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Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week (HDAW) 2024 Was Record Breaking

Don’t get behind in the industry; learn how changes in the industry are affecting your heavy-duty business and adopt strategies to stay competitive.

Episode 306:  This year, HDAW24 displayed people’s resilience and hope for the future despite ongoing supply chain disruptions and inflation struggles that leave us feeling uncertain.

This episode highlights upcoming changes in MEMA with Collin Shaw, engine rebuilding with Bill Mirth from IPD Parts, and product diversification with Blake Deavers from WAI Global. By staying informed and adaptable, businesses can effectively navigate challenges. Additionally, understanding the importance of using quality products and providing proper training for heavy-duty personnel are keys to keeping customers satisfied and maintaining competitiveness in the heavy-duty industry.

Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week (HDAW) 2024 Was Record Breaking. Don’t get behind in the industry; learn how changes in the industry are affecting your heavy-duty business and adopt strategies to stay competitive.


Sponsors of this Episode

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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 place where we have conversations that empower heavy-duty people. 

We attended the Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week in Grapevine, Texas, January 22nd to 25th, 2024. It was an amazing show. This is the time of year where the entire heavy-duty aftermarket gets together and talks about our industry. We come together to support each other, and it is also the show that really sets the tone for heavy duty aftermarket parts business for the entire year.

Now, over the next three weeks, we are going to share interviews that we conducted at the show. In this episode, we are going to talk about why if you are in the aftermarket parts and service side of the industry, you should be thinking about selling engine parts.

We’re going to talk to somebody who supplies engine parts and they’re going to explain why they think right now is the best time to be in that business. We’re also going to talk about rotating electrical. 

But before we get into that, I wanted to share my conversation with Collin Shaw from MEMA. Now, he gave us an overview of the state of the industry, and he also talked about why this year’s show was a record breaking event. Listen into my conversation with Collin Shaw from MEMA.

My guest today is Colin Shaw, the COO and CCVO of MEMA’s Original Equipment Supplier division. That is changing. We’ll talk about that a little later. Collin is over 15 years’ experience in heavy-duty and the automotive side of the business, and Collin is a past guest on The Heavy Duty Parts Report.

Now we are here at Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week, HDAW. This is the big show of the year for aftermarket and for parts. We’re so excited to be here and it’s really great to have you here in person at the booth. So Collin, welcome back to the show. 

Collin Shaw: 

Always happy to be here. 

Jamie Irvine: 

So I wanted to start off and talk to you a little bit just about the year that was 2023. So I remember last year at HDAW, there was a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for the year and a lot of the people I talked to after the show were having a great first half of 2023, the second half, not so much. Recap what you were seeing happening in the last couple quarters of ’23 and how it impacted the heavy-duty industry. 

Collin Shaw: 

Yeah, I think what happened in the last half is first everybody, it seemed like had a little bit of a hiccup. You had the trailer market, which was going very, very strong almost overnight, just kind of dried up.

The orders were going away. I think on the truck side, what we were hearing from people is the truck side was still actually pretty healthy. There was a lot of concern in the market for what was happening in California. A lot of the dealers didn’t know their allocation, so they didn’t know what was happening. So there was a lot of trepidation around those couple issues.

Then you had news like UPS, that labor negotiation was strenuous, what was happening there. Then you had the UAW and the big three, and while not associated to trucking, you then had Mack trucks and so you have all of the labor things happening in the market. 

So I think what happened is there was a lot of these compounding issues in the market and there was a lot of concern for what was going to be happening in ’24 that it really cascaded throughout a lot of industries, not just commercial vehicle, but there were a lot of industries that were affected.

And so now as we come into 2024, there’s everybody’s starting to digest what’s happening with labor because what happened I think on that side is going to now trickle down in the supplier industry. So there’s trying to digest, okay, how do we make sure we attract the right people?

There’s a lot of concern I think over the budgets and what we’re looking at for ’24, how do we make sure that we’re protected in case there’s a downturn? So maybe cutting some things out, which thankfully I think this show is showing that there’s still some optimism in the market being the biggest one ever, but everybody I think is just cautious because of all the things that happen really close at the end of the year, and then you walk into an election cycle.

