Separate Shop for Accessories

SETTING UP a separate shop for parts and accessories has proven successful at the Monroe Truck Equipment shop in Monroe, Wisconsin.

Away from the truck equipment shop where mechanics mount dump bodies along with other heavy-duty bodies and equipment, MTE personnel carefully equip light-duty consumer trucks with fiberglass ground effects, apply custom dyes to interior vinyl, or install leather bucket seats.

While MTE is known for its work with commercial trucks, light truck accessories play a big part in overall company sales. Roughly 15% of sales come from truck accessories. MTE has been Durakon's top distributor four of the past five years. In 1997, the company sold approximately 18,000 Duraliner bedliners and 10,000 Draw-Tite hitches. Fiberglass caps and lids are another popular area. Sales of these two products totaled 5,000 last year.

In addition to selling products produced by outside companies, MTE manufactures and sells its own line of aluminum pickup caps. The shop assembled 3,000 last year.

"With so many sizes of pickups and window configurations that are possible with pickup caps, it would be difficult to stock every variety," says Rufenacht, vice-president of marketing and sales. "It's easier for us to build to order. We want to be able to deliver quickly, and assembling the caps ourselves from in-stock components lets us do that."

Working Together The components of the accessories building work together to provide what the customer considers important.

"The market demands fast turnaround," says Rufenacht. "Dealers look to see who has the product in stock and who can do the job quickly. Response time and service are critical. This involves much more than just doing the installation. It's the entire process-from the way we process the order to the speed that we deliver the completed truck."

Quick turnaround depends in part on having the product in stock. With an inventory in excess of $1 million, MTE typically has most accessories in stock. And by assembling its own aluminum caps, the company can meet customer specifications without having to inventory a wide range of configurations.

Freight also contributes to a company's ability to turn product quickly. The accessory warehouse is equipped with two loading docks for handling all shipping and receiving. MTE has contracted with four motor carriers that combine to move approximately 4,000 shipments annually.

Paint Department Helps MTE also reduces its delivery times by painting the fiberglass accessories it installs.

"We sell a lot of full-flare, full-length running boards," Rufenacht says. "We have to meet OEM quality audits. With these running boards right up against the factory paint, it's important to get an exact match."

Two paint booths in the accessories building offer factory finishes on the outside. The company also sprays vinyl dyes when necessary to match the customer's interior color.

PPG is MTE's main paint supplier because of the support it provides.

"PPG has assigned someone to work with us fulltime," Rufenacht says. "He is here in Monroe usually two days a week and then covers our outlying locations the remainder of the week."

Making the Sale The building that houses the accessories shop is only part of the operation. A parts and accessories showroom in MTE's main building in Monroe helps generate sales.

The 50 ft. x 120 ft. showroom is divided into two distinct areas. As customers walk through the door, they can view light truck accessories to their right or parts on their left. Top-selling parts include PTOs, hydraulic pumps, controls, and lights. The accessory side displays products such as running boards, bumpers, hitches, and pickup caps.

The showroom is effective for local customers, but most of the company's parts and accessory sales are shipped via UPS. MTE also has four delivery trucks that serve southern Wisconsin, northern Illinois, and eastern Iowa.

Generating those sales in outlying areas are four outside salesmen who sell only pickup accessories. MTE has a separate sales staff for truck equipment. The company also has a nine-member inside sales team to handle sales and coordinate installations. MTE employs 24 people in its pickup accessory installation department.

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