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WINTER BLUES? GET READY FOR SPRING TIME

WINTER BLUES? GET READY FOR SPRING TIME

New apps and wider distribution make for a better future for spring stockists. CAT Ed Greg Whitaker reports. 

Heavy rollers

As this month’s topic is springs, we thought we’d get on the road to visit two different spring suppliers to find out what they do first hand.

CZECH FACTORY
Our first visit was all the way to the Czech Republic to see the European production facility of KYB. Situated outside the town of Pardubice, two plants produce both coil springs and dampers. Established in 2003, the plants enjoyed large extensions a few years ago, allowing the spring factory to push 2.2m coils springs through the goods out door every year. The capacity is set to rise as extensions built on both plants in the last few years give the company room to grow.

We had a long tour of the spring factory and were fascinated to see how great machines twist bar into springs, which are then tempered and shot-peened before being laser etched and electrostatically coated. On our visit, the products being produced were being made with taper wire, although side- loading (banana) springs and other designs are also produced in the facility. Shot- peening with the correct medium is apparently critical

in producing a strong spring. Units from factories that haven’t been through this process, or have been blasted with the wrong medium can be a third weaker than those that have been correctly produced.

KYB hasn’t been slacking in investing in new technology. While were were in Pardubice we learnt about a new app, which unusually is for garages to show to customers. The app, named Suspension Solutions, is split into two parts. Part one is to help the technician explain to the motorist what issues have been identified with their vehicle’s suspension and which components need to be replaced. It sends the driver a text message with links to video clips which explain the dangers and risks associated with worn shock absorbers, coil springs, mounting and protection components. Part two is for showing the completed repair which a garage has carried out on a customer’s vehicle. It can send a text message to the driver with a before and after photo of the work carried out.

While the app can be viewed on the customer’s phone, garages will also be sent a type of VR headset, which is simply
a frame in which a phone slots in to. The end result is astonishingly good, and an interesting way of involving the customer in the work.

YORKSHIRE HUB
Meanwhile, we were interested to visit Lesjofors’ new facility in Huddersfield. The firm was keen to get its logistics based from one site, and so constructed this site measuring 65,000 sq ft situated right near the motorway network.

On CAT, we love a good warehouse and were fascinated to see how the design allowed use of the full height of the building, which left room for future expansion. Both Kilen and Lesjofors brand springs are stocked in the warehouse (Kilen was acquired by the parent in 1996) and leaf springs, gas struts for boots and bonnets, as well as sports lowering packs
are stocked alongside the regular coil springs.

Slightly less centrally located, the firm has a UK factory in Cornwall. It produced road springs under the Kilen springs brand, while other production takes place in Sweden where both companies originated. The factory doesn’t just produce car springs – indeed, it will produce to order any size and application, ranging from the type of spring found inside a biro, right up to the giant coils found on a mining truck.

Lesjofors has also recently published a phone application. The app allows professional users to search its catalogue by vehicle, with an option to search for country-specific references. You will also be look up technical articles when they’ve been uploaded.

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MAINTAINING EMISSION STANDARDS

MAINTAINING EMISSION STANDARDS

Launch DPF Gun

With CO2 emissions on the rise, how are suppliers preparing workshops accordingly?

unless you have your head in the sand, you’ll notice that the tide has turned for emissions and for light diesels in particular. Last month, almost anything registered before 2005 was effectively banned from central London, thanks to the so-called Toxicity Charge. What’s more, these standards are only likely to get tougher, with a diesel emissions check at MOT among many options being mooted by those in power. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing: Everyone wants fresh air and there are a number of products to help clean up diesel engines.

One technology that has kept VMs in line with their objective is Exhaust Gas Temperature Sensors (EGTS), designed to protect components exposed to hot exhaust gases from overheating. Julian Goulding, UK Marketing Manager at Delphi elaborates, “Exhaust gas temperature sensors play a crucial part in modern vehicles. From Euro 5b, all diesel vehicles had to have EGTS, with each car having up to six sensors, they’ll become an increasingly important service item.” He adds that these parts can and do fail, which is hardly surprising given the hellish temperatures that they endure. However, an EGTS problem is often misdiagnosed.

TRAINING AND WEB PLATFORMS
To counter this, Goulding suggests workshops can enrol onto a number of training courses in order to repair these systems confidently. Based at its Warwick Centre, the parts maker hosts various programmes, with training that can also be accessed via its’ digital channels; which provides information on fitting sensors and diagnosing faults successfully. Helen Goldingay, UK Marketing and Communications Manager at Hella, concurs, stating that although most garages are up-to-speed with EGTS, attention on newer technology must be brought to the forefront. She expands, “Due to the growth in use of the micro hybrid (start-stop) systems, intelligent battery sensors, which play a crucial in the battery management function that are part and parcel of the system, are clearly a growth area, as are those directly connected with emission controls, like exhaust gas pressure and air quality sensors.

‘Technicians are aware of the growth in the number of sensors that modern vehicles require, but what is more important than actually knowing every sensor itself, is the ability to identify where a fault lies and have the equipment to reinstate the management system once the component has been changed.” To facilitate this, various web platforms have been launched by the company in recent years. This includes Tech World for technicians as well as Partner World for factors and others in the supply chain.

