Archive | Catalogue Guide

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.

Posted in Batteries, CAT Features, Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, NewsComments (0)

AFTERMARKET LIVES: VISIT TO NGK

Mark Hallam invites CAT up to NGK’s distribution hub in Hemel Hempstead.

Most workshops will know the NGK brand through its BoxClever scheme, where customers can trade in their empty lambda sensor boxes in exchange for reward points to spend on an array of gifts at the firm.

Besides this loyalty programme, the manufacturer has had a strong foothold in the aftermarket for many years; beginning its operations in Nagoya, Japan 81 years ago. Eventually, the firm expanded its footprint overseas by building spark plug factories around the world. Presently, the network totals 11 factories, four development sites and over 20 sales offices worldwide.

LOGISTICS
However, today’s visit brought us to its UK headquarters in Hemel Hempstead, which was previously located in Hendon (North West London) before relocating nearly two decades ago. “The transition of NGK’s UK HQ to Hemel Hempstead was due to the requirement for more space for a rapidly growing business”, said Mark Hallam, UK Marketing Manager at the firm. “The Hemel Hempstead site was purpose built in a location with transport links ensuring an efficient delivery service to our customers”, adding that the warehouse had previously been extended to stock its core ignition lines with plans in the pipeline to expand it even further due to company expansion.

The current premises houses 100 staff and a large warehouse space where parts are sourced from Japan and distributed to trade and supply chain customers across the country. The site contains a finance and marketing department as well as its sales office and OE division where a team of staff are employed to communicate directly with vehicle manufacturers. Hallam elaborated. “NGK work directly with all of the major VMs around the world”, he continued. “NGK Spark Plugs and lambda sensors are the world’s number one OE fitment”.

BRANDING
Despite the firm’s bread and butter being in in glow and spark plug sales, this is not the only part of the business. “NGK are more than just a spark plug company,” remarked Hallam. “We also sell glow plugs, lambda, NOx, EGT, MAF and MAP sensors as well as ignition coils and spark plug covers. Under our NTK brand we also operate a specialist Technical Ceramics division from Hemel Hempstead specialising in ceramic cutting tools and IC packages.”

Hemel Hempstead DC

To communicate its ‘more than spark plugs’ message to garages, the firm recently launched a range of aftermarket products under the NTK division with over 150 part numbers, including 87 Mass Air Flow (MAF) sensors and 69 Manifold Absolute Pressure (MAP) sensors that have been ‘well received’ so far. In addition, the company updated its logos to bring awareness to both businesses. “In 2016, NGK developed a new brand identity with two new logos. “All ignition related products come under ‘NGK’s Ignition Parts’ with all sensor products coming under ‘NTK Vehicle Electronics’”, noted Hallam.

STAFF RETENTION
Staff longevity has played a crucial role in business expansion with most employees possessing over 20 years experience The standard setup involves a team of reps that are sent out to different regions in the country to work closely with existing customers by developing and keeping their stock holdings competitive as well as scouting out new leads to grow the firm’s UK footprint. “The NGK sales representatives are an asset to the company offering our customers market leading sales, product and technical support across the UK”, said Hallam. He adds that staff loyalty has played a big contribution towards the receiving its A1 Motor Stores Award, which proudly sits behind a glass trophy cabinet in the foyer area.

Going into the autumn and winter months, the team at Hemel Hempstead will continue growing the UK base organically through customer retention while hammering home the message of NGK and its various subsidiary brands. Although there are some new developments on the cards, everything is being kept top secret until a big reveal at Automechanika Frankfurt next year.

Posted in Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, News, Out and About with CAT, Retailer News, Sensors, Spark PlugsComments (0)

STANDING OUT FROM THE COMPETITION

STANDING OUT FROM THE COMPETITION

James Bourn shows CAT around suspension firm Powerflex in Uxbridge, Hillingdon

You might be familiar with the Powerflex purple and yellow livery but did you know its portfolio of polyurethane bushes are produced here in the UK?

