I have noticed in conversation with aftermarket industry folks over the last couple of months there seems to be a lot more “normal” going on. By normal, I don’t mean there are no issues or problems, just that the conversations about issues are, for the most part, topics that were discussed pre-COVID, pre-supply chain slam and pre-double digit price increases.
It is not that the negative impacts from the last few years have completely subsided, but they are no longer the in-your-face, daily issue they were just months ago.
Conversations are back to competitive issues: New technology, finding technicians, the economy — like potential strikes, labor settlements, fleet bankruptcies (OK, Yellow is not exactly normal, but not a huge surprise either), consolidation, low water levels in the Panama Canal (didn’t see that one coming) and, of course, the incredible summer the Cubs are having (but wait — that’s not normal).
I did have a conversion with a vehicle manufacturer client the other day about when their employees would be back in the office five days a week. Never was the resounding answer, and I believe this is the new normal.
Also, based on the continued conversation — it may make sense. Pre-COVID, employees’ schedules at vehicle and component manufacturers were five days a week with various meetings all five days and maybe not all really needed meetings. I used to wonder when visiting various manufacturers how anything ever gets done if you are always in meetings. I would also occasionally hear from folks in the field about how hard it was to get hold of people who seem to be in endless meetings.
Now, people are apparently primarily in the office Tuesday through Thursday (or that is the eventual goal). They know they will see their team members at that time, so they can schedule whatever in-person meetings they need for just those three days, and they have Monday and Friday with relatively uninterrupted time (except for the dog, laundry, occasional neighbor and early happy hour) that they can actually focus on tasks they need to think about and address (along with some virtual meetings, of course).
Now, you’re thinking, “John, I work on the frontlines of the aftermarket selling parts and/or providing service, working at home was never an option and is not an option now, so why are you telling me this?”
Well, maybe, just maybe, strategic plans and new ideas to help support and improve your business and make you more competitive, will get the attention they need and will get to you faster.
Yes, perhaps I am feeling a little overly optimistic today, but I am enjoying normal. You should enjoy normal. I have missed normal and, as normal, I am sure it won’t last.