CLEANING AND TESTING

It’s all well and good being able to diagnose faults with these parts, however, carbon build-up on EGR valves, DPF’s and injectors can restrict sensors from detecting problems within the fuel and exhaust system. Carbon build- up or post combustion carbon as it’s otherwise known, is a result of vehicles running in conditions where they can’t reach their full temperature; resulting in heavy quantities of carbon being burnt.

Fortunately, the aftermarket isn’t starved of chemical products to help with this. Various potions that are poured in the fuel or in the crankcase, as well as several machines have come onto the market in recent years. One of the most recent entrants in this sector comes from diagnostic equipment supplier Launch UK. The company has recently launched a device called a DPF Gun as well as various pour-in chemical cleaning products. Richard Collyer, Product and Equipment Specialist at the firm, expands, “Once vehicles are full of carbon, the EGR valve can’t operate properly and can blow electronically. Once this occurs, it will need changing.”

Euro5 BM

FACING FEARS
Akin to this, Mark Blinston Commercial Director at UK manufacturer BM Catalysts, encourages independents to get involved in servicing DPFs themselves, instead of dismantling and sending them off to dealers, which he says can be a ‘costly move’ for the garage. However, there is still a ‘fear’ around this technology that he brings to light, “The general perception is that garages are worried that if they get it wrong, it will be expensive”, he continued, “There’s been a lot of noise about this in the news where the BBC recently done a report revealing a shocking number of vehicles being driven on roads that are not fitted with them. This is one reason why some garages aren’t getting involved.”

To face this fear head on, Blinston explains that the firm has produced some point- of-sale material, training sessions and technical information for technicians. This also goes along with a number of new offerings for its’ core lines of catalytic converters, pressure pipes and DPFs. He concluded, “We have invested in many resources and developments over the last year by adding 245 new part numbers in 2017 covering 30 million vehicles across Europe.”

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REBOXING & PRODUCT LIABILITY RISK

Could the last big taboo in the aftermarket land suppliers or retailers in legal trouble?

The act of putting one product in the carton of another is something that we all know happens throughout the aftermarket at all levels. There’s one product in particular that we know is packed in the UK in a dozen or more brand images – and no doubt there are others.

However, times are changing ever higher up the list of boardroom priorities for businesses across multiple sectors. Increased media attention on product safety incidents brings the potential for a badly managed crisis to kill off a brand entirely. Growing consumer awareness is translating into more civil claims and ever closer scrutiny by regulatory authorities in the wake of scandals such as ‘dieselgate’ and Grenfell Tower is partnered by dizzying fines where serious failings are identified.

In the light of all this it is critically important that all businesses involved in product supply chains understand their responsibilities and manage risk, regardless of where they stand in the product journey from factory to end user.

It’s interesting that retailers and others in the supply chain who do not actually make a product often regard themselves as immune from these issues and assume that their suppliers will be the target of claims or regulatory scrutiny if things go wrong. Unfortunately this is not often a safe assumption: many regulatory regimes place responsibilities not only on the manufacturer, but also on others in the supply chain, particularly (but not exclusively) those who place their brand on the product.

UNFIT FOR PURPOSE
The act of placing an unsafe consumer product on the market is an offence, regardless of whether or not a producer knew about a potential safety defect, and there is a requirement to notify the regulatory authorities promptly where a producer becomes aware that a product he has placed on the market – or supplied poses – risks to a consumer that are incompatible with the general safety requirement under the GPSR.

Many other regulations also extend obligations to businesses placing their own brand on products – including, amongst others, the Construction Products Regulations 2013, and the Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations 2016 – the latter imposing on manufacturers requirements regarding regulatory conformance and an obligation to take action in cases of non-conformity and notify authorities where there is a risk, with the definition of ‘manufacturer’ . [See panel for more detail].

Any business supplying articles for use at work will also be caught by the requirement under Section 6 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (‘HSWA’) to ensure that the article is designed and constructed that it will be safe and without risks to health at all times when being used by a person at work. Fines for breaches of the HSWA have recently been scaled up dramatically.

CIVIL LIABILITY
In addition to the regulatory regime, those placing their brand on products are potential targets of civil claims for damages under the Consumer Protection Act 1987 which implements the Product Liability Directive in the event of an injury or damage to personal property caused by a defect. For these purposes, a defective product is one which fails to meet the standards of safety which users are generally entitled to expect. Crucially, a failure to warn of non-obvious risks or the provision of inadequate instructions can render a product just as defective in the eyes of the law as a situation where a safety risk is presented by a design or manufacturing defect.

Liability for claims of this type is strict, meaning that no fault on the part of the own-brander is required for liability to arise. In practice, a potential claimant looking to recover damages following an injury is much more likely to target the business which placed its brand on the product than trouble itself with identifying the underlying manufacturer or component supplier. It is left to the business whose brand is applied to recover damages paid out through strict liability claims through its contracts with suppliers (assuming they don’t exclude the right to do so).

Potentially, resellers and distributors who deal directly with consumers could face further claims under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA). The CRA has the effect of implying terms into an agreement in favour of a consumer, meaning, for example, that goods sold must be fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality. These terms cannot be excluded. Under the CRA, a consumer can enforce these terms and subsequently is provided a series of remedies, including the right to reject, or the right to have goods repaired or replaced.