The line-up is popular as upgrades from OE parts on cars owned by enthusiasts. Powerflex Sales Director James Bourn explains that the crux of it comes down to the materials for its steel bushes, which he says are not used by many competitors. “We use premium quality materials such as stainless steel in a lot of our products whereas our competitors tend to use a lot of plated steel”, said Bourne. “We’re a UK manufacturer so all of our R&D is done here by us”, he said, adding that the supplier also develops bespoke technical products in line with its core suspension range.

FACTORY UNITS
We’re curious to see how these products are produced, so Bourne takes us to the CNC Factory, where most of the magic happens. The unit is home to many high-tech computer-controlled machining centres and other equipment used for geometry work, metal bending and test fittings; producing bushes, engine mounts and sleeves forged from aluminium and stainless steel. Once created, parts are then tried and tested before receiving the thumbs up.

Indeed, having all of its manufacturing operations in-house has sped up productivity and product turnaround by cutting out a third party who would normally carry out the nuts and bolts of the process. Bourne expands. “Doing this internally gives us greater control over lead times and quality rather than delegating to a third party. We can diagnose and fix problems quickly, likewise with lead times, order turnaround time is fast”.

The firm’s developments of polyurethane bushes and chassis systems in general has enabled it to triple its warehouse capacity by acquiring three extra units. Apart from the CNC Factory, the parts maker has in effect knocked three buildings into one; consisting of a large manufacturing space where bushes begin their journey on conveyor belts, before they are solidified and enter a cutting and fitting area to get rid of built-up material, post production.

BESPOKE SYSTEM
To keep track, a management system has been set up to notify sales staff and technicians of customer orders coming in and the parts required for each job. This can be accessed by factory workers through computer monitors, located at multiple assembly points around the premises. “Believe it or not everything is stock controlled”, said Bourn. “The system tells us what we’ve got to make, how many and by when”. In addition, the system has helped the manufacturer organise its stockroom efficiently; allowing staff to source the correct components without any grievances. This was evident on our tour with trays of suspension bushes, mounts, and sleeves labelled and stacked tidily on each aisle so workers can locate wares and send them out to dealers, post haste.

Bushes begin production in liquid form

To help customers distinguish the differences between products, the company launched its Black Series and Road Series a few years ago not only to highlight the key differences, but also allow trade customers to understand what requirements they’ll need for each one. Bourn elaborated: “For years, our parts were only fitted by people that wanted a performance edge to their car or if their car was being used in motorsport”.

“So what we’ve tried to is move away from that slightly not in terms of how we want the brand to be seen, but so we can establish that our parts are not just a replacement product but a performance and motorsport one. That’s why we launched our Road Series and Black Series – with the Black series targeting track cars while the Road Series is specifically designed for road vehicles” he noted.

PRACTICE AND LEGISLATION
The firm is a member of the Performance Automotive Aftermarket Association (PAAA), which will keep it abreast of any legislation changes that may or may not affect it in the near future. “The idea behind the PAAA is to give companies like ourselves strength in numbers, a greater voice and hopefully greater influence should there be any plans for legislation changes that could impact our business and the performance aftermarket as an industry”, said Bourn, concluding, “We’re going to keep working hard to make sure we’re developing new products and continuing to look after dealers; providing them with the best possible service whilst ensuring we continue to grow and progress as a business”.

Posted in Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, News, Out and About with CAT, Steering & SuspensionComments (0)

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)

PAGID AWARDS WORKSHOP WITH £10,000 UPGRADE

PAGID AWARDS WORKSHOP WITH £10,000 UPGRADE

PROMOTION ARTICLE ON BEHALF OF PAGID

Pagid, the UK’s biggest braking brand and part of TMD Friction, has awarded a UK workshop a £10,000 upgrade, through its Workshop Winners campaign, which took place this summer.

ABP Motorsport’s Chris Meredith entered the Workshop Winners competition after purchasing Pagid brake parts from his local Euro Car Parts. After over 12,500 entries, Chris was drawn as the grand prize winner.

Chris was presented with the cheque for £10,000 by Head of UK Sales for TMD Friction Nick Hayes and Euro Car Parts Marketing Director, Bill Stimson.

