Built For

Logo of Intuit QuickBooks, which works with Acctivate used by China Auto group for auto parts distribution
Acctivate Customer

China Auto Group

We looked at a lot of packages and in terms of value for money, Acctivate gave us a lot more capabilities for the amount of money – it gave us sweet services that most packaged software solutions were asking five to 50 times more money.”
Stephen Kirby
auto repair parts manufacturer uses inventory management software
Inventory software customer: China Auto Group

When you’re in the industry long enough, sometimes you get the calling to take business into your own hands.

Stephen Kirby, owner and founder of China Auto Group, decided to take his years of experience and turn it into an endeavor of entrepreneurship.

“I had been in the parts for imported cars business for my whole career, about 30 years, and decided to start my own company. I decided the best opportunities for the future would be to manufacture products in China.”

manufacturer auto repair parts brakes

“We have developed systems and procedures and I think more importantly, we understand the nuances with doing business with Chinese companies – that’s really our forte.”

China Auto Group, whose customers range from manufacturers such General Motors and Toyota to after-market suppliers like AutoZone and Napa, found a distinct formula for their manufacturing and distribution processes.

“We started to develop production of automotive repair parts in China for sale in the U.S. market, and to a lesser degree European and South American markets, and we’ve been doing that ever since.”

Kirby continued…

“We enable people to purchase, to take advantage of, the production capabilities and prices in China without having to have the infrastructure necessary within their own companies to do that. They don’t have to deal with the language barrier, time zone differences, foreign currency, the issues of import/export, or trying to manage quality control 5,000 miles away.

We do all those services for them so it enables them to purchase in China and be able to have better pricing without having to build up their own internal resources and capabilities in order to do that.”

Auto Parts Importing

In order to oversee and manage domestic and international business affairs, China Auto Group hosts offices in multiple locations.

Kirby explained…

“We have an office in Detroit, which handles our business with Detroit car manufacturers. We have an office in Hamburg, Germany which handles sales for the European market and then we have an office in Shanghai, which is our liaison office in China so that office is able to communicate in the proper time zone and in the proper language with our supply base.”

The liaison office in China works mainly with manufacturing affairs, whereas other business affairs are handled domestically.

So they handle most of the supply base communication and outbound logistics work and here we handle the inbound logistics and customer delivery, obviously customer care, and all the financial aspects of our business – invoicing, accounts receivable and accounts payable and we do that all through Acctivate and we handle the quality control issues here and so forth,” Kirby said.

Growing Pains

Prior to Acctivate, inventory was managed with the use of Excel spreadsheets and accounting had been handled with QuickBooks.

Kirby described the experience…

Auto Parts Manufacturing and Distribution

“It was the very typical small company spreadsheet-oriented business. We did use QuickBooks for invoicing and accounts receivable but basically inventory was all on spreadsheets. Purchasing was done on an Excel template.

It was really our growth over time that just necessitated that we do something more sophisticated than what a small startup might do.”

China Auto Group saw growth of up to 40-50% a year and being a company that relies heavily on international importing and exporting, Kirby knew it was time to get an inventory management software that was capable of handling a rapidly expanding business.

The business got bigger, the business got more complicated and it became increasingly difficult to manage the business with a non-integrated package of tools,” said Kirby.

Kirby began the process of exploring options to accommodate his growing business, as well as contemplating potential benefits and drawbacks.

“We either had to sit down and write some program ourselves to manage all that or we had to find a package.”

Acctivate = Affordable

When we started looking at packages, the first thing that attracted us to Acctivate was its integration with QuickBooks because we were already on QuickBooks. Since we were already familiar with QuickBooks, that helped us with part of the migration.”

“The second thing, frankly, was price.”

We looked at a lot of packages and in terms of value for money, Acctivate gave us a lot more capabilities for the amount of money – it gave us sweet services that most packaged software solutions were asking five to 50 times more money.
I mean if you look at some of those packages that the big companies use, they cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Plus, more hundreds of thousands of dollars in customization and integration. Acctivate was an affordable solution for us, it has given us more than we expected for a price that a small company could afford.”

