The problem, Frayer says, was parts substitutions at the distributor level. A shop may order a certified part, but if it turned out the part was out of stock, distributors were sending non-certified parts instead just to fill the order. NSF conducted numerous test orders of parts certified under their program, only to have non-certified parts show up at delivery.
"I'd call the distributor back, and he'd say they knew we would just want the part so we could make the vehicle repair," Frayer says. "That really cemented in my mind the importance of having the distributors on board."
That is one of the key requirements of the certification: that if a distributor receives an order for an NSF or CAPA certified part, they are not allowed to make a replacement without the explicit permission of the shop ordering the part. "There has to be documentation on file to indicate who gave that authorization," Frayer says.
The distributor certification focuses on traceability and quality. To become certified, distributors have to demonstrate the effectiveness of their record keeping and inventory systems in tracking orders and parts throughout the supply chain; achieve ISO 9001 quality management certification; establish a defective parts procedure and customer complaint process; be able to administer a manufacturer recall; and be able to develop formal corrective actions for complains and institute immediate recall plans.
The distributors also have to be able to accurately track inventory so that when an order comes in, they know if the certified parts are in stock. "There has to be a way to verify that inventory and track it accurately," Frayer says. "That means you have to have a computer-based system."
The first distributor to receive certification was LKQ Corp. Since then, a number of other companies have been certified, including PartsChannel, Micro Platers and Paint, and National Autobody Parts Warehouse.