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How to Develop Relationships with Heavy-Duty Parts Manufacturers

Learn why it’s important to develop a good relationship with manufacturers, and how to go about doing so.

Episode 153: In recent months, the supply chain issues have caused significant challenges for repair shops, fleets, heavy-duty parts distributors. Even manufacturers have been impacted by the shortage of raw materials, all the way to the delivery of finished goods.

In this episode, we talk about the importance of building up a relationship with the manufacturers, and the steps to take to do so.

Would you like a free consulting session with Jamie Irvine? Visit HeavyDutyPartsReport.com/Consulting to learn more.

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  1. Having issues with your commercial equipment? You need ATA’s Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC). Check out TMC at tmc.trucking.org  
  2. Want to look up parts but don’t have a part number or the VIN? Download Diesel Parts for free on Desktop or on your Apple or Android device.
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Transcript of Episode:

Jamie Irvine:

You are listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And this is the show where you get expert advice about heavy-duty parts that keeps trucks and trailers on the road longer while lowering cost-per-mile.

In recent months, the supply chain issues have caused significant challenges for repair shops and fleets, as well as heavy-duty parts distributors. And also it has affected the manufacturers because the supply chain issues have really impacted everything from raw materials, all the way to the delivery of finished goods. One of the frequently asked questions that has come up repeatedly to us from listeners is how should an independent repair shop, a small repair shop or a fleet that does its own repairs, perhaps they’re not a very large fleet, they might only have a few dozen pieces of equipment in their fleet. How do they build a relationship with the manufacturers so they can get quality information about when products will be available and keep them up to date as to what’s going on. I wanted to address this issue because in the last, as I said in the last few months, these issues have risen to kind of a worst case scenario for many people.

And although these supply chain issues seem to be catching up a little bit, it’s really shone a light on the fact that we, as an industry are vulnerable. And right now maybe the pandemic and the full effect of the pandemic is easing. Maybe supply chains are starting to catch up, but what about the next event that disrupts the global supply chain? We already experienced how that’s going to have that negative impact on the entire industry. So I think a lot of people are thinking about this. I think the status quo in the trucking industry around how to secure our supply chain is something we need to examine and we need to challenge. And today I want to talk specifically about how members of the independent service channel and the independently owned smaller fleets can develop relationships with the heavy-duty parts manufacturers.

So that is what we’re going to talk about today. Now, in some of the recent data that I’ve seen, as much as 80% of repair shops and fleets that do repair have experienced disruption. And over 30% of them have experienced severe disruption. So this is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. And when people ask, how do they develop a relationship with the manufacturer? I think the reason that they’re asking that is because they want better access to data and they don’t want to be held in dark while they’re waiting for parts. What I’ve talked to a lot of fleets about, and what they keep talking to me about is maintaining visibility of parts. That’s the one lesson they’ve learned from all these disruptions that losing visibility of parts from the manufacturer through the distributor or dealer and to their location is absolutely essential in order for them to properly plan.

Now, as someone who was a sales account manager and worked for heavy-duty parts distribution companies in the past, I also worked for a manufacturer and was a national sales account manager. So I’ve been on both sides of the equation, when it comes to manufacturing and distributing parts. I know that manufacturers want to have a relationship with people who install and use their products. Now they’re concerned though, and admittedly, we have to talk about this for a minute. Manufacturers are always concerned about something called channel conflict. They don’t want to be perceived as going direct and violating relationships that they have with dealership groups and distributors, but they still need to have a relationship with the people who install their products, who use their products so they can understand what’s going on in the field in real-time. This has a huge benefit for manufacturers.

And so most manufacturers really want to work with their distribution channel to come out to your location, meet you, talk to you and build a relationship with you so that they can support you through their distribution channel, the dealer, or the independent distributer. Most manufacturers actually have a mandate to work with their distribution channel in this capacity. So why is it perhaps that you’ve never had a lot of manufacturers brought to your location? When I was a sales account manager, and this is something that persisted for years, there was a reluctance by a lot of sales account managers who work for dealers and distributors to actually bring the manufacturer reps out with them to their customers. Why that is? I don’t pretend to know because I built my whole sales career around working with manufacturers. It’s actually not that big of a stretch now for you to see why I run a show called The Heavy-Duty Parts Report that interviews manufacturers and gets information into your hands.

