April 18, 1996 in Washington Voices

Parts Is Parts Until It Comes To Finding Car Parts =

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Fifteen years ago, Buck Koerper liked the challenge of knowing where just about every one of the 20,000 used car and truck parts in his wrecking yard could be found.

Now Koerper, owner of Whitey’s Wrecking Yard on East Francis in Hillyard, has to find something else to make his day.

“I don’t need to know, since we have a computer system that takes care of tracking everything we have,” said the 47-year-old Koerper.

When customers come looking for parts at one of the city’s larger wrecking yards, more often than not the search starts with a set of computer keystrokes.

Koerper, who took over the yard started years ago by his father, the late Marvin “Whitey” Koerper, has been pushing toward a more organized system for years.

“About 1975, I finally got this place to start using a manual inventory of parts,” he said. “Before, it was all a helter-skelter.”

Cars being brought in would get parked wherever space was available. Removing good parts - “parting out” - was done haphazardly, too.

Now, to stay competitive, nearly every yard in the area parks and stores the wrecked or tossed-away cars according to model and make.

And parting out is standard practice so that items worth anything are identified fast, and unusable stuff gets tossed.

Even after Whitey’s went to a handwritten inventory of parts, it was Koerper who managed to know where nearly every item was. Faced with taking two minutes to track down a ‘94 Isuzu carburetor in the book, many of his workers preferred going to Koerper for the quick answer.

He acknowledges that at first the idea of a computer seemed scary for him and his 10 workers. “I had never been near one; and I can’t even type,” he said.

But he knew that other yards here and around the country had adopted the system. His research showed that the system used for wrecking yard inventory tracking was designed with user friendliness as a key feature.

Another system advantage is its vast access to other parts yards. If Whitey’s doesn’t have the windshield for a ‘91 Honda Civic, the computer identifies the closest yard that does.

Beyond that, the system identifies the interchangeable features of a part, meaning that a customer needing a signal switch for his 1985 Toyota can find out quickly which other years or which other car makes would do just as well.

Whitey’s has occupied the same 10-acre parcel at 4300 E. Francis since it opened in 1960. Koerper has about 1,300 cars parked on the property, plus several sheds and buildings stuffed with parts.

Since 1980, Whitey’s has focused its efforts on foreign car parts only. He and his father decided to follow a trend that already had been occurring nationwide. Wrecking yard owners realized that, with limited space, few could afford to carry just about any part for any car make.

The family-owned and operated business looks like it’ll stay that way. Koerper’s own son has begun working at Whitey’s and is more comfortable around computers than his dad.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo


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