Getting Parts News

WHAT PRODUCT CHANGES are providing parts departments with new profit opportunities? How can parts managers reduce inventory levels by identifying interchangeable parts for air brake systems? What is the latest on remanufactured parts?

These and other questions were addressed at the annual meeting of Utility Trailer dealers August 8-12 in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Meeting alongside dealer principals, parts managers for Utility dealers had the opportunity to hear the latest news from Utility Trailer Manufacturing personnel. Utility also offered a series of concurrent seminars conducted by some of the company's aftermarket parts suppliers. Following the seminars, parts managers could visit the presenters at leisure during the Aftermarket Trade Fair, a full-size exhibition featuring 10' × 10' exhibits of 70 companies.

Here are summaries of what several speakers said during the sessions:

The average truck dealer carries a limited supply of fifthwheel parts, a fact that provides trailer dealers with sales opportunities, says Larry Sanford, national sales manager for Consolidated Metco.

“Top plates may have become a commodity, but trailer dealers have a good opportunity to sell other fifthwheel parts,” Sanford told parts managers.

Slider plates and saddle assemblies are two examples of fifthwheel parts Sanford suggested stocking. One slider plate and a variety of saddle heights should be adequate, he said.

Two Options

ConMet offers Utility trailer dealers two options, including the same discount the company offers truck dealers. ConMet also offers a master distributor option for dealers buying (and selling) more product. The master distributor program offers a greater discount and, under certain conditions, waives the restocking charge for the items that the master distributor returns from the first order placed.

Pointing out that parts for ConMet's Simplex fifthwheels are not interchangeable with those of other manufacturers, David Jordan, trailer OEM account manager, summarized how the ConMet master distributor program offers reduced parts pricing and freight-free purchases for participating trailer dealers.

Rebuilding Profits

Craig Conner, national account manager for Haldex Brake Systems, reported on some of the cost savings of using its Like-Nu line rebuilt air-brake system components.

Haldex is set up to remanufacture valves produced by a variety of manufacturers, including Bendix, Midland, and Sealco. Valves are sorted, disassembled, cleaned, and inspected upon arrival at the company's Marion, North Carolina, facility. Individual parts are either reconditioned or replaced with new ones. Haldex has machining capabilities, enabling it to remachine cores as needed.

“Valves are reassembled just as they are on our new product assembly line,” Conner said. “We test them, and either they pass, or they don't. They are then painted to OEM specifications.”

He showed illustrations of the common brands of trailer relay valves and trailer spring-brake valves, then pointed to the similarities.

“Except for a couple of models, these are the same as those used on trailers,” Conner said in reference to the slide of common truck relay valves he was projecting. “Why not sell them?”

Conner also encouraged trailer dealers to consider selling other components of air brake systems — particularly air compressors. Among the manufacturers of air compressors are Bendix, Midland, Sealco, and Williams. Stocking levels need not be high, Conner said, because with some re-plumbing, these components are highly interchangeable.

Other parts Conner listed as interchangeable included the Midland and Bendix E-3 and E-6 foot valves, a variety of truck air dryers.

Core Issues

Conner also summarized his views on handling cores.

“You can make or lose a lot of money with cores,” he said. “You have to treat them carefully.”

He offered the following suggestions on how to handle cores:

  • Accept only those cores that are in good condition.

  • Handle them with the same care as you would handle a new part.

  • Inspect carefully for damaged ports, missing components, broken mounting ears, excessive corrosion, or accumulations of asphalt, concrete, or other matter that is difficult to remove.

  • If exchanging one manufacturer's product for a similar product built by another manufacturer, review the core acceptance manual to be sure if and how the manufacturer of the new product will accept the core.

  • Do not allow returns of damaged cores without charging the customer appropriately.

  • Do not accept copies (off-shore or knock-off) of products as cores.

Clutches have been added to the aftermarket parts program offered by ArvinMeritor, according to ArvinMeritor's Robin Stowe.

“Hydraulic brakes, Gabriel shock absorbers, and Timken bearings are all available to Utility dealers through our aftermarket parts program,” Stowe said. “The addition of clutches make it easier to make your prepaid freight level when you have such a broad product line.”

Stowe also presented news about the company's relined shoe program that took effect September 1. The program uses genuine ArvinMeritor lining and genuine ArvinMeritor cores.

ArvinMeritor offers a choice of grades to sell, including a Price Point shoe that has an aftermarket mid-grade lining. ArvinMeritor has chosen RPM as the company that will serve as its core consolidator. When a dealer has taken in a pallet load of cores, it can ship the cores to RPM. ArvinMeritor will pay the freight.

“Essentially, you gather up the cores and ship them when you are ready,” Stowe said.

Stowe also mentioned the company's X-30 brake drum ArvinMeritor got when it obtained Lucas Varity and Dayton Walther. The competitively priced drum has no weld seam on the casing. It is fully balanced with no weld weight, Stowe said.

Learning Lessons

Utility Trailer used a game to reinforce what virtually all of us know and what too few of us do.

Professional business training consultants conducted the session. Using a board game format, teams of people attempted to make their way through the desert and into the mountains to mine for gold. They then had to carry the gold back to base — without running out of food or water. Running out of supplies meant dying in the desert.

Some teams researched their journey before leaving, but most were quick to get started in order to be the first team to return.

“There is a gap between what we know and what we do,” said the representative of the consulting company that conducted the “Gold of the Desert Kings” game. “Most of the lessons are things we know, but they are things we don't always do. There is a good chance that the mistakes that were made in playing this game are the same mistakes that are made in the workplace.”

Her comments, of course, were made after the game was over — rather than before it started. Among the lessons that the game brought to the forefront:

  • Who's in control? We must choose between controlling our environment and having our environment control us. Most of the teams charged immediately into the desert. They cited a number of reasons for doing so, including deadlines, competitive pressures, peer pressure, fear of failure, and a desire to get going. Meanwhile, a few stayed behind, gathering all the information they needed to make the journey safely.

  • Do not fear the unknown. Find a way to make it known. Decisions, the game pointed out, may seem to be wise but can have devastating consequences when based on inadequate information.

  • Decisions made up front have the greatest impact on productivity. Take time to make good choices.

  • Value your resources — especially time, information, and people. Understand, value, and prioritize the resources you have before starting a project.

  • Plan for productivity, not activity. Productivity in the “Gold of the Desert Kings” game was the amount of time actually spent in the mountains mining gold. Activity was getting there and back. The winning teams maximized the amount of time they spent producing results.

  • Maximize, don't compromise. There is a big difference between playing to win (mining gold) and playing not to lose (running out of supplies while in the desert).

  • Know the goal. Before the game began, the moderator had the audience repeatedly state that the purpose was to mine as much gold as possible. Yet no one asked how much is possible. Goals should be specific, attainable, measurable, well communicated, and agreed upon.

  • Consensus is critical for team productivity. But unless the consensus is properly focused, it will lead to compromise and mediocrity.

“Utility invests in our dealers, not only in terms of price and product, but also in terms of improving their business and personal skills,” says Michael Resch, marketing manager for Utility's aftermarket parts division. “This seminar was put in place to provide value beyond the industry meeting standard to both our dealer representatives and supplier partners.”

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