Blueprint for the future: specialisation

Published on 24 October 2018

Anyone looking for a specific Citroën or Peugeot part in the ordering system of Malden-based Bart Ebben has a 70 per cent chance of finding what they seek. This percentage is astonishingly high, certainly in comparison to the national average: a success rate of around 30 per cent for automotive parts from all brands. “This is the result of years of targeted investments in our stock system for only two brands. It pays to specialise,” Bart Ebben, Junior says in Malden.


Tekst Arjen van der Sar

Fotografie Joost Snel

Cooperation is the only way forward, as Frans van den Mosselaar recently said here. This entrepreneur from Dongen views the establishment of regional centres as the natural blueprint for vehicle dismantling companies. Yet other options exist as well, such as specialisation -- something Bart Ebben has been putting into practice in Malden for the last forty years. His company, which specialises in two brands, sets an example of how well a focused approach can work.

Garage and dismantling company
In reality, BartEbben.nl consists of a relatively small garage with five employees, specialising in Citroën/Peugeot, and a considerably larger vehicle dismantling and salvage company with twenty employees on staff. A tour of the company premises brings us face-to-face with an Ebben employee who is busy examining a Citroën Picasso that has just been brought in. An interesting detail is that the employee uses a handheld device to keep track of parts that could potentially be salvaged. That device, however, is not what makes their operation ‘smart’, Bart Ebben, Junior explains. “We don’t just catalogue any and all parts we might be able to salvage; instead, we focus on the few dozen parts that - according to our system - are currently in demand. Our dismantling activities, for instance, are directly guided by our sales system.”

Bart Ebben junior: “Our dismantling activities are directly guided by our sales system”

65,000 parts
The Pinnacle stock system Ebben uses has an impressive 65,000 Citroën and Peugeot parts on record. Quantities in-stock for older models are particularly high, but there’s more to it than that. Not only is Pinnacle a stock system, it’s a knowledge database as well. “We have two employees whose day-to-day work consists of entering data about the parts. This can involve notable physical characteristics, which are recorded in the system in both text and images: we take a lot of pictures,” Bart explains. Peter van der Sluis, who works as a marketer in Malden, adds, “In some cases, we even include notes on installation from past experience in the garage.”

Extensive specialisation
The message from the dismantling company’s management is clear: extensive specialisation offers added value that is recognised and appreciated by customers - both corporate and private - throughout the Netherlands. “That added value has earned us a place on the ‘shortlist’ of a great many garages. They know that if they call Ebben, they’ll likely find what they’re looking for on the first try.

"Extensive specialisation offers added value that is recognised and appreciated by customers throughout the Netherlands"

Knowing absolutely everything about parts from two brands also makes our own operations extraordinarily effective and efficient. After all, nobody likes handling returns because the wrong part was delivered. We prefer to get it right, straight out of the gate!”

Well-stocked system
All of which is to say that the five employees who work in Malden - each with three or four monitors and a headset - do much more than merely sales. Supported by the well-stocked Pinnacle system, a sales call often turns into a consultation with an expert. In Ebben’s forty years of professional practice, nearly every aspect of the company has evolved. Bart likes to share an anecdote about his father, who started the Citroën garage forty years ago; the story is well-known within the company. “Little by little, he started keeping a store of parts from junked cars, because he knew they’d come in handy sooner or later. And of course, he knew the exact location of each and every part. That got him in trouble once when he was sick and confined to his bed. Employees kept pestering him about where to find such-and-such part. That’s when it became clear to Bart, in the 1980s, that he needed a system for this.” The Pinnacle system, which ran in MS-DOS when it was first delivered, is still in use at Ebben today. “It’s incredibly robust,” says Van der Sluis. “We’re working on transitioning to a new version, which we will be able to jam-pack with even more information.”

New warehouse
While the Malden-based company is now investing in the future, it intends (for the most part) to maintain its specialisation in two brands. Bart Junior proudly shows off the recently completed new warehouse, which measures forty by forty metres and houses large parts and entire junked vehicles in vertical stacks of up to four levels. “If you want to have a lot of parts in stock, sooner or later you’ll have to start making use of the vertical space. And that’s when you have to be willing to invest,” the young entrepreneur explains. And where does the garage next door fit into the strategy of the vehicle dismantling company? “Well, that’s where it all started,” Bart begins. He continues, “What’s more, that connection to a garage of our own is quite a practical way of keeping a finger on the pulse, as it were, in terms of what comes before salvage and dismantling. The technicians in the garage share their knowledge with us, and vice versa. If you ask me, we’re better as a pair.”

A plea for the future
To Bart, the thought of a workshop brings to mind a plea for the future. “In a world where circular thinking is becoming increasingly important, a modern garage should be able to offer its customers two options when they need a repair: to install a new part or a used one. I think the situation they have in France is a fantastic idea: there, garages are required by law to offer both new and used parts. My standpoint is that new doesn’t have to be the default option any more. This is good for our sector, of course, but if you ask me, it also brings the circular economy one step closer to being reality.”

For more information about this newttps://greenlight.nl/expert-views/een-antwoord-op-alle-uitdagingen-samenwerken/ French law, see here for the complete text of law. Albert de Boer agrees with Ebben about giving customers the option of repairing their car with new or used autoparts. Read all about it here.

“In a world where circular thinking is becoming increasingly important, a modern garage should be able to offer its customers both new and used parts”