Resellers and distributors could also be hit with claims in negligence when failing to exercise reasonable care and skill in the course of their business. Claims in contract may also follow, although these will turn on the specific contractual terms in place in each circumstance.

MANAGING RISK
It’s clear that there are numerous routes by which businesses branding products as their own may expose themselves to regulatory investigation and prosecution of civil claims.

It is essential that any business in this position addresses its mind to the management of these risks. There are a number of practical steps that businesses can take.

Firstly, steps should be taken to ensure that allocation of risk is given proper consideration when entering into agreements with manufacturers. This may allow the business to pursue the manufacturer through a contractual claim. Particular attention should be paid to warranties and indemnities, and to the responsibility for different aspects of the product specification.

Next, audit rights should be included in supply agreements so that the retailer (own brander) has a means of verifying the quality and robustness of manufacturing and design processes, for example by inspecting manufacturing processes or by paper-based audit.

Traceability is crucial, in terms of managing product safety crises. By pinning down manufacturing dates/times/batch numbers, the scale of any recall is reduced and affected products can be recovered quickly.

Lastly, the potential for a product safety issue to cascade into a major reputational crisis is real in the age of globalised social media, and the speed with which events can move means that advance planning for such situations is crucial. Any business selling products under its own brand should prioritise the creation of a crisis management plan. This should address, amongst other matters, how communications with customers and regulators will be handled, management of press communications, risk assessment and decision making processes and logistical aspects of recovering and replacing affected product in the market.

There are a number of key issues that need management and it should be emphasised that the law in this area is highly specific to individual product types and sectors. Retailers and others considering own- branding are well advised to obtain guidance from specialists to understand the risks and ensure that they take appropriate steps to manage them.

Those importing products into the EU should be particularly alert to the fact that, even if their branding is not applied, they may be treated as a producer and assume responsibilities and liabilities as a first importer.

The commercial benefits of own-branding are often compelling, but businesses entering this area should do so with their eyes open, understanding that by placing their name on a product they may be substantially increasing the legal and reputational risks which they bear.

YOUR NAME, YOUR RISK
Let’s take an example. Most products intended for or likely to be used by consumers (i.e. including those which might be targeted primarily at professionals but which consumers may buy too) fall within the scope of the General Product Safety Regulations 2005 (GPSR) which implements the EU General Product Safety Directive. These regulations place a strict and onerous obligation on ‘producers’ to ensure that the product is ‘safe’ – meaning that under normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use it presents either no risk or only the minimum risk compatible with the product’s use.

Critically, For the purposes of the GPSR, a producer is any person who manufactures a product, or a person who presents himself as the manufacturer “by affixing to the product his name, trademark or other distinctive mark”. This distinction means the obligations placed on producers are also applicable to retailers, merchants and distributors in circumstances where they place their own brand on the product.

From the perspective of consumers and regulators, of course, this makes perfect sense: if a business sells a product as its own, it should be seen to be taking responsibility for the safety of that product. However the rule continues to catch out businesses who are attracted to the idea of a product being associated with their brand, but do not appreciate the responsibilities which come with such a move. The effect of this is that retailers and merchants applying their own brand to products need to ensure that they can be satisfied with the safety of those products. This means not only that they are designed and manufactured in accordance with technical requirements and industry standards, but also, for example, that adequate warnings and instructions for use are provided.

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AVOIDING THE BATTERY BLUES THIS WINTER

AVOIDING THE BATTERY BLUES THIS WINTER

As the season of flat batteries creeps in, how are suppliers preparing garages this winter? CAT Reporter Daniel Moore finds out.

Battery labelling at Yuasa factory

Like all of the aftermarket, we wait in joyful expectation of a foggy and icy winter, but how are battery companies preparing for the oncoming season?

MARKETING CAMPAIGNS
The idea is of course to recommend a replacement before it fails to start the car, thus eliminating some of the seasonal peaks and troughs in battery sales.

Trying to achieve a similar theory but with a slightly different end goal in mind, Swedish battery charger firm CTEK has launched a campaign to encourage motorists to prolong the life of the battery by regularly giving it a maintenance charge (by using one of the firm’s switching ‘smart’ chargers of course). A new consumer product called ‘Time to Go’ has removed most of the process indicators on the front panel, instead simply telling the motorist how long it will be until the battery is charged. The product ties in with a Bluetooth dongle and smartphone app called ‘battery sense’, that gives the motorist real-time info about the state of health of their batteries – this could be particularly useful on vehicles that are rarely used over the winter such as classic cars or motorhomes. Sten Hammargren, Consumer Business Unit Manager at CTEK, said “It’s a reflection of the demands that today’s consumer has for household tools and accessories that can keep them in the picture – we’ve seen it with other household goods such as washing machines and tumble dryers and now you can have this type of information from your battery charger.”