Election cycles are always crazy. And this one, I think everybody’s anticipating to be the craziest one yet. So there’s just so many things that people are just a little tired and having been through all of these shocks in the system, what’s the next one and is the election cycle the next shock? And so people I think are just a little more cautious right now. 

Jamie Irvine: 

Well, and the other thing too is you start to hear a bit of a broken record from the economists for the last couple of years leading into the next year. We’re hearing, well, the first couple quarters we’ll see, and then after that it’s going to get better and it just hasn’t come to pass. So how are people looking at ’24, the suppliers they have to work with their distributors? How do we project what to do? 

Collin Shaw: 

Yeah, the economists, it feels like for the last couple of years have been saying, well, recession’s always a couple of quarters away. I personally and having talked to, in my position, a lot of different people, I don’t think we’re going to see a recession. What concerns me though is the health of the supply chain is not great.

There’s a lot of financial distress within suppliers, and it doesn’t matter if you’re automotive or commercial vehicle, the supply chain is stressed because they’ve come through Covid, they’re trying to meet demands in the supply chain, they’ve been making investments in the supply chain. You’ve got labor that you’re now trying to attract the right people that’s costing more.

And then what I think you’ll see are interest rates as people are looking at debt becoming mature now, that’s having an effect on budgets, and so there’s just a lot of compounding things that maybe not one at a time would hurt, but because of all of it happening at the same time, there is concern and the finances of the supplier industry is it’s stressed. 

Jamie Irvine: 

And cashflow is a real concern. I’ve talked to several people both on the supplier side and on the distributor side who have told me stories of their banks changing their credit limits, recalling loans, refinancing loans, and if you can’t qualify, all of a sudden you are on the hook for whatever that is. Maybe it’s a million dollar loan and you need to pay it in 45 days. These kinds of scenarios are not isolated with one person.

I’m seeing it from our consulting side of the business. We’re seeing it on supplier and distributor sides. I’m sure it’s also affecting fleets and service centers as well. Depending on how leveraged you are, you might be at real risk. So to your point, it’s not like the last five years were really smooth sailing. We’ve had just one thing after another. That makes a lot of sense. 

Collin Shaw: 

And on that side, the one positive thing is in our work in Washington DC with advocacy, there are opportunities out there for suppliers and people in the industry to get help. We just had a webinar with small business associations in three states, Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan. There are resources out there.

I just don’t think a lot of people know about it. And so if you are struggling and there are things out there, that’s where your trade associations can come to help.

Reach out to us, we have ways to help people, but I think people just don’t know that there are these resources out there. They’re not well marketed from either the states or municipalities or the federal government, but there are some things out there that actually can’t help. 

Jamie Irvine: 

That’s fantastic to know. So what we’ll do is we’ll put some links in the show notes so that people will be able to get to that information directly. So let’s talk a little bit about HDAW ’23. It was record breaking and of course because of covid the years before that, there was disruption, there was attendance because people couldn’t travel.

I know I missed one just simply because I got exposed to Covid right before I was supposed to come down. So ’23 was record breaking. What a show. I don’t know the numbers like you do, but ’24 feels pretty good. So where are we at right now? 

Collin Shaw: 

So this is the biggest one we’ve ever had. Everything is sold out. I just could not be more proud of the team that we have here. In my role, I have been a little bit removed from it this year, starting about September, but we have a phenomenal group of people to help put on their show that really work well together. I think we have over 330 exhibitors.

We have over 1600 individuals from the supplier community, over 800 people from the distributor community, and that’s by far the biggest we’ve ever had. I think we will eclipse the number of one-on-one meetings by about a hundred. I think we’re hosting around 1900 one-on-one meetings this year. 

Jamie Irvine: 


Collin Shaw: 

And the optimism is clearly palpable. This morning session with Chris Carter, the energy was fantastic. Our dialogue yesterday was one of the best ever, probably because I wasn’t that involved… 

Jamie Irvine: 

I don’t know about that. 