The cheque allows ABP Motorsport to choose from the biggest range and best workshop equipment from Euro Car Parts Workshop Solutions – with Pagid picking up the tab.

Chris Meredith, Managing Director of ABP Motorsport, commented:

“I’ve been purchasing Pagid for over six years now. They were the first to coat their brake discs to prevent corrosion when standing still. I admire the OE quality, availability and the premium packaging. Our customers appreciate the way they look too.

“Lots of our equipment here at ABP needs upgrading, especially our MOT bay. The money will help us to make the necessary improvements and will kick start our bigger plans to make substantial investments to benefit our team and loyal customers.”

There have been many more winners in the Workshop Winners campaign too, with instant wins including 18-piece pneumatic wind back toolsets, 10-piece pro brake toolsets, Workshop Winners t-shirts and A3 retro signs.

Sylvie Layec, Sales Director, IAM at TMD Friction, commented:

“Workshops across the UK are working tirelessly day in, day out to serve their customers. Through our Proud to Fit garages, we already reward hard-working mechanics, but this summer we wanted to go one step further.

“Through the £10,000 ABP Motorsport has won, we expect to see a significant impact that will reward the garage for all their hard work. We are looking forward to seeing the effect this prize will have and the upgrades they make.”

Pagid will continue to support and reward UK garages with further promotions throughout the year. Keep up to date by visiting pagid.com and signing up to the newsletter.

Posted in Braking, Featured Sidebar, Industry InsightComments (0)

GET YOUR THERMALS ON

GET YOUR THERMALS ON

Ceramic coating process in action.

Oxford-based Zircotec’s ceramic heat shielding technology was first developed for the nuclear industry during the 1970’s when the manufacturer was still part of the UK Atomic Energy Authority. But after a management-buyout in 2008, the terms and conditions of becoming a Limited corporation meant the firm would have to relocate from its nuclear license site in Harwell and that’s what the team did, setting up an independent operation at their new digs in Abingdon seven years ago.

One of the employees that assisted with this buyout was Zircotec MD Terry Graham, who was keen to talk about the the firm’s latest multi-cloured offering Performance Colours. “Many aftermarket firms purchase these, because if they’re spending large amounts of money on modifying a vehicle and adding fittings to engine compartments, the coating will protect those extra features that they’ve installed”. He adds that the robust design eliminates the need for exhaust wraps. Although these components look pleasing enough, it’s the thermal barrier protection that is why people buy it as exhaust surface temperatures are reduced by a third.

PRODUCTION
The first thing you need to know when entering the facility is that you’ll not find the team with brushes and pots of emulsion to hand. Instead, expect high tech machinery and designated workstations designed for the electrolysis process right up to inspection and distribution. To facilitate this, the warehouse incorporates a masking lab, four grit blasters as well as three spray booths and several baking ovens for those colour specifications to set before ending up in Zircotec branded packaging.

Our first checkpoint was the delivery room filled with tailpipes, turbochargers and manifolds sent in from workshops and OEMs. Once the order is logged, it enters the masking lab next door where parts are carefully marked-up on customer request. Explaining the reasons for this, Graham said. “Customers don’t want coatings on certain parts such as the slip joints or serial number. This is because the coating has a certain thickness (0.3mm to be exact) so if we applied it on these parts, they wouldn’t fit together properly”.

The component then enters a grit blaster machine to smoothen its surface before ending up in one of three plasma spray booths where a metallic-based bond coating is applied for secure adhesion between the ceramic and substrate. Two hours after the operation, the product re-enters the booth so the ceramic coating can be ‘welded’ on. “With intense processes and temperatures, people ask us if we ever damage the pipe, and the answer is that we don’t”, Graham replied. “We are in effect ‘welding’ liquid metal or ceramic that we’re firing to the pipe. Each particle welds itself in place but doesn’t damage the pipe” adding that the spray gun melts the ceramic particles at 10,000°c and twice the speed of sound, which would explain the screeching noise coming from the booths.