TESTING TIMES
Of course most consumers will prefer the garage to check the state of health of their battery and Bosch Car Service member garage Spiros Motors, is one workshop that has followed suit by carrying out free of charge battery checks on every vehicle it sees. Dinos Christoforou, Master Technician at Spiros Motors, expands: “Every single service for any vehicle coming in, it’s one of the main checks that we do”, highlighting the tools used for the job, he said, “We use Bosch Bat121 Electronic Tester that measures the amperage of the battery. notifies us of how much amperage is in the battery before it needs to be charged up”, adding that a ticket print out is then issued from the machine. You might ask what the point of a printout is if the machine has it on the display, well, this information is then relayed back to the customer, complete with the printout as proof that the check has been carried out as described and notifying them of the steps taken before receiving the keys back to their vehicle.

To avoid breakdowns, Steve Hudson, Head of Business Development at Behr Hella Services, says garages should consistently advise customers to maintain their battery all year around no matter how much or little the vehicle is used. “Battery related issues remain the most common cause of breakdown, whatever the season, battery health should be a priority”, notes Hudson. “Technicians should be recommending that customers that use their vehicles infrequently or make only short journeys, should charge the battery on a regular basis, which will substantially reduce the risk of electrical related breakdown”. Lee Quinney, Country Manager for Banner Batteries GB, echoes Hudson’s sentiment suggesting ongoing training should be a number one priority of any garage, particularly with the eclectic range battery technologies flooding the market. “Giving the garages the training and support that is needed has never been more important, particularly as specifying the wrong start-stop battery for a vehicle can have serious consequences”, he replied.

BATTERY LOOK-UP TOOLS
When the time for battery replacement comes, a number of manufacturers have introduced online applications allowing workshops, suppliers and the like to source their models easily. Ecobat Technologies (formerly Manbat) is a prime example with its EBT Battery Finder that has helped extend its distribution network to many independents nationwide. “Users simply need to enter the registration number of the vehicle in the search box and the site will use a sophisticated VRM database to locate the correct car and provide access to its vehicle- specific details”, notes Paul Payne, Sales Director at Ecobat Technologies. “This information naturally includes the exact specification of the battery for which it is designed, and therefore provides an absolute assurance the battery is the precise replacement the VM has specified for that model”.

With the extensive amount of gadgets and promotions on offer, workshops and retailers can be rest assured that by investing in some of these wares and services will enable them to avoid those battery blues this winter while picking up some extra revenue along the way.

CHARGING UP FOR THE FUTURE
While technology in vehicles becomes increasingly complex, we were interested to find out how this could impact the battery market in the years to come. Although we have touched on the aforementioned start-stop technology, it is the now and future as battery maker DBS Energy’s MD Henry James, points out, “The market in automotive batteries is moving towards ‘All Electric’, but the current future is in stop-start technology, which is having a positive outcome on sales of AGM batteries due to larger amounts of stop-start cars being on our roads”, he said. “There has already been a huge swing to sealed maintenance free flooded batteries also, which has already started to take place in the commercial vehicle sector too.”

Ecobat’s Sales Director Paul Payne concurs and expands. “In the short to medium term, the replacement market will remain dominated by the 12-volt battery. Clearly AGM sales will increase and [traditional] batteries gradually fall back, but any significant growth outside this core sector, is still several years in the future.”

Yuasa’s James Douglas says before investing in future wares, workshops must first identify and understand the different setups for each model on the market, something that is still a little unclear among some garages. He said, “The key issues is there hasn’t been a massive volume of start-stop cars going through garages needing their battery replaced, it’s only now that it’s beginning to increase. We are still pushing that message and explaining to garages that it’s a completely different setup. If a car has EFB battery then it needs to be replaced with EFB and likewise with AGM as opposed to a conventional one.”

Whatever the weather, it looks like there is still good business in battery services for a while yet.

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THE ‘DISRUPTIVE FORCES’ OF THE NEAR FUTURE

THE ‘DISRUPTIVE FORCES’ OF THE NEAR FUTURE

A senior figure at Delphi explains some of the change to vehicles and how this could affect the aftermarket.

Unless you’ve been living under one of Ned Ludd’s stocking frames for the last decade, you can’t have missed all the brough-ha- ha about the connected car. Trade bodies talk about the issues endlessly and the topics are often brought up in discussions in Europe.

However, the people that discuss the why’s and wherefores are rarely the people who are actually developing the systems. As a result, there are often crucial points that are misunderstood. To counter this, we had a conversation with David Paja, Senior Vice President and President, Electronics & Safety at Delphi, who states that there are are three obstacles (or ‘megatrends’ as he calls them) that need to be addressed before the sort of connectivity that VMs and governments are asking for can be achieved.

BIG DATA
The first huge problem is the sheer volume of data that is captured by next-generation vehicles’ sensors, cameras and radar. “If you think of a vehicle on the road today, the amount of data captured by the vehicle is in the order of several megabytes per second, but as we move towards fully autonomous vehicles, there could be many gigabytes per second that could be generated,” said Paja explaining that a gigabyte is equivalent to 1,024 megabytes.

“Not all of that data is usable, but when we think of the needs of moving it around the vehicle, the needs are first of all one gigabyte per second, moving up to ten gb per second”.

Paja explained that with that amount of data, the ‘current connectivity doesn’t scale’. “We will have to rethink all of the architecture” he said. The key in how to manage all of that information is ‘centralisation,’ – or in other words, upload it to the cloud. Not all of it will have any use or relevance, in fact Delphi says that only around five percent will be stored, although that is still going to be a heck of a lot of data.