Collin Shaw: 

I was just up there talking and stuff. But really it goes to show that there’s still a lot of optimism and there’s people who want to be engaged in this. And I think what this goes to show is that there’s room for more, there’s appetite, and I think had we had the opportunity, we could have done more. 

Jamie Irvine: 

We haven’t hit the ceiling for sure. So I’ve heard you’re getting a promotion soon or your role is changing. Maybe that’s the right way of wording it. Tell me about the changes at MEMA, how the organization is really continuing to reposition itself to meet the needs of the trucking industry. 

Collin Shaw: 

So my role, I have been President of HDMA, which was the Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association. And then as we took our four divisions and created two more streamlined divisions, the Original Equipment and the Aftermarket, I was the Chief Commercial Vehicle Officer and the Chief Operating Officer of the Original Equipment group.

I am taking on the role of president of the original equipment group, and what that means is I have responsibility for all suppliers that supply to the original equipment market. Whether you supply to Daimler Trucks or Volvo or Ford or BMW or Honda, that’s my responsibility.

What that means is we actually have more resources across the board for our commercial vehicle because what we’ve done is we’ve said, alright, we have this pool of people in MEMA. Let’s spread that out and not be so focused on one market. So what you see here is more people from MEMA than ever that are attending the show this year. 

So there’s more help when it comes to the regular programs and things like that that we’re doing. We have more resources. So on the aftermarket side, we have more programming throughout the year, not just Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week. We have five webinars scheduled. We have our councils that people can take part on. On the original equipment side, we’re doing new things like our town hall.

We had a town hall with Volvo trucks. We can still continue to operate our business forum and sales executive group. So what it means for me is the ability to work through the entire organization to help bring more focus to the commercial vehicle market and what we’ve seen. So for example, our Volvo trucks Town Hall, 66% of the 250 people that attended that were not members of HDMA in the past. 

Jamie Irvine: 

Oh really? 

Collin Shaw: 

There is a huge demand and there are so many suppliers out there that work in both the markets that we just really weren’t able to engage with, and now we’ve really unlocked that and that’s what’s so exciting. 

Jamie Irvine: 

That’s fantastic. So for people who are listening, what’s the best way to get involved with the MEMA organization and to really contribute to what you’re doing? What should they be thinking about when they think MEMA? 

Collin Shaw: 

So what you see here at Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week is really just a very small part, and I think there are three really important ways to become involved. The first one is we have our councils and councils are peer groups that repeat over and over.

We do meetings twice or four times per year, and it’s a group that gets together, whether it be our sales executive group, we have a CEO group called the Heavy Duty Business Forum or our Advanced Technology Council. These are groups where they build a community, you build friends, we bring in speakers and we have meetings twice a year.

That’s one way to build a network to get a community is to join our councils. We have our events, so things like this. We have webinars throughout the year, go to our website. We have things, I think we hosted 270 events this last year, whether it be webinars, things like this, council meetings, there are always things coming up. So go to our website, check out the events.

The other thing is get engaged in Washington, DC. There is so much happening for the supplier community in Washington DC. Anne Wilson is our Senior Vice President of Advocacy. There are things like right to repair, which I know I shouldn’t talk about because I’m on the OE side now. That’s a big issue. We have all of the emission changes. 

Jamie Irvine: 

It’s not like we’re recording and telling the whole world about this. 

Collin Shaw: 

We have all the emission changes. We have changes to tax rules and R and D deductions, okay? There are so many things that need input from the supplier community to make sure that we advance our business interest as an industry that we need your involvement in Washington, DC.

So those are the three things. Our councils, our events, which are on our website and what we do in Washington, DC. Just reach out to myself. I’ve got a team of people, I can distribute that and we can make sure that you can get involved no matter what. 

Jamie Irvine: 

That’s fantastic. Well, if people want to check it out, we’ll put the links in the show notes, but definitely go over to mema.org. That’s the best place to start. This is where you get access to all of this information and we’ll put the links that Collin talked about in the show notes so that you can access them directly.

Collin, thanks so much for being back on the show. Despite a new role, I still think you’ll be another guest on the Heavy-Duty Parts Report again, won’t you? 

