TPI: finding better ways of finding parts

Scott Tetz was 6-years old when he first started helping his father in the family-run salvage yard in Edmonton, Alberta. He worked his way from the back gate to the front, and by the time he was a teenager, he had observed enough to draw some fairly clear conclusions that form the basis of what later became Truck Parts Inventory. Watching his father work, he realized that the yard was run in a way that depended entirely on his father’s presence: when he wasn’t there, sales dropped and profits fell. Why? His father knew the details of every single part in the yard, where it came from, the price it could command, and the vehicles it could be used on. His knowledge and understanding of the yard were comprehensive and deep, but there was only one problem: it wasn’t shared with anyone else. Whenever Scott’s father left the yard for any length of time, whether it be to buy a truck or go on a sales trip, the yard’s data base left with him, and business suffered. By the time he was a teenager, Scott knew that there had to be a better way of doing things and he set out to find it. He also knew that, somehow, technology would play a part.

In 1994, he borrowed some money from his mother and a girlfriend, and set up shop as Partslink in a one-bedroom apartment on a busy street in Edmonton. His borrowed funds got him a 486 computer with a fax-board, and long hours at the Edmonton Public Library with copies of North American phone books got him contact information for salvage yards across the continent. He cold-called as many places as he could each day, and eventually built up a roster of over 200 clients for his fledgling business. Every day, he compiled lists of parts requests and sent them out at night by fax, with his customers receiving the lists the next morning. Their responses to these leads helped build Partslink into a solid player in the heavy-duty truck parts industry, and it is still in place today as a well-subscribed service. While initially pleased with the results, Scott saw the limitations of Partslink in terms of efficiency (there was a time-lag between the part request being received and its fulfillment) and coverage (Partslink was dealer-to-dealer, an individual could not participate). Quick to address this discrepancy, Scott created PartSeek in 1996.

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