This brings Paja to the next point: What to do with all of this info, and who would want it. The answer might surprise you, as the data thrown up by cars turns out to be extremely valuable to those who know what to do with it. “In the future, a lot of value is going to be put on the data,” he said. “A lot of analysts have attempted to size the value data services business. They talk about $750bn of potential value. We’ve been adding capabilities to extract the right data and move into a marketplace where it can be monetized. So we are in a good position to embrace this megatrend.”

There are lots of people who want the data – and not just staticians looking to build electronic road pricing models. All sorts of information that can be useful to marketing experts and insurance companies can be gleaned from the computers by those that know how to cut to the data required. To that end, suppliers are starting to do deals with software firms that offer ‘data solutions’: Delphi for example has acquired Dearborn-based data analytics firm, ControlTec. It has also started work with a ‘data broker’, a firm that buys raw data, structures it and offers it for sale.

Don’t think that all of this computing happens on remote cloud servers though. Indeed, your own vehicle will decide what info needs to go where, so some analytics must be done on board the vehicle. This requires a sharp rise in the size of the computers. “Traditionally a computing power increase tends to follow Moore’s Law, where the capacity doubles over time, but when you think about the computing power increase needed here, it is not a linear curve, but exponential,” explains Paja. “Today, a vehicle can have up to 50 ECUs and modules. With the connected car you could double that… well, that isn’t scalable, there isn’t room on the car for a start. It isn’t practical and would be too expensive so there has to be a significant consolidation.”

The plan from Delphi, and no doubt from other ECU suppliers is to reduce the number of ECUs, including the various body control modules from the current 50 to just three large computers. “Our view is that there only needs to be three, and this will enable savings in mass production,” he said, adding that consolidating the computers and redesigning the network bus accordingly will make affordable, true self- driving cars closer to becoming a real possibility.

SERVICE

So where does this brave new world of scaled data leave the aftermarket? Asked how the aftermarket will connect to the cars, he replied, “That’s a good question, and one I’m not sure I have the answer.” Pressed further, it seems that the OBD port will only be left on the car for as long as legislation actually requires it to be there, because diagnostics data can be streamed wirelessly. This goes back to the question of ‘access to data’. The dealership will be able to communicate with the car, potentially from anywhere as it is connected to the cloud, through a channel, but the connection obviously needs to be encrypted to keep out hackers and would-be car thieves. The problem for us in the aftermarket is to identify who has the ‘right’ to also have access to these secure channels and how this right is enshrined in European law.

However, if you can get on the network then the good news is that electronic fault- finding should be a bit easier, thanks to the huge reduction in the number of controllers and associated wiring, although Paja explains that monitoring live data comes with a caveat: “It certainly does (offer diagnostic advances) across multiple controllers but the amount of incoming data by orders of magnitude… Discriminating data becomes very important when you have such a large amount of it.” The network itself will be different to the CAN that garages have become used to. Some data (firing the injectors, triggering the airbags etc) obviously has priority over other functions, but the wiring won’t be as crude as simply having high – and low – speed network wiring.

MAJOR CHANGE
Whatever happens to vehicle’s wiring looms over the next few years, one thing is clear: It certainly won’t be business as usual, for either the VMs, supply chain OEMs like Delphi, or us in the aftermarket. “I don’t think there has been a situation in automotive history where there have been so many ‘disruptive forces’ happening at the same time,” said Paja. “Electrification will be a disruptive force and autonomy as well as data connectivity. The three things are happening at the same time. There are opportunities as it is pushing companies to adapt and adapt very fast.”

Let’s hope we all manage to adapt, before it’s too late.

DEBATE OVER ACCESS TO DATA
Who will, and who won’t have access to data on the next generation of vehicles is a topic that has been kicked around by the aftermarket and by people speaking on behalf of the VMs for ages, and now the discussion has reached the Commons. Transport Minister Lord Callanan said, “Risks of people hacking into the technology might be low, but we must make sure the public is protected. Whether we’re turning vehicles into wi-fi connected hotspots or equipping them with millions of lines of code to become fully automated, it is important that they are protected against cyber- attacks. That’s why it’s essential all parties involved in the manufacturing and supply chain are provided with a consistent set of guidelines that support this global industry.”

The IMI’s Steve Nash asks who actually has access to this info, which largely falls outside the scope of the new GDPR data protection act, as it relates to the vehicle and not the individual. “With the sector currently unregulated and no national standards in place, it’s not always possible to track the people who may have access to our personal information,” Nash said. “We are working hard to get government to address this area as well as the creation of systems at the manufacturing stage, so that motorists have confidence that they are not at risk.”

Mike Hawes, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Chief Exec commented: “A consistent set of guidelines is an important step towards ensuring the UK can be among the first – and safest – of international markets to grasp the benefits of this exciting new technology.”

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WIPING UP WITH BLADE PROMOTIONS

WIPING UP WITH BLADE PROMOTIONS

Offering free fitting is one way to boost blade sales

Staples of retail they might be, but wiper blades are no longer simple items with each supplier offering its own take on hybrid and beam designs. In terms of display, cars today might well have wiper blades of unequal length, which makes stocking twin packs something of a nightmare.However, thanks to various cunning clip designs, most wiper suppliers can now produce a short range of single packs that takes up perhaps just one panel of retail space. Of course, if you have only a small space dedicated to a core product, you had better make sure that the area works for you, both in terms of displaying the product and making it look as attractive as it can be. This is not just to make it look nice, but to make it clear for the motorist
to find the right product for their vehicle.