This is something that you need to ask for. If your sales account managers are not bringing manufacturing reps to your location regularly, you need to start asking them to do so. So if you’re buying parts locally from a dealer, if you’re buying parts locally from an independent aftermarket parts distribution company, I think of some of the, you know, big ones like HDA Truck Pride members, any one of those parts distribution companies, and you know who they are. You need to ask your sales account manager, say, I want to talk to this manufacturer, can you arrange to have them come to my location? If you do this and you ask directly, I believe you will be able to start having manufacturing reps come to your location and you can start to develop a relationship with them.

We’re gonna take a quick break. We’ll be right back.

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So before the break, we were talking about how fleets and independent repair shops need to ask their sales account managers, the people who sell them parts, ask them specifically to have manufacturers come to their location, to start to build a relationship with them.

Let me talk a little bit about why this is so important. So as we talked about at the beginning of this episode, the supply chain issues have had a severe impact on it, at least 30% of people polled, maybe more than that over the last few months. And over 80% have responded that it has had a negative impact on their business. When there is a supply shortage, you need to expand your supply network. And one of the best ways to do that is to have a preexisting relationship with the manufacturer. As I said, manufacturers are always concerned about channel conflict. So if one of the local distributors that they have in place cannot supply a specific part. If you have a relationship with that manufacturer, you can reach out to one of their reps and you can ask them for help in identifying where else in the country those parts might be.

And they can assist you in finding a distributor of theirs in another part of the country who perhaps has that product on the shelf. They can also give you real-time feedback about what’s happening at their manufacturing locations and when they expect product to be shipped. Now, they’re not gonna be able to tell you, Hey, we’re gonna be able to guarantee delivery to your door by this day. But for example if they’re telling you, Hey, look in two weeks, we’re going to have enough product in your region to satisfy all your needs. That’s a different strategy then that you have to develop than if they say to you, we’re 14 weeks out. So just by having that free-flowing communication up to the manufacturing level, it really can be beneficial in making decisions about how you move equipment around what decisions you make, how you source products and parts.

Now, I don’t pretend to think that you’re gonna be able to develop a relationship with every single manufacturer. I can tell you as a sales account manager, there were certain tier ones that we never saw them ever. And that was in 20 plus years of selling parts. And there were tier ones who were amazing, who you would think, wow, I can’t believe how much involvement they have at the local level. And there was lots of independent and tier two manufacturers that made aftermarket parts and they were fantastic. They were always hungry to get out into the field and help their distributions sell more of their products. So I think building the relationship, it can help you when you’re experiencing these supply chain issues. When you’re having these ups and down, it can help you to take care of your customers, or if you’re a fleet or an owner-operator, it can help you to make decisions about how to get your truck back on the road sooner.

And I think that there needs to be more free flow of information up and down all the way from manufacturing, right down to the people who are installing and using the actual parts. And so this is an area I think we can improve on. And I think your best option is to ask for your sales account managers to arrange this. And then they will hopefully respond with an affirmative, and they will go ahead and take care of that for you. And if you ever need help with any of this, you can also reach out to yours truly reach out to me. You can visit heavydutypartsreport.com and go to our contact page and reach out to me or find me on social that way.

If you need help getting connected with a manufacturer or getting access to good quality information, I can do my part to help you always happy to do that for all of the listeners of the heavy-duty parts report.

So this is an ongoing thing we’re gonna see where the supply chain issues take us. We’re gonna see what future threats there are that cause disruption to global supply chains, and we’re gonna see what the new normal will be once we get back to whatever that’s going to look like once we can quote, unquote, end the pandemic. Thank you for listening to this episode. And we’ll talk to you very soon.

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