Collin Shaw: 

I will. Jamie, you’ve been such a fantastic supporter of me early on in my career. You invited me on your Heavy Duty Parts Report and no matter what, I’m always there for you. 

Jamie Irvine: 

Thank you. That was my discussion with Collin Shaw from MEMA. What a great conversation. He really gave us a lot to think about. We’re going to take a quick break to hear from our sponsors. We’ll be right back.

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We’re back from the break. Before the break, we talked to Collin Shaw from MEMA.

He did a great job of giving us an overview of what’s been happening in the industry and also updating us on why this year’s HDAW was another record breaking event. Next, in this episode, we’re going to talk about the importance of diversifying if you are in the aftermarket parts and service side of the business. But where should you diversify? One area is engine parts.

Now a lot of aftermarket companies don’t get involved in engine parts historically, but my guest says that right now is the best time for aftermarket parts and service companies to get in the engine parts business. IPD is an exhibitor at HDAW. They supply engine parts. And in my conversation with Bill Mirth, you’re going to learn why it’s the best time, what’s involved and how they support people who want to diversify into the engine parts business.

So my guest today is Bill Mirth. He’s the director of Business Development of the Americas at IPD. And Bill, you’ve been on the show before. You’re a good friend of the show. You’ve got a long history in commercial vehicles and the parts business, and so we’re really glad to have you back. Thank you for being here. 

Bill Mirth: 

Thank you. It’s good to be back. 

Jamie Irvine: 

So we get to talk engine parts today and what I wanted to start to focus in on is you work for an engine parts manufacturer and we’re moving into 2024 now. So what is changing in the world of engine rebuilding? The people who buy your kits and your parts and install them in engines and rebuild engines. 

Bill Mirth: 

Technology changes like the type of pistons and the type of materials being used. But as much as that changes, it also doesn’t change because I think the aftermarket has done a fantastic job of keeping up with what needs to happen with the technology of the new systems.

And we’re looking at now engines from 2010 that are now coming into the aftermarket 2012. And so as much as it changes, it doesn’t change except some of the older engines fall off and the new engines are coming in. And I think from an aftermarket perspective, IPD tries to stay up with staying current with the new engines that are coming into the market now. 

Jamie Irvine: 

So as engine platforms have evolved over time, obviously some of them fall out of service like you said. So what has your company done to respond to the newer engines that are now ready to be rebuilt? What have you done to position yourself to support your customers? 

Bill Mirth: 

Well, we go in to analyze the engine, analyze what the parts, what are they made of, any patents, any restrictions there, any new technologies, any subtleties in the design. And at IPD, we’re very, very good at analyzing the engine. We are engine people, so we know what we’re looking at and we manufacture own liners in our own pistons and gaskets and so forth.

So it’s not just a matter of sourcing, but we’re experts in the manufacturing of it. So we understand what has gone on in the design of those parts and we can duplicate that and bring an alternative to the marketplace and oftentimes even enhance the product because an OE perspective, they make it for a brand new engine. We in the aftermarket make it for the rebuilding of the engine.

So we can even improve on something that’s been in the field for 10 years and issues come up in surface as to what might not be working well in an engine that’s been running 10 years and then improve that and fix that issue. 

Jamie Irvine: 

What you’re really talking about is failure analysis, and that’s something that rebuilds get the benefit of seeing, okay, this was engineered this way, it got used in the field and now we’re starting to see the same failure points over and over again. And you can address that from a parts component perspective. 

Bill Mirth: 

Yes. And that’s where our innovations always come from the field talking to people that are building engines or selling the engine parts and they’re saying, you know what? The ISX is a perfect example that has a cast iron liner in a stop gap block.

So basically the liner is hanging free in the block and if there’s ever any sort of a failure, whether it’s parts related or operationally related or whatever it is, that piston starts banging around and it shatters a cast iron liner. And what you get often is a ventilator block, a hole through the block. And we looked at that after 10 years of operation and we said we can improve on that, we can make that better.

