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Auto Recycling – keeping up with technology to stay ahead

The world of technology is changing at a whopping rate, and in the auto recycling industry, these changes are also considerable. Wally Dingman, of Caughill Auto Wreckers in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada and Chairman of Automotive Recyclers of Canada (ARC), looks at why evolving with and embracing these changes in auto recycling lets you stay ahead of the game.


Auto Recycling - keeping up with technology to stay ahead f four
Wally Dingman

We all know the definition of insanity, ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome’ yet if you’re anything like me you are ‘hopeful’ things will change (for the better).

I am a 3rd generation auto recycler in my 38th year in the business. Like a lot of us in a family business, I grew up in the business with my dad, spending my summers there since I was 9 or 10 yrs old. I had the opportunity to learn the business without even knowing I was learning the business.

In the 70s, our yard was unorganised, and we had to remember where everything was and preferably remember what parts were still available; otherwise, it meant another walk into the yard (I was the ‘go check guy’). In the 80s, my dad expanded the business, organised the yard, built a new warehouse etc. But still, much of what we did was by memory or on inventory cards.

It wasn’t until the 90s that we computerised to try to become more efficient. Although we put off making the move for two years, we finally took this huge step. So much of how we did things changed, and it was a stressful period for everyone involved. Initially, I thought it might have been a mistake, as we lost a couple of good employees in the process. However, within three years of taking the plunge, we were able to once again expand with two additional locations over four years.

As I learned to embrace change, I continued to look for better processes to improve our efficiencies and quality control. I discovered that by joining our provincial association (and attending meetings), it was a sure-fire way to fill my hunger for information.

As we made our way into the 2000s, a new age of social responsibility was emerging, and businesses of all sorts were faced with the challenge of how to meet their customer’s expectations. The auto recycling sector was no different – though many were poised to meet this challenge -on and exceed their customer’s expectations.

Handling vehicles properly and eventually to some sort of ‘code of practice’, it became the new norm. Yet many yards fell and continue to fall behind. Many claim it will “cost too much” but are unable to see the cost to NOT meet the new expectations is far higher.

In the past few years, consumers buying habits and expectations have changed even more dramatically. The emphasis on better recycling practices and outcomes have introduced topics like the circular economy and sustainability. Our younger consumers are expecting more, and they do their research. As recyclers, we already know we are the original recycling industry, but we must do more if we want to remain relevant. We must embrace the “Green economy” and focus on transforming our operations into more environmentally responsible places of business.

By far, the most significant change to business, in general, has been the explosion of the online world. Auto recyclers have seen this trend increasing every year as we move to put our parts (with pictures) online for the world to see. No more are the days of ‘go check’, now we are faced with the bigger question “What does my customer want?” Buying the correct vehicles to fulfil requests has become a monumental task. Answering this question incorrectly will see some yards not make it.

To succeed, in my opinion, we must embrace this online world and create a plan that puts us, if not ahead of the curve, at least IN the curve. We must also embrace the changing environmental landscape and once again be at the forefront of the green economy and sustainability. Examining your business and predicting what your customer wants to purchase and from whom will be the biggest challenge you will face, but it also carries the biggest reward.

Change is constant, not always easy, but constant. We all get tired of change and delay decisions. Success relies on us, rising to the challenge and meeting the change head-on. I am not immune to growing tired of change. As I continued to examine my business, I realised my current IMS vendor did not have ALL the tools I needed to meet the challenge at hand. Although delaying the inevitable by at least two years, I recently made the switch to an IMS vendor that offered the tools I needed (online customer request data) to make better, more informed buying decisions.

Social responsibility, good data and the online world, these are the things I believe are relevant today. Embrace change and if you’re not a member of your local association, join. If you are a member, go to the meetings, ALL of the meetings, and be part of the change.

If you would like to Wally, you can email him at