Kevin Singer of wiper maker Pylon, which has the licence for the Michelin brand in the UK said: “People like to be able to see the blade inside the packaging and it makes it easier for them to understand the product”.Sam Robinson, Brand Manager at Trico made the point that simple carton-style merchandising stands can be used to remind customers of wipers when they are at the counter. “If you can get them in front of the customer you remind them that they are not just summer products” he said.

PACKAGING
Noting that while consumer products are often packaged in small works of art that cost millions to develop, Randstad’s Martin Dowd makes the point that for trade customers, the packaging is irrelevant and just makes for extra and expensive trade waste. “Most of our product is in a cardboard box with our livery on and each blade just has a thin plastic bag. This takes up very little room and is environmentally safe” he says.

This is a point echoed by all of the people we spoke to: While there are still some kits on the market that have both wipers, the number of vehicles with unequal length blades mean that the size of stockholding would be vast even before you factor in slow-moving references. Single blades of course, don’t have that issue and the ability to have all the product you need in one box means that suppliers are eagerly persuading garages to once again hold stock. Being able to carry a small range that covers the market opens up opportunities that had fallen out of favour. Describing a ten- hook merchandise stand, Jerry Banks, a Product Manager at Federal Mogul’s Champion brand, said: “Although garages don’t sell wipers like they used to, you can more or less squeeze a stand like this in anywhere and fit quite a bit of product into a small space”.

Having garages return to stockholding wipers has obvious benefits for the supplier: Garages are more likely to offer a pair of wipers if a car needs them, even if it has been brought in for something else. “Absolutely, and with blades being a compulsory part of the MOT, as well as something that motorists can literally see if they are not clearing the screen, it is a massive opportunity” said Carlton Edmeade, a Manager at Tetrosyl-owned Bluecol.

FITTING OPTIONS
Adrian Syder, the co-owner of a pair of accessory shops around Wymondham in Norfolk favours offering free fitting, and has a bay designed for the purpose at one of the branches, but he only offers one premium brand of wiper. “We fit wiper blades and that works well because of the little bay outside the door. Even on a (rainy) day like today you can nip out and fit them” he said, adding that the motorist was always happy with the premium product and the higher margin justified free fitting.

Compact store display

However, this strategy is relatively unusual in retailing. Pylon’s Kevin Singer says that retailers will usually chose to offer different types, i.e conventional, beam and hybrid as well as different price points. “The range offered depends on the type of store and who their consumers are” he explained. “Some people only carry the traditional blade, while others only have the hybrid blade but most will carry both. It is always good to give consumers an option with a budget, and a brand with more features or more exclusive technology”.

There are other ways of bringing your wiping product to the attention of the motorist, or at least to the attention of the counter staff who will hopefully recommend it. Denso has signed a racing driver as a face of the brand who has given the product as much exposure as the manufacturer could wish for. “We’ve got a partnership with Rebecca Jackson, who has fitted hybrid wiper blades to her Mini race car” explains Marketing Manager Fatiha Laauich. “And I can tell you she is a good brand ambassador as her nickname is the ‘raining queen’ because she has performed at her best when it is raining! She has been very complimentary about our wiper blade and said the blades profile kept f lat on the screen, compared with the previous flatblade” she said.

CUSTOMER CAMPAIGNS
Promotions other than those that are run at the point of sale can also bring success. “We are driving the ‘light and sight’ campaign to check both wiper blades and bulbs” says Besime Kaya, a Product Manager at Bosch. Such campaigns urge the motorist to judge for themselves that (in the case of wipers) a blade should be replaced before it is a smearing, juddering, MOT- failing mess. To promote this, the company is set to launch a consumer website, separate from the main Bosch sites, to get the message across. There is also a new app to find the right products, and the packaging itself has QR codes which show would- be purchasers neat computer- generated fitting animations.

A traditional way of keeping retail and wholesalers onside is to offer incentives to sell a certain product. Often this is in the form of a token collection scheme that can be saved up to exchange for goods, or a number of promotional free items thrown in with each order over a certain size. However, the most innovative of the season so far is Trico, which has produced its own label beer, which it it dishes out to thirsty distributors. “I like beer and it seemed like a good idea!” said Sam Robinson. “Also, I wanted to try something we hadn’t done before, and I’ve got to say that it has had the best response from any press release that I’ve sent out”. The promotion has lead to a surge of interest in the firm’s social media presence. “It would certainly be a lot easier to sell beer than wiper blades, I’ve found that out” he joked.

PRIVATE LABEL
Selling products under a private label is a phenomenon that those in the aftermarket almost dare not speak its name, despite it being incredibly widespread. However, Randstad are happy to talk about how they can produce wipers, or rather have them produced, for private clients. “One of the biggest areas for growth for us is own label, people who want their own brand because we have made established relationships and have gone through the difficult learning curve that you have to go through to establish a good supplier at the right price” said Martin Dowd. Trico also produces product for other companies. “We’ve always been upfront about it and write ‘Engineered by Trico’ on the packaging” said Sam Robinson.

