather the needed information will save you time in the end. 

  • Generally the best piece of information for the parts professional will be the machine manufacturer’s part number, which should be on the part itself. If not, you can find a description from the parts manual that was supplied when you bought the machine. 
    • If you don’t have the manual, you can download it from most websites offering replacement parts.  For example, you can find parts manuals on the PROS website
    • If you can’t find a manual, call a distributor such as PROS Parts. You can send a photo of the part and they can help you figure out the part number.
  • In most cases, and I can’t emphasize this strongly enough, you should also have the machine model number and serial number.  Occasionally, component parts go out of production and the original part is no longer available.  In these cases, the replacement part that will be specified by the machine manufacturer might be different depending on the model and serial number due to size limitations or other criteria.  
  • Having the model number and serial number available will allow you to present all of the information in your first call or search without the need for return trips to the plant and follow-up phone calls.

Step Three:

Determine what your purchasing decision will be based on – price, delivery, customer service, convenience, return policies, warranty, confidence, etc.

  • Price – this is typically a high priority for most shoppers of virtually anything, though there are circumstances where this takes a back seat to other priorities. Price is typically easy to compare between suppliers.  Keep in mind that your total price should include the cost of the part and any shipping or handling charges.
  • Speed of delivery – if your first priority is to get the machine running as quickly as possible, you may have to bypass the lowest price to find a supplier who has the item in stock, promises same day shipping, and is located near you or offers expedited shipping options.
  • Staff knowledge – if you are not 100% sure the part you have identified is the correct part, dealing with a company with knowledgeable staff can save you a lot of time, money and frustration. They can help you identify the correct part or direct you to another person with specific product knowledge on your machine.  
  • Quality – many original equipment parts are also offered in generic versions. Generic parts are often less expensive and may be more readily available. While generic parts have a reputation of being inferior quality, that is not always the case.
  • Warranty – product warranties may vary from brand to brand or even from part to part within a brand. Familiarize yourself with the warranty that is being offered.  It can be very frustrating to repair a machine only to find the same part has failed a short time later.
  • Return policy –  it is not unprecedented to order a part and before it arrives you determine the part is not the cause of the machine failure. If this happens, you will be comforted to know the return policy of the company. Do they have restocking charges and if so what are they? Is there a limited window to return the part and if so how short is it?
  • Company reputation – while this is the last point in the list, it should not be considered the lowest priority.  Many company policies are set to cover typical situations.  If you are dealing with a reputable company, they tend to “do the right thing.”  This may be the reason you continue to do business with them – and it is a very good reason.  

Step Four:

Choose a shopping method.

  • You can call your local distributor or service professional and they can talk through your needs with you and order the parts.
  • Or you can do your own search through the internet.
  • It is probably a good idea to do both and compare the benefits of each to determine which route makes the most sense given your priorities. 

Step Five:

Once you have called your local distributor’s parts department or service professional, go online with your favorite browser and type the brand and part number into the search box. While almost all of us are very familiar with online shopping for every variety of consumer goods, from clothing to electronics, the task of shopping online for replacement parts is a very different activity.  

  • While the browser you chose will not impact the success of your shopping experience, the search engine used by the browser will definitely have an impact.  Chrome and Safari, the two most widely used browsers are initially installed to use Google as the search engine. This can be changed to use one of many other search engines but I would recommend sticking with Google.  If you are using a different browser, I would recommend changing the search engine to Google to get the best search results.
  • With your favorite browser open, type the brand and manufacturer’s part number into the search box.   
  • Nothing is more important to the success of your search than the search term you use. Try to be as specific as possible.  Using a search term that includes the brand and not just the number will eliminate a lot of undesirable results. Searching for “Ajax JA-54354” delivers 9,100 results and a quick scan indicates most are relevant to the part you are looking for. Searching for just “JA-54354” delivers 96,000 results and  turns up all sorts of results from the US Patent Office or papers written by medical journals and other documents or products not of interest to you.
  • As you review the results presented to you, do not be thrown off by numbers that are similar to but not exactly the same as the number you entered. Manufacturers often change part numbers entirely or add prefixes or suffixes to part numbers over time. This is done to accommodate their own internal systems and does not change the part that is being supplied. For example:
    • Whirlpool added “WFR” in front of all ADC (American Dryer) part numbers after the acquisition of ADC. The WFR stands for Whirlpool Falls River, the location of the ADC production plant.    
    • Unipress often has a two character suffix on their part numbers that change over time but have no impact on the suitability of the product. For example, -00, -DA and -DB are some of the suffixes we are aware of.
  • If you are having trouble with the part number differences, enlist the help of the website staff through their chat function or call them to discuss.  A knowledgeable parts professional should be able to help you navigate these minor differences.

  • You will be presented with search results by Google that are either paid for by the supplier or listed because Google considers the company a valid and respected company for the supply of that product. The paid for ad results are at the top of the page or the bottom of the page and they plainly say “Ad” before the web site address. In my humble opinion, the non-ad results are generally the better results.  Sites listed in non “Ad” positions are considered organic search results. There are many factors that go into an organic search, but those search results that come up first are because of how Google values the content and tracks the queries. Below is an example of a search so that you can see the difference between an Ad and organic search.

  • Review the results presented and look for indications that the site has the item you are searching for.  Click one of the results and you will generally be taken to a page specific to the part for which you have searched.  Look over the details of the page.
    • Does the description of the part match the description you are looking for? Look closely to make sure it specifies the correct voltage, pipe size or other specification.  This is an opportunity for you to confirm that you have selected the correct part number.
    • If they are presenting you with a completely different part number, make sure the page explains that the part you are looking at is a direct replacement for the original part number you entered. 
    • Look at the photo if they have one to help you further identify that this is the correct replacement part.  While many parts that are very different may look the same and should never be used as the sole criteria for choosing a part, photos can be helpful in spotting something that allows you to question if the part is the correct one.
    • Does the page reflect whether the part is in stock or not?  A page that indicates the quantity of the item in stock should be more reassuring than a page that simply says in stock.  
  • If you have any questions, chat with the site staff or call them to make sure you have identified the correct replacement part.    

The most important point I want to emphasize is to make sure you have as much information as possible about the part. This will ensure a quicker and easier search process and get your machines up and running faster. 

Of course PROS Parts is here for you – through our website or at 1-800-359-0628.

About Barry Victor

Barry founded PROS Parts in the spring of 1988. Before starting PROS, Barry worked in the sales and engineering departments of Vic Manufacturing, one of the largest manufacturers of dry cleaning equipment in the U.S. At Vic, Barry launched a parts sales division that supported dry cleaning equipment imported from Italy and Germany. In its early years, PROS manufactured dry cleaning machinery and then evolved into an industrial and commercial laundry equipment and dry cleaning operations parts supplier. Barry lives in Eden Prairie, MN with his wife. He has two sons, a step son, a step daughter and his dog, Sora. 

Barry can be reached at 763-231-7379 or barryv@prosparts.com.

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