Distributor of the Year finalist: Harman HVS

The independent aftermarket isn’t an industry known for progressives.

But up in Ontario, forward-thinking business planning and an honest approach to customer service have served as the cornerstones of success at Harman Heavy Vehicle Specialists for decades.

Founded nearly 80 years ago as a general supply and jobber business, the company the heavy-duty aftermarket knows today as Harman HVS has done it all. It’s been a brake and wheel end specialist; light- and heavy-duty spring shop; full-scale machine shop and expansive auto parts distributor.

But while its product categories have changed, one area where the 2015 Truck Parts & Service Distributor of the Year finalist has never wavered has been its complete and unequivocal focus toward serving its customers.

“One thing we’ve always said is we’re never going to be the same company [over time],” says President Jay Johnston. “What we are now may be close to what we were six months ago, but we’re always going to change and evolve to better serve our customers.”

Those words are especially true in 2015, as Harman is less than a year removed from consolidating two of its branch locations into a new superstore in Cambridge, Ontario.

Designed to function as a PDC, retail facility, service department and corporate hub, Harman’s new superstore offers customers access to the complete breadth of products and services the company offers in the most convenient way possible.

It allows the company to best provide its customers everything they desire, says Ian Johnston, vice president of sales and marketing.

He says that’s one area where Harman has always been progressive, citing a culture that empowers all Harman employees to think outside of their typical responsibilities to help enhance customers’ experience.

Another area where Harman’s progressive nature shines through is its acceptance of technology.

“We became computerized when 90 percent of my peers didn’t know what a computer was,” says Jay. “We saw the benefits for our business and our customers.”

Jay says Harman also was an early adopter of VMI (vendor managed inventory) to improve the functionality and performance of Harman’s parts department.

“We are one of the few — we might be the only — distributor in Canada using VMI and we’ve been using it for 12 to 15 years,” Ian says. “I can’t believe other people haven’t gotten involved in that.”

Ian mentions the company has even turned to non-traditional resources when posting job opportunities. He says a recent delivery driver position garnered nearly 300 applicants on Kijiji — a Canadian online classifieds page.

Looking ahead, the Johnstons anticipate adapting more technology into their business every day.

“I really think technology is going to change the [aftermarket] landscape,” Ian says. “Some people say Amazon won’t happen in our business, but I think it’s already happening.

He adds, “We will do whatever it takes to continue to give our customers what they want [from us].”

Headquartered in Cambridge, Ontario, more information on Harman HVS can be found at www.harmanhvs.com.

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