One of the first challenges a school will face when setting up an in-house repair program is where to get parts. There are a variety of options and we'll look at a few of them here. Remember, you don't have to pick just one. It's worth taking the time to compare prices and service from different options, and maybe working with several different vendors. Direct from the ManufacturerMost manufacturers, if you purchase enough devices from them, will offer you the option to purchase parts directly; however, that doesn't mean all these programs are equal. Craig Stewart, a technician at Wenatchee School District in Washington State, said he purchases Chromebook parts directly from Dell, Acer, HP, ASUS, and CTL. There are advantages and disadvantages to each. For example, he said CTL can get him parts in as little as a week where ASUS can take up to 6 weeks to get him a part.
Then there's cost. Some manufacturers (like ASUS) supply parts at very competitive rates. Others, like Dell, can charge schools 50% more than some of the other options listed below.
Domestic WholesalersMost schools, like the Virginia Beach School District, prefer this route. Parts will often be less expensive than buying direct from manufacturers and delivery times are usually fast (especially for smaller orders). Probably the most famous domestic parts provider is ChromebookParts.com from St. Paul, MN. They are one of the biggest Chromebook wholesalers in the United States and carry hundreds of skus for dozens of Chromebooks. While they're likely to be more expensive than overseas options (next section), they often provide a better price than direct from the manufacturer or eBay (more on that coming soon). This is especially true if you're buying in bulk - make sure to have them offer a bid to get the best possible pricing.
At TechUnwreck we occasionally buy parts from ChromebookParts.com but more often turn to Upper Edge Technology (UET). They are based in Tennessee and are great when you need 1-5 pieces of something. The sales person we work with is fantastic. We send a list of what we want and he sends us back a quote. Parts are usually delivered in a few days. The drawbacks? They frequently don't have the parts we need and their pricing can be steep.
Overseas WholesalersThe lowest cost option if you're doing high-volume purchases is an overseas vendor. Beware: there are a lot of bad vendors overseas. But there are also some really good ones. In the 10 years TechUnwreck has been ordering parts from China, have found some solid vendors. We don't share that information publicly but if you're interested in this option, contact us and we'd be happy to share.
The big disadvantage here is probably your school's finance department. Many of these vendors don't take POs and most require payment before shipping. In addition, some (most) schools may not feel comfortable wiring money to a foreign country.
eBay PurchasesLike overseas vendors, buying Chromebook parts on eBay might be hard to get through your purchasing department. However, if you have a p-card or a small discretionary budget, this is a great option for infrequent parts purchases. Examples might be a WiFi card or LCD connector - something you may buy a small quantity of occasionally. These types of purchases are easy and convenient through eBay.
Another advantage with eBay is you can quickly & easily find just about any part you need (it helps if you know the exact part number). For brand new parts you'll pay a premium, but if you're okay with used parts, you can often find a part on eBay for substantially less than any other source.
In fact, this is something we do regularly when we only need 1 or 2 of a particular item. A good example might be a hinge set for an old Acer C731 Chromebook. We rarely get requests for these anymore and we can often find the hinge set on eBay for $15 or less and have it delivered within a few days.
Scavenge from Old DevicesDenise Peterson of Reedsburg School District in Wisconsin says her school gets a decent amount of Chromebook parts from devices that have been recently retired or are damaged beyond repair. In this case, the parts are essentially free. If you have an old Chromebook that had coffee spilled on it, perhaps the device is dead but that doesn't mean you can't use the LCD to repair another device. The same can be said for webcams, keys, touchpads, bottom/top covers, and more. Don't just throw out those old devices.
The obvious problem with this solution is you might not have old devices laying around to scavenge, so it's not always the most reliable option.