So we’ve come up with a chrome Molly design liner that’s strong enough to contain any sort of a failure without sacrificing performance or life or what have you, and fix a problem that’s inherent with that engine. And that’s the fun part about being in the rebuilding because when it comes down to it, we can make it better. 

Jamie Irvine: 

When it comes to the aftermarket side of the business, especially on the parts distribution side. I’ve worked for parts distributors where we were really good at friction material and spring brakes, and we did air components and commodities and mud flop hangers and mudflaps, but engines, it’s like, oh, engines, that’s scary. I don’t know if I want to get involved in that.

And there was always this reluctancy to kind of embrace the product category and really go after it. So what would you say to people who are in that position and how do you support your customers as they are endeavoring to maybe diversify into engines? 

Bill Mirth: 

Well, what I would say right now to anybody that’s in the independent truck part side of it, quit sending your customers to the dealers. They have everything that you have and you’re sending ’em down the street to get an engine part because you’re afraid to supply it. Independent distributors have always been entrepreneurial. They’ve always found a way.

They’ve always learned. They’ve learned so much of the truck, why not engine? And now is probably the best time to be in the engine parts business due to the age of trucks, the cost of getting into the new equipment, the newer engines that are coming out today are not even being rebuilt.

They’re being thrown out and putting in an older engine. I mean, there’s so many aspects of the market today that line up that this is the best time to be in the aftermarket engine parts business. 

And people are looking for sources, they’re looking for answers. They’re looking for better service than what they’re getting in other parts. And so it’s time for them to really step up and get over this fear because the aftermarket is very well qualified. They know what they’re doing, they enhance the products, they can improve on things.

They have the knowledge base and they shouldn’t be afraid of it. And they should look at it as a new revenue stream because as I’ve noticed, because I’ve also sold other truck parts components, brakes and seals and so forth. And there seems to be, and this is really kind of getting from a macro level, there seems to be a pullback from how manufacturers have gone to market with experts and passionate salespeople.

Those companies have slash the salespeople and those salespeople would go out and educate the end user and the distributor on why their products are better. Fleets don’t buy on price, people don’t buy on price, but if you can’t articulate why your product is better than the other products, then price does become the common denominator.

I’ll just buy the cheapest. And what we’re seeing today are commoditization of certain segments of the truck parts business because nobody’s telling a story anymore. And then I’ll just go with private label, I’ll go with this, I’ll go with that. And even the fleets don’t even know what they’re getting anymore.

So I think that drives a need for independent distributors to start looking in other aspects. And engine parts is a great business, very nice ticket price. It’s a high end item, nice margins, nice new revenue stream, and I think it’s going to be really necessary for them to step up and take that on.

And if they do, IPD is there to say, we’ll make it easy for you with our customer service and our cataloging and our e-commerce and so forth to put them into that business and have answers for them whenever they need it. 

Jamie Irvine: 

Right. And we’ve seen over the last year how IPD has been reinvesting back into the company to expand your service capacity to expand your training. We’ve seen a new location you’re keeping up to date with the product changes, like you mentioned, you’ve got a great e-commerce platform that people can get access to readily available information if they have that access.

But talk to me about the necessity of training. What does the training program look like today and how does that help the aftermarket to be successful in engine? 

Bill Mirth: 

Well training can have lots of different levels. If I take, because we’re here at HDAW, the independent distributor channel, that can be just what is offered, how to find the part numbers, how to find the right information off of an engine. We actually made a video, it was a lot of fun to make.

We had one of our guys climbing into trucks and showing people on a Caterpillar and a Cummins and a Navistar and so forth where to find the engine plate. Because even if you go to an OE dealer, they’re going to ask you the same question. What are the numbers off of the engine? 

Jamie Irvine: 

Right? Yeah, what’s the engine serial number? 

Bill Mirth: 

It’s not a big mystery. And so we show people how to do that. And so the training could be just where to go to find the information and what to do with that information. Or it can be drilled down as to the training as to what’s a piston, what’s a liner?

Or it can even be how to best install something so we can drill down as much as needed. Because at IPD, we got a bunch of engine people, passionate engine people in our company that love to talk about engines. I mean, that’s all we do. Talk about engines. 