Posted in CAT Features, Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, News, Retailer News, WipersComments (0)

GETTING BACK ON TRACK

GETTING BACK ON TRACK

Fires and floods have wreaked havoc on some aftermarket businesses, but how have they fared since their ordeals?

Water recedes showing ruined stock

Disasters in the aftermarket are not uncommon. In fact, it can have a double- edged sword effect on business. Either, roll down the shutters for good or rebuild the company from scratch, coupled with numerous calls to insurance firms and the like to get back on track. Here are the tales of three of them:

STREETWIZE ACCESSORIES
Accessories and leisure brand Streetwize, knows this experience all too well where a flood caused by a burst riverbank left the team with no choice but to relocate into temporary office space a stones throw from its Radcliffe site that had been submerged underwater. The results were catastrophic for Streetwize Director Murray Silverman with the accident causing £500,000 worth of damage to stock (excluding plant and office furniture) while wrecking tonnes of paper work and computer systems in the process.

After notifying the insurance authorities, Silverman and his team had the troublesome task of keeping business afloat by informing customers of the situation and organising every stock item rescued from the flood. “It was a lot of pain and a lot grief”, recalls Silverman, “Customers are very sympathetic when it happens but you can’t turn on the tap and get the stock back. The first phone call from customers was, ‘we’re very sorry about the flood, how are you doing?’ The second call is a catch up asking when stock is coming back and by the third it’s, ‘we sympathise with you but we’re going to have to go elsewhere’, which we understood”.

Not wanting a repeat of previous events, Silverman snapped-up a large 100,000 sq ft. warehouse in the Trafford Park Industrial Estate, Manchester, incorporating all of its storage facilities under one roof. However, an efficient new space didn’t come without its complications. “After the flood it was up to the sales guys to win back all the orders that we’d lost”, said Silverman. “There was also the grief of losing staff where many employees couldn’t travel with us because it was a new area further away”; adding that Streetwize incurred many costs subsidising staff for travel and expenses to and from the new site.

Despite over a year of negotiations with insurers, the team managed to replenish all stock within six months of transitioning to their latest premises and as it stands, the business seems to have recovered well housing around 50 staff and growing its sub- brand Leisurewize that now has a strong foothold the European aftermarket. “Since we left our old site, one of the biggest areas has been in the leisure group where we picked up the caravan mover and two years on, we’ve gone from zero to number two in the UK and ranked high as one of the leading brands in Europe”, Silverman added. “We might have had a struggle in the last place but this has contemplated that”.

LMA
Similarly, in June last year, aerosol maker LMA, which cans many aftermarket brands, fell victim to a fire that caused hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage at its site on the Pocklington Industrial Estate, East Yorkshire. Fortunately, nobody was injured and no production machinery was destroyed, meaning, the factory could resume its normal operations the very next day as it began the tiresome process of recovering its wares from the fire. However, LMA owner Fraser Todd notes that if it wasn’t for their suppliers’ support, the future of the business could have taken a turn for the worst. “Due to the amount of stock we lost, it was a couple of months before we could be back to running all of the thousands of product varieties which we manufacture”. Todd continued. “We received a lot of help from suppliers to get our stock levels back to where we need them. In the end, we appointed our own loss adjusters, so we could manage the recovery while they argued with our insurer. However, had we not been as established as we are, the efforts of our insurance company would have ensured that as a business we collapsed”.

LMA after the warehouse fire

14 months on, Todd says the company is still fighting tooth and nail with insurers over final payments for some capital items such as forklift trucks and racking. Although the dispute is still ongoing, some positives have emerged from the ordeal. For instance, a new 8,000 sq ft purpose built factory has been created on top of the old site, combining its previous two units into one, complemented with a more robust design. Todd elaborated. “Because of changes in building regulations since our previous warehouse was built, plus some specific planning demands, we couldn’t build exactly what we had before. So we’ve built something which is designed to cope and withstand a fire more effectively and allow us to grow and become better at what we do”. He adds that the new layout has improved its logistical operations making stock and picking processes more efficient.

J S AUTOS
Family- run garage J S Autos is currently undergoing a similar situation to LMA after a fire broke out and engulfed the building in flames. The accident took place down Empress Road, Southampton last April where 79 firefighters were called to tackle a blaze that had apparently been caused by ‘petrol welding’ from a repair business a few doors down, according to owner Jhalman Rai.

Unfortunately out of the three businesses involved, JS Autos took the brunt of it suffering from damaged windows, vehicles and the roof collapsing in on itself. ‘Shocked’ was definitely an understatement for Rai as he retold the story to the local press. “It’s 40 years of business down the drain”, he said. “It’s a family business and it happened so fast. Smoke started coming from it and then all of a sudden it just went up, flames everywhere and we had to get out.”

Nevertheless, this didn’t defeat the garage owner’s spirit and it was business as usual to get the company back off the ground. The workshop owner said his company is currently working from a temporary tyre depot not too far from the original building and is in the stage of ordering a new MOT bay to resume services for local customers. “We’re applying for an MOT station at the moment. At our original site we had two MOT bays but there are none available at our temporary one so we have had no choice but to farm out our MOT services”, Rai expands. “Once the site is cleared, we’re going to see what plans we can get and look into getting a quote. It’ll probably take around a year before planning and developing the new site”, adding that the garage is making the best of a bad situation by trying to keep customers happy and paying its bills as normal.

