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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)

BREAKING: NINE AP BRANCHES MUST BE SOLD TO ‘PURCHASER APPROVED BY CMA’

BREAKING: NINE AP BRANCHES MUST BE SOLD TO ‘PURCHASER APPROVED BY CMA’

In a statement released by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), Euro Car Parts must now ‘sell a depot in each of these areas to a purchaser approved by CMA, so that customers don’t lose out’.

ECP bought most of the Andrew Page business in October 2016, after the latter went into administration.

A group of independent CMA panel members identified nine areas in England where the both companies were close competitors and where the merger could ‘significantly reduce competition’ for local customers.

The group did not consider that larger national or multi-regional customers would be adversely affected by the merger.

Professor Alasdair Smith, Inquiry Chair, said: “Following an in-depth investigation, we have found that this merger has the potential to drive up prices or reduce levels of service for customers in 9 local areas. That’s why we are requiring a depot in each area to be sold to a buyer approved by the CMA”.

“Outside of these areas, we did not find that the merger will further reduce competition compared to what would have happened if Euro Car Parts had not purchased Andrew Page”.

The nine affected areas are: Blackpool, Brighton, Gloucester, Liphook, Scunthorpe, Sunderland, Wakefield, Worthing and York. Swindon had also been identified during the provisional findings stage, but new evidence came to light which resulted in the group deciding that competition would not be affected in this area.

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BREAKING: ECP/ANDREW PAGE CMA FINAL REPORT PUBLISHED

BREAKING: ECP/ANDREW PAGE CMA FINAL REPORT PUBLISHED

Breaking news: CMA has published its final report on the ECP takeover of Andrew Page.

You can read the full report here

Statement from ECP“Euro Car Parts welcomes today’s decision by the Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) to give approval to its proposed acquisition of Andrew Page, subject to the divestment of nine branches*. 

Euro Car Parts bought most of the Andrew Page business in October 2016, after the company went into administration. Euro Car Parts supports the CMA’s conclusion that “The group did not consider that larger national or multi-regional customers would be adversely affected by the merger”. 

Sukhpal Singh, Chairman of LKQ UK & ROI, commented “We are genuinely thrilled the future of the Andrew Page business has been secured, which celebrates its UK centenary this year. We remain committed to assuring that the Andrew Page ‘brand’ continues to thrive and remains separate from Euro Car Parts, but will benefit from our UK infrastructure, inventory and the financial support from the LKQ Corporation. 

“We very much hope that customers of Andrew Page will continue to support the business, and we will partner with them to ensure that the company’s proposition continues to meet their current and future requirements in the way they have come to rely upon and cherish. 

“I would like to thank all Andrew Page colleagues for their professionalism, with total focus on serving their customers during a challenging time. We wish to reassure them that we are committed not just to retaining them but to investing in their long-term progression and development.” 

Martin Gray, CEO of Euro Car Parts, stated: “Euro Car Parts will continue to work with the CMA to bring this process to a conclusion and will update as appropriate.  We are delighted that approval has been clarified. This will provide welcome direction and confirmation for our customers, employees, suppliers and shareholders.” 

*The 9 branches are: Blackpool, Brighton, Gloucester, Liphook, Scunthorpe, Sunderland, Wakefield, Worthing and York. Swindon had also been identified during the provisional findings stage, but new evidence came to light which resulted in the group deciding that competition would not be affected in this area.”

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EQUIPAUTO 2017 UNDERWAY

EQUIPAUTO 2017 UNDERWAY

The biennial Equipauto exhibition is currently underway in Paris.

Official visitor figures are not available until after the show, but the organiser has indicated that it is pleased with the number of visitors, with a figure of 100,000 indicated on a pre-show communication.

Highlights of the fringe have included a number of discussions (in French) on the subjects of the connected car and the future of the aftermarket, while the show itself has played host to a number of presentations and launches from the likes of Hella, AAG France, Falken Tyres and Federal Mogul.

A Grand Prix D’Or was held to celebrate innovations in service and garage equipment. Bosch won trophies in three out of eight possible categories with awards also being taken by Hella France, ENV4, Mixplast and Robot-Wash.

Look out for a full report in November issue CAT.

 

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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)

QH NO LONGER DISTRIBUTED BY JP GROUP

QH NO LONGER DISTRIBUTED BY JP GROUP

QH Braking portfolio

DENMARK-based distributor JP Group will stop distributing Quinton Hazell brand products from 6th December 2017.

The move comes as QH brand owner Tetrosyl prepares to have its new distribution centre fully operational.

JP Group provided a relaunch platform for the QH brand since being appointed licensee for Scandinavia and Germany back in 2013. A statement on a Tetrosyl press release states: “It has now been agreed that in order to increase the current commendable distribution routes established by the JP Group that Tetrosyl Ltd will continue the development of these markets directly”.

JP Group are based in Viborg, Denmark and is best known for producing and distributing
League’s Southern Premier club and stadium sponsor.