Jamie Irvine: 

And having the confidence, I know as someone who worked for a distributor a couple times in my career when I was responsible for selling a product line, I didn’t have a lot of knowledge about having the confidence that the supplier that we are buying from got my back.

So if I get into something where I don’t know the answer, it is just an email or a text message or a phone call away to get the answer. And I think my end user customers, they never looked at me as the guy with all the knowledge. They looked at me more as a guy who could get the answers. And I think when you’re selling such a wide range of products like most distributors do, that’s essential. So how are you supporting people in that environment? 

Bill Mirth: 

We have a very large outside salesforce. We have six people around the country and from a in-person regional standpoint. And then we have nine customer service people that are very, very knowledgeable.

They just don’t take an order and write it down. They help you with finding the part numbers, et cetera. And then if there’s ever a problem, warranties happen, and it happens with brakes, it happens with seals, it happens with drive line, it happens with everything except for wipers.

Those are very uninteresting warranty claims. But we go in depth to help a distributor explain what we see, why it may or may not have been a product problem, and how that end user can fix that problem instead of just, it’s not a form letter, it’s an actual analysis.

So we try to just find ways to make sure that that customer lives to fight another day and not just have a customer that runs off and says, I’ll never use aftermarket again. 

Jamie Irvine: 

Yeah. I know in certain product categories, like for example aftertreatment, there’s a tremendous amount of superseded part numbers, and I’m sure with engines it’s the same way. You have different classes or you have an engine platform, but then over the years, things start to change. So how do people get access to that information? Is that where they use your website? 

Bill Mirth: 

IPDnet is a great way. It has great, great cataloging. We’re actually in the process of even upgrading it more over the next six months you’ll see a new website and make that easier. And then we’re also investing in updating the e-commerce.

It’s a moving target, and with technology changing and more acceptance from the end users, we constantly want to continue to tweak it and improve it. So we’re actually working on both fronts right now. And it’ll be great in about six months, we will have something entirely new. 

Jamie Irvine: 

Tell me a story of a customer on the aftermarket side who was able to be successful in this category. Maybe they weren’t in it before they trusted you guys and then they won. Tell me that story. 

Bill Mirth: 

My favorite story is a distributor. He’s also a friend of mine from my past, and he was a Facebook friend too, and he just happened to start putting on Facebook, hey, buy my seals, and I got this drum deal and all this.

And so I just sent him a text. I said, why don’t you just put, I’ll give you some part numbers, put on Facebook that you’ve got DD15 and some engines. And so he did. And sure enough, he got a phone call for a customer and he quoted him, he called us, we quoted him, we drop shipped it to him, and the customer loved it.

He went to go follow up and visit with that customer, and lo and behold, he was going somewhere else for his friction and everything, and he had an opportunity to win that back. But what was nice is he had a high ticket item that he sold. It was dropship, it was in a nice little pallet, and it was about $3,500. I think you sold it for about $4,200.

And I chuckled. I said, how many drums would it have taken you to sell $4,500? And he chuckled. He said, not only that, but I would’ve had four delivery trucks and it takes up so much of my warehouse. And here’s something that’s a nice little neat package that’s going to get a few thousand dollars. And the customer is very happy. 

Jamie Irvine: 

That’s fantastic. Well, Bill, I know at these shows we’re very busy. There’s lots of people to talk to. I’m so glad you took some time to talk with me. Thank you so much for calling back. 

Bill Mirth: 

Thank you, Jamie. 

Jamie Irvine: 

I really appreciate it. For those that would like to learn more about IPD Parts, go to ipdparts.com. Links will be in the show notes. The independent parts and service channel really plays a crucial role in supporting the trucking industry with suppliers like IPD Parts, you can compete with the original equipment dealership groups on categories like engine parts, and you should really think about getting into that business if you haven’t already.

Now, if you’re a distributor of heavy-duty parts, you know how challenging it can be to manage a core bank. As a former rebuilder, I definitely believe that remanufacturing plays an important role in the industry, but there are certain product categories that just make more sense to be coreless. 

