What can we expect for the parts business in 2023?

Updated Feb 24, 2023
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We have been on a roller coaster over the last few years with a pandemic, supply chain issues, as well as related parts shortages and record price increases. Some of these impacts to the aftermarket were not expected and some were, but not the magnitude or the duration we experienced.

What can we expect in 2023? The pandemic will officially be over, as announced by the White House, on May 11. It is interesting how they can narrow down the end of the pandemic to an official day. Isn’t science amazing!?

There will be lasting effects from the pandemic on how people work and mask that I don’t think are going away. In my opinion, anyone can do whatever they think is best for them in regard to masks, and I believe that should be your position if your business interfaces with in-person customers.

I do scratch my head in my travels sometimes, though. Recently, I was in the Seattle area and there were a number of people walking outside by themselves along the Puget Sound in a swift breeze wearing masks. I just wanted to stop them and ask, “Why?” Luckily, my wife was with me, and she stopped me.

[RELATED: MacKay & Company shares economic, aftermarket forecasts for 2023]

We have seen some easing in parts shortages from our monthly surveys with fleets and parts distributors, but the easing is from record levels, and where we are now would be a record level if not for the recent past. It’s all relative.

The ports appear to be in much better shape now. Apparently, there is now a glut of container chassis, which is unfortunate as I started a side hustle of building container chassis in my garage.

Not really. Luckily my wife was with me, and she stopped me.

We had a robust jobs report in January, which is good, but it also means most businesses are still struggling to find enough help (good or experienced help is even harder to find). I heard a recent story that a service provider has a large number of service writers across their various locations and just over 20% of them have over five years of experience, 15% just two years and the balance, over 60%, have little to no experience. You have to wonder what the downstream impact is of that average experience level?

I assume most businesses are dealing with these challenges of finding folks and getting them up to speed to be as productive as possible, as quickly as possible. Whether you represent a parts supplier or parts distributor, this would seem to be an opportunity to help your customers. Not an easy opportunity, but an opportunity. 

Last month was the start of the trade show season with the annual HDAD (Heavy Duty Aftermarket Dialogue) and HDAW (Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week) in Grapevine, Texas. If you haven’t attended in the past, you should put this on your  to-do list for next year (Jan. 22-25). The good content and networking per dollar cost to attend ratio was very positive this year.

It was good to see a record attendance for the week and, while there were serious talks about issues for 2023 (finding good people to hire, inflation, potential recession, continued parts shortages, etc.), the overall attitude from all sectors of the heavy-duty aftermarket was very positive. This is likely in large part because the attitude is, “We got through the last few years, how hard can 2023 be?”   

Stay tuned, in my next column I will discuss our actual forecast for 2023. 

John Blodgett has worked for MacKay & Company for more than 20 years and is currently vice president of sales and marketing, responsible for client contact for single- and multi-client projects. He can be reached at [email protected].

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