Tetrosyl’s Distribution Centre is due to be fully operational in October 2017 and will combine the distribution of oils, chemicals, car care and now QH replacement parts all under one roof. This will enable all supplies of QH products within the territories to transfer to Tetrosyl as of the 6th December 2017.

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REMAINING LOYAL AS AN INDEPENDENT

REMAINING LOYAL AS AN INDEPENDENT

Dunlop family’s new accessory shop in Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire.

Smiles all around at new branch

Located in the town of Shettleston near Glasgow is Dunlops Auto Shop, a family-run retailer that has served garages in and around the local area for over 40 years.

In fact, the parts business goes right back to the 1960s when charismatic owner Fred Dunlop first established it, which was a one-windowed shop selling tuning parts for Minis, Big Bore exhausts and leather steering wheels at the time. “I first left school at 15 to go and work with my father”, said Fred, “My dad used to run motor factors when I was young so I have been in the motoring trade most of my life”.

14 years into service, the opportunity came up to move to a larger and more mdern shop on 1218 Shettleston Road where the branch continued bulking out its wares and delivery services to workshops for a number of years. The business eventually moved up the road to 1250 in 2003, where Fred bought the building outright and extended through to next door – which was demolished and rebuilt to expand the firm’s footprint. In more recent times, Fred is still involved, but son Stewart handles the day-to- day business.

BUSINESS EXPANSION
The search for a new and extra branch brought them to the town of Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire, proving a fitting spot logistically for business, as Stewart explains. “The main reason for opening the branch in Rutherglen was to service another area of Glasgow and Lanarkshire, where we thought was wide open and only covered by other factors’ delivery vans”, he continued. “In Glasgow, we have every factor covering all areas with van deliveries, but with our service and expertise, we have little competition in the area for having a branch there”.

Shop gondolas

Fred and Stewart officially opened the Rutherglen branch four months ago, housing five staff and six delivery vans as they make their daily runs to nearby towns; ensuring garages receive their parts on time. “We stick to the local area where there are many small workshops”, Stewart notes. “We also deliver to Eastkilbride and Hamilton. We are getting busier there but we always make sure we stick to an approximate 10 mile radius”. Aside from its efficient delivery services, Dunlops offers free wiper blade fittings and alternator battery tests for customers at both sites.

SHOP REVAMP
Prior to opening, the Rutherglen premises was previously a branch of another factor and in need of some TLC. This is when Fred and Stewart worked effortlessly to spruce up the shop before its grand reveal. Their hard work paid off with a new and modern retail operation sporting its blue, red and white livery across the shop floor and its fleet of vans. “The days of a dirty store or accessory shop is finished. Customers like being served in a nice environment”, Stewart replied. “As I have said often to friends I have known in the trade for years, the trade is not dying, in fact, it is far from it”.

Stewart notes that despite only being open a few months, business has taken off well after inking deals with various suppliers, including TMD Friction’s Mintex, FAI Automotive and retail stock from FPS, the latter helped with the store display and fit-out.

The new site is also home to a large trade counter with Bosch wiper blades and Laser Tools products hanging along the left wall while a range of oils and lubricants from Lucas and other well known brands occupy the right. Shelves are stacked in an orderly fashion with an eclectic range of car care products to choose from. Meanwhile, a number of cycles and alloy wheels are displayed in the shop window as a handy upsell to garages and DIY enthusiasts. “Any name you can think of in the component industry we’ve got it”, Fred remarked. “We’ve been with the GAU for over 10 years and they have been marvellous and very helpful with all the major suppliers supplying us. The rebates are really good too!”.

For now, the Dunlop family are taking some breathing space before commencing with their next project in the New Year. This will involve an additional extension on the Rutherglen site to bulk out its competitive offerings of braking, steering and suspension parts that are currently located in its Parts Department behind the tills. In addition, Stewart is on the lookout for a third branch. We can’t wait to see it.

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AUTOMATED FUTURE FOR FACTOR CHAIN

AUTOMATED FUTURE FOR FACTOR CHAIN

Large German factor Stahlgruber combines robotics and logistics in hub reboot. CAT contributor Alan Smithee gets the latest. 

Factor gets an upgrade

How about this for a warehouse upgrade? German motor factor Stahlgruber needed to expand and in typical fashion, bosses at the firm put their minds to achieve the most efficient solution possible.

What they came up with was a completely robotic 23,000 sq. ft extension, connected to the existing facility by a 60-metre bridge with a pallet conveyor. Working with warehouse automation firm TGW Logistics, the firm built the new new automatic ‘mini-load’ warehouse and the entire conveyor system for plastuc crates known as ‘totes’, roll containers and pallets, plus the storage and retrieval machines. TGW was responsible for the design and installation of the pallet conveyor and storage and retrieval equipment in the receiving area.

The new 26-metre-high automatic mini-load warehouse consists of two storage levels with nine aisles each, and two separate storage and retrieval levels serviced by machines. ‘Twister’ load handling devices transport the goods to and from 165,800 storage locations at rates of up to 118 movements per hour, with each unit identified by barcode and tracked on Stahlgruber’s computer system.