One category that historically was a reman product was rotating electric. Today we find fewer and fewer reman programs. Why is that? My final guest for today’s episode is WAI Global.

Listen in to why they moved away from a reman program to a coreless program. We’re also going to talk about the differences between rotating electrical for trucks and rotating electrical for reefer units. And my guest shares one thing that everybody should know about rotating electric, but not everybody does.

It was a great conversation listening to this interview with WAI Global. My guest today is Blake Deavers, the Vice President of sales at WAI. Blake has over 20 years of experience in the automotive industry and now oversees the sales strategy and execution at WAI Global. Blake, welcome to The Heavy Duty Parts Report. 

Blake Deavers: 

Thank you. Glad to be here. We’ve been a big fan of yours from the beginning, and we’re happy to be here. 

Jamie Irvine: 

Well thank you very much. I really appreciate that. For those that haven’t maybe seen the previous episodes where we’ve had you on the show where we had your company on the show, let’s just do an overview of the types of products that your company sells for heavy-duty. 

Blake Deavers: 

For sure. Heavy-duty starters, alternators, rotating electrical is definitely our focus. We do have another category that’s wiper motors, that’s a small category that works. It’s kind of some carry over from our automotive side, but hey, they have wiper motors on big rigs too. 

Jamie Irvine: 

That’s right. That’s right. 

Blake Deavers: 

It works out well. When I say heavy duty rotating electrical, that includes all the material handling. It’ll include the forklifts, it’ll include the reefer motors, and obviously the big rig, class eight and everything else. If it’s got a starter or alternator on it, we’re in the business. 

Jamie Irvine: 

We’re in the business. As a company do you remanufacture these products? 

Blake Deavers: 

We do not. Our go-to market is a hundred percent new product. We have a best in class warranty. Our history as a company, we’ve been in business for 45 years. We started out 45 years ago making the critical components for people to rebuild and remanufacture the units. So that’s an interesting background and we still service the rebuilder community to this day. 

Jamie Irvine: 

Individual component pieces, right? But you’re assembling these as new units? 

Blake Deavers: 

And that’s what we figured out. That’s about 20 years ago. We realized that there wasn’t much left that we weren’t manufacturing to be able to make a complete unit that was a hundred percent new. And then we just got better and better at it, and we put out a pretty dang good unit right now. 

Jamie Irvine: 

Fantastic. So one of the things I noticed on the site was that you have the different categories of product separated, and one of the categories is refrigerated. So what’s the difference between the alternator starters that go on the truck versus the reefer units? 

Blake Deavers: 

And obviously there’s a major size difference, but the basic concept of how the units work is exactly the same, but those units that we put in a reefer are much more robust. Again, our history is building the components and the electronics and all the critical components that go inside of it. And you got to think about the best example I can give is you start your truck once in the morning and it really doesn’t turn off till the end of the day. Right? Well, that reefer motor starts and stops all day long.

The units that go into the reefers, they have to have more durable components. You have to spend some time engineering ’em a certain way. You still got a space requirement, but you need it to last longer. And all of our heavy-duty units have best in class three year warranty, and that includes our reefer units as well.

So that’s actually a pretty good life expectancy on a reefer unit. If you can get three years out of ’em, they actually burn up quite more often. So we are pretty proud of those units. We have a complete program. We have a lot more information about it that we’re sharing here at the show. 

Jamie Irvine: 

Oh, that’s fantastic. Yeah. So when you’re talking about selling your product, so obviously you have to sell it to the end user, that is the ultimate customer. They’re the ones who get to install it and then use the product. So what are you doing to support that end user group through your distribution? 

Blake Deavers: 

Sure. So the most important part we discuss in all of our planning meetings throughout the year is we want to reach the guy who throws out the box is our catch phrase internally. And that’s exactly who you just explained it is. So we have a field training department, and if people who view your program will remember Scott who came in here and spoke, and he’s the Director of our Training Department.

So him and his team will go out and they hold field level training, not only the sales training that all of us are used to, but Scott will go in the bays and he’ll do some technical training in the bays, teach him some basic diagnosis and walk ’em through some tricks of the trade, so to speak as well.