For its Carbon Composite and Performance White coatings, Graham notes that parts coming in for this service will receive a similar setup in order to provide thermal protection for glass fibre, plastics and composite materials through its Thermohold formulation. Of course, working under any of
these intense conditions means staff are kitted out in the correct clothing, eye and ear protection before the finished article receives its final checks.

BRANCHING OUT
A new test facility is currently in its mock-up stage and will be completed later this year. As for the Performance Colour Range, the team are scratching the imagination with new and vibrant colours to replace some current ones in order to keep the line fresh and competitive.

In addition to this, the business has taken on some more projects from OEMs and has objectives to develop its exhaust coating portfolio and distribution networks overseas. “Our aim is to start testing out coatings in different arrangements and getting further improvements to the performance of them” Graham said. “Quite often are aftermarket customers don’t buy on performance so I’d like to obtain some more data and relay it back to them. We do quite a lot of work for these companies but there is still much more to be had” he concluded.

Posted in Exhausts, Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, News, Out and About with CAT, Retailer NewsComments (0)

BLACK AND SILVER FUTURE

BLACK AND SILVER FUTURE

Belts, both timing and auxiliary, tends to be a relatively static market dominated by ContiTech, Dayco and Gates. However, all of these have released products with new technology in recent months.

Gates introduced a new version of its Micro-V auxiliary belt at the Birmingham show. While the firm doesn’t hide the fact that this is an aftermarket product, it is keen to stress that it uses the same EPDM rubber compounds in both OE and aftermarket products. The firm offers the belt in four variations, including a type for stop/start, another for stretch fit, a third called Unique Fit, which is described as being for ‘sensitive systems’ and a general purpose range that will work on 90 percent of the UK parc.

Dayco, meanwhile has introduced a new range of belts, known as ‘HK’. These newcomers feature a design of tooth lining fabric and weave that incorporates aramid fibres. This combination achieves high wear performance and greater adaptability to tooth geometry, which makes them effective for high-stress systems.

UNDER STRESS
These belts are now making their appearance in the aftermarket and are included in specific timing belt and water pump kit applications, with the HK suffix in their marking. However, kits for these new belts will only be available for references that are specified by the VMs to have them. Steve Carolan, Sales Manager for the firm said: “We only supply garages like for like what they take off. We could theoretically supply the [new] belt and it might give some improvement in performance because they have a higher load capacity, [but] we want to give garages exactly what the VMs buy”.

Making the most major change to its line-up is ContiTech. With the tagline ‘black has always been our colour, but now we’ve added silver’, the group has introduced timing chain kits. “Full-line distributor is the keyword here” says Dennis Roth, PM for the timing chain project. “We’re constantly reinventing ourselves with the aim of offering our customers with the complete range of power transmission components”.

The firm will initially offer a short range of 43 kits to cover fast moving applications. As might be expected from a modern kit, each box will contain the various guides and pulleys needed for the repair and will be supported by a five- year guarantee. As with ContiTech’s rivals, a series of training videos under the ‘Watch and Work’ banner will be put online to coincide with the products going onsale.

WET TECHNOLOGY
Timing chains have made a resurgence in recent years, but the death of the belt is greatly exaggerated. Dayco’s Steve Carolan said: “While the amount of engines with belts has dropped to something like 47 percent. I don’t see any significant change for many years – it will reduce but not a significant amount. We think the popularity of stop/start systems will increase the business for auxiliary belts.

Dayco HK belt release

Belt in oil – a technology which is now a decade old covers a ‘grey area’ where there is no clear advantage for the VM to use either conventional belt or chain according to Carolan. The firm produces kits for applications to use these system, and they remain strong sellers.

In the past, engine designers have experimented with deleting belts and chains altogether on OHC motors and trying gear-driven mechanisms. These have not been successful, but who knows what the future will bring?

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

MADE IN CHINA: THE PLUSSES AND THE PITFALLS

MADE IN CHINA: THE PLUSSES AND THE PITFALLS

Choosing where to site a factory is an issue that is as involved with peoples’ perceptions as it is with politics and cost

National brake pads

China is a country where it is cheap and easy to have products manufactured, but there are a number of things to consider if you want to get involved. “My view on producing in China is that it is very good, but if you allow local engineers to do it, they will do it their own way” said David Houlden, MD of National Autoparts. “The classic is if you give them a drawing and it will come back differently, because ‘it is easier’”.