As part of the new facility, TGW built a new receiving terminal that makes the best of the received goods’ travel through the logistics centre. Modifications to the existing pallet handling system means suppliers now deliver all pallets pre-labelled with a barcode indicating the shipping unit.

On receipt in pallets or grid- boxes, items are routed either directly to the existing pallet warehouse over the bridge via conveyor; to eight picking stations for direct picking from pallet; or to 44 decanting workstations connected to the tote conveyor system for unpacking the pallet into the tote crates. A display at each decanting station informs the employees about the required number of items to put into a provided empty tote, which is then transported to the automatic mini-load storage warehouse.

The existing warehouse has also been redesigned with ‘ergonomic’ workstations for receiving, repacking, picking and shipping areas, with everything to hand and technology measuring weights etc in order to provide the best possible conditions for the employees. There is little need for employees to walk very far at all in fact, as the facility has four kilometers of conveyors whizzing totes and pallets wherever they need to go. Bosses reckon on employees picking 210 totes per hour. The same picking stations also pick from full pallet loads delivered directly from the receiving area via TGW pallet lifts and a double transfer car.

TGW also added a new shipping line to the shipping area and expanded the dispatch sorters. The changes to the twenty-year-old conveyor system in the shipping area increased performance significantly and dramatically reduced the noise emissions. The logistics centre now holds over 155,000 SKUs, with up to 100,000 orders leaving each day in a two-shift operation that provides customers with fast, accurate deliveries.

Even more surprising is that the upgrade, was completed in a year without having to shut the warehouse. “Work in this area was carried out at weekends, to avoid affecting the facility’s performance during the reconstruction phase,” explained TGW Project Manager Josef Eibel. “The coordination was challenging at times, but the team worked together perfectly and the high-tech upgrade for factor shipping area’s performance was doubled. The new system provides Stahlgruber with a supply chain that provides operational efficiencies as well as enhancing its high levels of customer service.”

Is this an exciting future, or are robots threatening the way we work? Why not email CAT and let us know your views.

MINI-LOAD SYSTEMS
‘Mini-Load’ systems, so-called because they use small crates called ‘totes’ in conjunction with a tall and fast robotic picking known as Automated Storage and Retrieval. When used with other systems mentioned, they can increase space utilisation by 90 percent, productivity by 90 percent and throughput up to 750 lines per hour. Who wouldn’t want that?

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DATE NIGHT: YOUR CHANCE TO BE ON A CALENDAR

PROMOTION ON BEHALF OF HELLA

HELLA – 2019 Workshop Calendar Competition

Chipping Warden, October 2017 HELLA is looking for workshops that have ‘something special’ to feature in the company’s 2019 “Experts At Work” calendar to celebrate the dedication and commitment that technicians make to the industry globally. 

HELLA, a world renowned manufacturer of automotive components and lighting solutions, is giving workshops the opportunity to enter the competition to show what makes their business extraordinary. Whether it is a team of excellent employees, working with exceptional cars or perhaps it’s in the most unusual location – HELLA wants to hear from you!

To enter, workshops simply need to send in a few photos that really showcase their premises or what makes it different, along with a short description of why they have got what it takes to be featured in the calendar.

The winners will receive a range of top quality prizes including an exclusive photo shoot by a professional photographer, as well as the international “Experts At Work” award from HELLA, with their pictures used in the calendar, which will be distributed worldwide. Last, but by no means least, the winners will also receive a fantastic package worth almost £500 for their workshops. 

The competition is underway, but closes on 6th November 2017, so don’t delay, apply today! For all the details about this exciting opportunity visit www.facebook.com/hella.deutschland and like the page. Alternatively you can also access https://www.hella-contest.com/en/

Posted in Garage News, Greg Whitaker's diaryComments (0)

CMA LATEST: FACTORS RESPONSES TO PROVISIONAL REPORT PUBLISHED

CMA LATEST: FACTORS RESPONSES TO PROVISIONAL REPORT PUBLISHED

Following the publication of a draft report relating to the takeover of Andrew Page by Euro Car Parts, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has received detailed responses by three motor factors. As expected ECP responded to the points raised in the report while the Parts Alliance and Motor Parts Direct also aired their views and discussed what requirements they might have for any branches that are being divested in documents published today (Weds, 11 October).

ECP agreed with the report’s conclusion, which stated that most of Andrew Page would have closed for good, had it not been for the takeover. However it disagreed with various parts of the report, including a paragraph about dealerships and specialist one-marque distributors, which the CMA acknowledges that it ‘entirely misstates ECP’s position with respect to competition from OEM and specialist suppliers’.

All the documents can be read here, under the cross-heading ‘Response hearing summaries’.

The deadline for the final report to be published is November 5.

 

Posted in Factor & Supplier News, Garage News, Latest News, News, special newsComments (1)

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