Acctivate = Straightforward

Choosing software can carry the risk of indirect or unforeseen monetary and time costs, making the decision process complex.

Automotive parts distribution - spark plugs

Kirby explained his thought process when considering all costs involved:

“There’s really three pieces to cost. The first is just the cost upfront: the cost to buy it the first time.

The second is ‘What’s the cost to implement?’. Implementation of major enterprise management systems is phenomenally expensive – everything from training to data file conversion and so forth.”

The upfront cost to convert to Acctivate for us and to do all of our training was minimal.”

“Then there’s the third piece, which is ongoing cost: what does it cost for maintenance and user fees on an annual basis.”

What we get from Acctivate for the amount we use it is a bargain.”

Acctivate = Capable & Configurable

manufacturer auto repair parts engine components

Acctivate offers many features essential for every small to mid-size business’ needs, through its robust capabilities and extensive configuration.

Additionally, Acctivate’s user-friendly interface makes using Acctivate throughout the organization simple and efficient.

Everybody in the company uses Acctivate – every single person regardless of what they do, whether they’re in sales, accounting, customer service, or in the warehouse. Every person here has some interaction with Acctivate on a daily basis.”

Both China Auto Group and another company Kirby owns are managed through Acctivate.

“One of the pluses of Acctivate is that we can run two separate companies on the same software. Everyone who knows how to do it on one system, knows how to do it for the other companies so it works nicely for us that way,” said Kirby.

What do the workers of China Auto Group use Acctivate for?

Business Alerts

The Business Alerts feature in Acctivate really has a whole bunch of functions depending on how creative you get, but it can be used primarily as a customer relationship management tool.”

Kirby gave an example of their Business Alerts use…

If you type in Business Alerts that you need to call back ‘Joe’ on Thursday and ask him what he found out about something, you get that alert that says, ‘Don’t forget to call Joe’. You can record that you called Joe and what he told you, so you have all this customer relationship management, which is this trail of interaction with customers.”

China Auto Group also uses it for inventory management functions, such as reorder management.

Acctivate’s Business Alerts feature tells you and suggests what you need to reorder and in what quantities.”

Customizable dashboard

In the Acctivate dashboard, we look at snapshots of sales and snapshots of incoming orders. That’s really what we track and of course I, as the owner, track on a macro basis my individual sales.”

Drop Shipping

The Drop Ship wizard in Acctivate is essential for us because 80% of our business requires drop shipping. The Drop Ship wizard is key because it saves us tons of time.
We can create a sales order and the sales order automatically creates the purchase order to the vendor so we don’t have to do double work – we don’t have to create the sales order for the customer and sit down and write a purchase order to the factory, it’s all done in one step.”

auto repair parts manufacturer car suspension


 We use kitting extensively. Our customers want us to deliver products to them in the format that they sell them in. When the components go out to our customers, it’s the major component plus all the minor components they need to actually sell it, so they don’t have to put the kits together themselves.”

Serial Number Control

We use serial numbers primarily for General Motors. They require serial control of the component parts we supply to them. That’s why we use it and how we use it and it gets the job done.”

Serial numbers on automotive parts


 Typically we watch the webinars to view all the new features and benefits of the system. For me, I am one of those kinds of people who learn by doing. I think the webinars are great.”

An entrepreneur’s experience with Acctivate

Kirby’s thoughts of using Acctivate over many years…

So all in all, I would say that we’re satisfied with our customer service experience.
We’ve grown and Acctivate has grown – we’re not the same company we were ten years ago and Acctivate’s not the same program it was ten years ago but that’s not to say it’s any less useful.”

Kirby continued…

It’s certainly more integral to our business than it’s ever been. And now we rely more on Acctivate than we ever have.
So you know, we’ve grown together and I didn’t have to spend a quarter of a million dollars.”

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