Houlden is clear on a solution. “To overcome that you do it yourself. You have people out there on a very regular basis and keep those people in the factories. We employ a UK quality company to be out there and check stuff as well as our own engineers are there on a regular basis”.

He adds that the two factories that his company uses are owned in a joint venture with a local partner.

SKILL SET
When National took the decision to introduce pads, a new skill set was required. “Metal we understand, but for friction we had to take on someone for two and a half years” he said. “We didn’t know a lot about pads, so we employed a consultant who had OE experience, who is heavily involved in anything we do”.

However, manufacturing on the other side of the world is not without its problems. Even if the product quality is consistent, there is an issue of logistics to consider. Colin Smit, UK MD of Polish manufacturer Lumag, which sells the Breck light vehicle pad range in the UK said: “I wouldn’t want to place an order with five months worth of stock all the way from China”.

“From here (in Doncaster) we have a 98 percent pick rate and we can place a daily delivery on the factory if we want to. It only takes three days to get the stock from the factory” he said, adding that the warehouse had quite a high stockturn and there was no reason to tie stock, and therefore cash, up in inventory.

Producing in Europe is markedly more expensive, something Smit admits to being ‘a difficult sell’ to customers that are simply focused on price. “It’s a premium product, not a white- box product. We are targeting customers of premium brands”.

Meanwhile, some brake components are produced even closer home and are remanufactured in the UK.Brake Engineering has produced in Wales since it was founded in the 1980s. However, the days of needing to accrue a big stockpile of core for one reference before you begin are in the past. “Traditionally, a remanufacturer would stockpile individual references in cages until there is a large enough batch for it to remake” said Steve Willis, IAM General Manager at the firm’s parent company. Today, Willis says that this notion is obsolete. “If the car is on a ramp and needing a part, the garage isn’t going to wait for us to assemble a core pile, they will go somewhere else – so it is critical for us to service the need as soon as possible and Wrexham is all about making sure the highest service level is maintained” he said.

 

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

A POINT OF DIFFERENCE

A POINT OF DIFFERENCE

David Williams takes us on tour around Michelin Licensee Future Developments.

Stoke-on-Trent is known as the Potteries for its heritage in throwing all kinds of clay, from fine bone china to toilet pans. However, in recent years the city has become a logistics hub housing many distribution centres. A major player here is Future Developments – a manufacturer supplying car care products and aerosols to large retailers up and down the country.

18 months ago, the firm inked a deal with Michelin where it became an official licensee for the UK and Ireland. Dave Williams, Sales Director of the firm, explained: “We manufacture specifically for niche markets. We never had a brand before and Michelin came to mind because it was in local [Michelin has a niche tyre production facility in nearby Shelton] and they were keen to do it”. He continued. “We’re looking to create a brand over the next two to three years by bringing in and making products with a difference”.

With 700 products to manufacture, a large space and the essential amenities are required. While touring the site, Future Developments seems to have all the facilities to hand with a 7,000 sq ft site containing three shipping containers for raw materials and bottles, an aerosol storage plant and a production warehouse where over 10,000 Michelin-branded products are produced each day, before they’re tried and tested on site. Once approved and set to the required standards, products are boxed up and packaged for distribution.

PRODUCTS AND PROMOTIONS
Another well-used area is the mock-shop showroom, which has a plethora of retail products sporting the Michelin brand. Wheel trims, inspection lamps and breakdown kits were displayed on shelves next to the firm’s other wares such as insect repellents and stain removers for the household domestics market as well as graffiti removal – a regular purchase among city councils across the UK. Ray Bowles, Managing Director of Future Developments, said. “We distribute all the Michelin wiper blades as well as snow brushes, ice scrapers, snow shovels and wheel trims”, adding that the firm has expanded its wiper blade distribution overseas.

