Aftermarket Survival Discussed at Truck Parts Seminar

The 32nd annual Truck Parts Seminar, hosted by Truck Parts & Service magazine, was held last month in Deerfield, Ill., and featured discussion on market globalization, channel distribution issues and employee attraction and retention.

The event, themed “Aftermarket Survival Guide,” was attended by nearly 70 representatives from manufacturers, distributors, fleets and aftermarket marketing groups. The two-day event featured nine speakers over three sessions, each accompanied by roundtable discussions.

During one session, the increasing globalization of parts manufacturing and procurement “is here to stay,” according to speaker Don Reimondo, senior vice president of customer relationship management for the Affinia Group Inc.

Reimondo says globalization is less about counterfeit parts than low-cost parts and that customers look to manufacturers and distributors to “put quality parts in the box.” It is the services and support that accompany parts that will continue to differentiate suppliers, and that these need to be continued to be leveraged to stay competitive, he says.

Adds speaker Kurt Danielson, vice president, truck and bus tire marketing, Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire, “There’s always going to be somebody cheaper, it’s what you wrap around the product.”

Defining the Channels

The makeup of aftermarket distribution, according to speaker Todd Kindem, director of sales and marketing for ArvinMeritor’s Commercial Vehicle Aftermarket, is more complex than it was 15 years ago when it was a simple two-channel system with OEM dealers and warehouse distributors. “Today it’s more complex with marketing groups and automotive edge-ups, and WDs and OESs all want or have private label products,” he says.

He says the value of the distributor to its customers is dictated by the brands they distribute. He adds that manufacturers need to be equally focused on building their brands among end users and distributors by establishing their technical capabilities and expertise and supporting products through training and e-Commerce initiatives.

Michele Calbi, vice president of procurement and shop operation, Swift Transportation, says the key to getting a fleet’s parts business is “being able to rescue a fleet when they’re in trouble” by having the needed products on-hand.

The Next Generation

Brining new talent into the aftermarket was the focus of one session, and speaker Tim Nash, provost and COO, Northwood University, says helping employees understand the global nature of the business and their role in it could help the industry’s labor challenges.

Nash says companies can attract and retain employees by:
· Helping them understand they are part of a global economy;
· Cultivating an environment in which they never stop learning; and
· Never underestimating what they are capable of.

Chuck Udell, senior partner, Essential Action Design Group, adds that the aftermarket needs to devote more resources to employee development. He says, in general, companies devote about two percent of payroll toward employee development, while the aftermarket is estimated to spend just one-half percent.

Udell says companies need every employee to understand their impact on the organization’s profitability and that rather than job descriptions, “position results descriptions” are necessary.

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