While the odds were against these aforementioned companies, they are living proof that having a clear structure and support system in place, will see businesses survive and thrive no matter what disaster is thrown at them.

SURVIVAL TIPS
To avoid any firms from going through a similar ordeal, our suppliers shared some expert advice to business owners in case such events should arise.

LMA’s Fraser Todd said, “Following on from our experience, we’d recommend you thoroughly check your insurance policy. Irrespective of what your broker tells you, don’t expect your insurer to help your recovery. Don’t think they’ll be honest and faithful”, he expands. “Most likely the insurance will appoint their loss adjustor who will argue about the cost of everything and the values you have insured to reduce the claim. They will be slow to pay and hold out to make you agree to lower payments”.

Streetwize Director Murray Silverman concurs and advises aftermarket firms to invest in strong and long-term working relationships to see them through those turbulent times. He said. “It’s very important to have the right people around you and it’s really work ethic and getting support from your suppliers. If it’s suppliers you’ve known for years they can help you, compared to ones that are new or don’t know much about your business”. Todd agrees and concluded. “Business works on relationships and provided you have good relationships with your customers and suppliers there’s no reason why you can’t survive what happened to us”.

Although it’s still early days for J S Autos, we are certain the independent will continue going from strength-to- strength as it continues its recovery process, post disaster.

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HANDLING DIESEL COMPONENTS

HANDLING DIESEL COMPONENTS

Injectors and related components need special care, but do garages appreciate this?

Diesel system components are a paradox. On one hand they survive for years if not decades in a harsh, high temperature and even higher pressure environment of an engine. On the other hand, when the parts are out of their clean, contamination-free safe zone the are immensely fragile and even the slightest knock or the tiniest contamination particle can render them useless.

CR Injector

It is interesting to note that the component manufacturers take getting injectors through the factory, to the garage and into the engine, extremely seriously. “Delphi’s common rail injectors are manufactured and packed in conditions of utmost cleanliness in our OE facilities. All outlets are fitted with protective caps and plugs and the injectors are sealed into VCI (Vapour Corrosion Inhibitor) bags. The bagged injectors are then packed into strong, durable cardboard cartons for delivery to distributors and end users” explains Gail Flint, UK Category Manager, Fuel Injection Systems, Delphi Product and Service Solutions. She adds that on fitting, garages are encouraged to vacuum (as opposed to blowing compressed air across the component) when fitting and that the old core should be returned packaged in the same way complete with end caps when being returned to the factor.

DEBATE
However, a thorny debate arises when it comes to remanufacturing that core. Arguments over what is a repair and what constitutes being a remanufactured item are as old as the industry, but in the days of high-tech electronics and ultra-sensitive precision parts the topic has never been more pertinent. Part of the problem, according to various remanufacturers is a lack of universal build specs from OEMs. Chris Paxman, MD of TT Automotive said: “There always has been companies who want to do the job properly, and others who want to get it working to a fashion and make a quick buck”. He adds that where there is official field repair information available from the OEM ‘most reputable diesel repair shops will be using this to remanufacture the unit’.

Graeme Stock, MD of Hirsche Automotive said a key difference between repairers and reconditioners is the way they’s approach each unit. “Repairers would solve the immediate fault, and if there were 10 racks the same, perhaps with different faults, they’d just repair that one challenge. What we do in R and D is we solve the issue across the board. Every time we produce it, we will strip the whole thing down and build it back up. You have to change the mentality, if you don’t do that, you aren’t a reconditioner, you are a repairer”.

PROGRAMME
The OEMs do have various diesel programmes, but some in the industry want this expanded and formalised. The one fundamental change [that we’d like to see] would be that the OEMs recognise the value of an approved diesel centre network that they promote the benefits of using the same, that they introduce new programmes quicker through this network and making sure that the component parts are competitively priced” said Ian Neill, Director, Diesel Systems at Carwood. “This would ensure that the approved networks who have made very significant investments in equipment and training would capture a major share of the available market before the non – genuine repairers got a foothold”. He adds that in his opinion the reason that this is not happening as a given is because it is in conflict with the OEMs own reman programmes.

Despite the bad headlines, there are as many diesel vehicles on the road as ever and while the parts are delicate and difficult to transport until fitted, there is no denying that a modern workshop cannot simply refuse to take diesel work on.

NO SHORTCUT FOR DIESEL PARTS

An important point to understand about diesel components is that there is no such thing as a cheap price- fighting brand on new components. On glow plugs, for example, there are only half a dozen companies that produce them, and all have various OE contracts. The reason for this, as outlined in the main text, is that all diesel components are highly precision engineered parts and even the slightest error in the length of a glow plug, for example, could result in the crown touching the piston which would result in significant engine damage. A year ago CAT visited the Hidria glow plug factory in Slovenia, and were surprised how few people were involved in the physical production, as the vast majority of operations are automated and in clean room conditions. As with other diesel system components, each product is coded for traceability and are subject to many tests before leaving the building, including a fast heat change test, plunging the plugs from a hot ambient temperature to -40° in a flash.

Hidria

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