Williams mentions that retail customers can benefit from some handy upsell opportunities such as Michelin point of sale (POS) display stands. He adds. “Customers can purchase our promotion stands to upsell their products in store. Another example is our screenwash, which we’ve designed so it can interlock with other bottles for stacking in shops. From a retailer’s point of view, it looks presentable, doesn’t crush and is easier for stacking”. In addition, the team provide fitting videos and aftercare support to retailers and end users.

POINT OF DIFFERENCE
While designing things like formulas and bottles is an element of the business, it is not the only one. Williams highlights that the multicoloured triggers within the car care range are ‘unique’ selling points in themselves, whereby, each bottle has its own mechanism, designed to make application simpler for customers. He says. “We don’t just develop the product, we also develop the trigger. For example, we have developed a pre-compressed trigger which allows easier application and restricts any leaks onto fingers and hands during use”.

A similar example Bowles and Williams demonstrated was their AdBlue container. Although this formula can’t be altered, this didn’t stop the team from creating another application solution. “We can’t make AdBlue different from anybody else because it’s a standard product according to regulations”, said Williams. “However, we can differentiate the way it’s delivered. We have done this by creating a siphoned nozzle with 360° action, which can be used in different positions to fill into the car”.

PARTNERSHIP
Recently, a number of factor chains have expressed interest in the firm’s products. Williams expands. “We recently signed a deal with Euro Car Parts who are taking on the Michelin brand. They requested a couple of products including our new Screen Wash sachets and they’re also stocking Michelin’s Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS)”, adding that the firm’s wiper blades have also sparked interest. Bowles and Williams have also been in meetings with battery suppliers, factor buying groups and accessory store chains, any of whom could become potential supply partners in the near future.

The firm is now planning to extend its fleet of vans and silver range of glass, leather and wheel cleaners (to name a few) launched at Automechanika Birmingham this year. Whatever market they’re supplying, the team will continue bringing out products that will not only make sales for retailers, but more importantly, ‘make life easier’ and simpler for the end-user.

Posted in Accessories, Car Care, Cooling, Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, General, Lighting, News, Out and About with CAT, Retailer News, Styling, WipersComments (0)

SPOT-ON TESTING

SPOT-ON TESTING

One halogen bulb might look similar to another, but is there a real difference? We took a trip to Aachen to find out

Bulbs are checked at each stage of production

Anyone who has served time behind the counter of an accessory shop will tell you that bulbs will be a year-round staple of what they sell. Perhaps less clear to the vendors is the difference between them. There is a headlight bulb for every price point, with some halogen bulbs ranging between a couple of pounds up to around £30 for a top rated product.

However, the amount of light output from all bulbs has to be within a tolerance band of a certain percentage of each other, so how different can the bulbs be? We took a trip to Lumileds in Aachen, Germany to find out.

On our visit we met with Richard Armstrong, UK Country Manager for Philips Automotive and Juergen Melzer, a Consultant Engineer working for the firm.

One of the first things to address is the issue of ECE conformity markings. All headlamp bulbs sold in the UK and across Europe must conform and display the mark. “If the product doesn’t meet the standard, then the it must not be used” Melzer explained. “To get the product approved the maker needs to bring five samples to a test house to get the certificate for the conformity number from the authorities. If you own a factory, you need to declare that the product conforms”. Herein lies the problem, some suppliers, and even some well-known brands simply buy the product from various sources and the conformity, known as Regulation 37, is lost. One magazine test a couple of years back even found that a ‘matched pair’ of bulbs in a packet had been made by different producers.

TESTING
However, very little in bulb testing is subjective – and such discrepancies can be uncovered certainly in terms of testing the output and beam pattern of a halogen bulb is straightforward if you have access to the right equipment, and in this case the ‘right equipment’ is a light tunnel, more correctly called a goniophotometer, which reads the spatial distribution of light.

To demonstrate, the team show us into an internal room that is windowless by necessity. The room features a bank of headlamp clusters from different vehicles, aimed at a number of reference points over the on the far wall. “The standards specify a beam with a sharp, asymmetric cut off preventing significant amounts of light from being cast into the eyes of drivers of preceding or oncoming cars” explained Richard Armstrong. We then have a demo of Philips’ brand and known competitor bulbs, both halogen and Xenon. The meters clearly show that while the various products differ in the amounts of light produced and the colour of the light, the essential requirements of the beam and cutoff points are similar.

However, this isn’t the case when we are shown the results of some spurious bulbs. Although they bear the E-mark it was immediately obvious that the first we are shown (an H7) would be likely to dazzle a driver coming from the other direction as there was no clearly defined cut off. Apart from being a safety problem, such a headlamp would certainly fail an MOT.

A set of Xenon bulbs were similarly off-pattern, and such was the intensity of the beam that they were similarly likely to dazzle oncoming traffic.

While we are there, the team showed as an ‘explosion test’, which is just as alarming as it sounds. A pair of bulbs are switched on in a blastproof box. One is the Philips product and one is a competitor product. While the bulbs are still hot, cold water is sprayed on them. The competitor product shatters immediately, but the Philips- branded product remains intact, thanks to the properties of the quartz glass.

HIGH OUTPUT
An interesting point is the popularity of bulbs that offer increased output. These are upgrades keenly purchased by car enthusiasts and command a healthy premium over standard bulbs, which makes them popular for the retailer as well. However, some customers might not be aware that increased performance will result in a shorter life. “Sometimes the consumer doesn’t understand (that it has a shorter life) and sometimes the consumer believes that the product will have an all- round better performance, including a longer lifetime. If I could manage this, I’d be rich and wouldn’t need to work anymore” noted Melzer wryly.

He adds that such a product is referred to in Germany as an “Eierlegende Wollmilchsau” which literally means an animal that can lay eggs as well as produce milk and wool and is obviously impossible.

“We need to explain to people that if you bring more light to the road that the product will have a shorter lifetime. We can explain what we are doing to compensate this” said Melzer, saying that a number of points can further reduce the lifespan of a bulb. One is that some vehicles that have a voltage output 0.5v more than specified.

He adds that it is also important to identify what the customer wants from their bulb. If the motorist owns one of those Renaults that seem to require keyhole surgery to replace a lamp and it is driven mostly in town, then Melzer remarked that a product such as the long- life Eco Vision might be the most suitable. “You need to think about the bulb you’d reccomend that fits their needs. Of course, Racing Vision will give them more light, but I wouldn’t want to recommend a bulb that they wouldn’t be happy with. So it isn’t black and white” he said.

Final visual check

We round off our visit with a tour of the on-site production facilities. We visited the production line of an H7 bulb and saw the entire process from taking glass tubes (which are also produced locally using quartz crystal) through to the finished product, Along every sep of the production process, the components are tested, with around 20 production checks in total. This is completed with a final electronic test with a computer recording performance to ensure consistency, as well as a further visual inspection by a team of operators each equipped with a jeweler’s magnifying glass.

So to answer our original question, it seems that while one bulb will look much like another, the difference in performance can be very great indeed – and a good point to explain to customers who want to know the difference between one product and another.

Structure of the company

The current structure of the company that produces Philips automotive lighting needs some explaining.

Back in 2005, Philips took control of Lumileds. a San Jose- based producer of LEDs following previous joint ventures.

Ten years later, Philips took a decision to focus on its healthcare business, so it sold the LED and automotive lighting business and the newco would be called Lumileds and would continue to produce Philips-brand products under licence.

A deal struck with private equity firm Apollo Global Management, confirmed on July 7 of this year, saw the former take 79.9 percent of shares in Lumileds, while Philips retain the remainder.

Nonetheless, the products are made in the same factory as always and the only visible is the Lumileds sign above the gate.

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

Advertisement
  • What do connected cars have in store for the aftermarket?
  • Battery Store: What are suppliers planning this winter?
  • Suspension, spark plug and charger plants visited

more info

    • 'Electric vehicles will disrupt the aftermarket as we know it' Agree?

      View Results

      Loading ... Loading ...
    • Popular
    • Latest
    • Comments
    • Tags
    • Subscribe