And that’ll get people hooked a little bit. So that’s at that level. One of the other levels that we’re expanding upon this year is some of our marketing initiatives to reach ’em down to that level. 

So we’ll be looking for some catchy little promos to get their attention, and really we’re trying to drive feedback from them to improve our program, but at the same token, we’re trying to help them and get them engaged with the brand as well. So we got a big brand awareness initiative. And finally we really spend a lot of time and effort on our data.

And we have one of the best in class a system called Quick Finder where they can log in and see all the interchanges, all the blow parts, see all the parts and pieces, look at the different angles to make sure they’ve got the right part and matching ’em up. And that avoiding a lot of issues on installation. 

Jamie Irvine: 

And data is something that is an ongoing challenge on the aftermarket side because of course this is work vehicles, they get specced one way, but then they get changed when they change hands.

A new owner comes on, maybe they’re doing a different vocation, they might change certain specs. But when it comes to the rotating electric category, what would you say is one of the things that people really need to know about these products that consistently to this day we’re still missing the mark? 

Blake Deavers: 

That’s a good one. I would say the biggest thing is sitting there and understanding first fit versus aftermarket and the quality levels of what’s out there, the main enemy here, and that’s what we want to avoid, and that’s our main focus is to make sure we put a quality product that never comes back.

I think a lot of people just look at it as a part that fits in a place, even at that tech level. That’s one of our big challenges is just because it fits. And just because it looks the same doesn’t mean it’s the same.

So it’s inside that counts is we try and preach and there are definitely lots of rebuilds that make a dang great unit, and we think it’s because they use our components. But at the same time, it’s like you really need to know what you’re putting on there. 

And one of the things I see too often, I’ll go out and do field work as well with my guys. And if you use the same part and it’s failed you multiple times, you really need to try something different. And so I really would like to see our entire industry and all the people who participate in my particular statement to go for quality.

And so we don’t have that issue. But I think that’s it, is that there’s qualities across the spectrum of who you’re getting and you really need to take the time to know what you’re buying. 

Jamie Irvine: 

And also I think about making sure that you’re speccing the right replacement part for the application. And so I know as trucks have become more complex, the electrical system, the demands on it have grown and grown and grown. So you’ve got to make sure that the alternator you’ve chosen is actually going to be able to provide sufficient voltage.

You don’t want low voltage and it’s burning out your starter and all these issues that come from that. So you’ve really got to think through that. And the cheapest part is not necessarily the least expensive part. Right. It’s that replacement cost versus total cost. 

Blake Deavers: 

Yes, exactly. And we do end of line testing and put a copy of the batch test report in with every unit we ship. So there’s that extra confidence when you buy the unit, you open it up, you see, okay, it’s got a big old past on the top, so it works.

We’ve already tested it to make sure it works. So I think that gives someone a little bit peace of mind when they install. It’s like, okay, I’ve replaced the alternator and I still have a problem.

Maybe I should check something else. Instead of immediately throwing the alternator inside and saying, ah, give me another one. Right. So we look for little things like that as well when we’re, what can we do to make sure that there are no comebacks. 

Jamie Irvine: 

Well, and that’s true too. When you have to look at the entire system, you got to look at your electrical system as a whole. You have to do your diagnostics in a way that you’re not looking at the symptom and changing or just replacing that part over and over again. You’re actually finding the root cause and doing that root cause analysis and being able to really solve the problem once and for all.

Big part of that is always quality product. Can you give us an example of a customer who has had real success with your product? What was the situation before? What did they change? And then what was the impact? 

Blake Deavers: 

Sure. The most recent success I can think of is actually a private label brand that I won’t mention, but we will do that. We’ll put our stuff in someone else’s box. But they really had never had success with their own private label program before.

Yeah, they said this never works, but that’s the only way we’re going to let it happen in our system. So I said, well, give us a shot and let me bring Scott out. Let me bring my team out. Let’s train your people and let’s put it out there. And again, very low expectations. They were like, this isn’t going to work. This isn’t going to work.

So we signed it, we shipped the initial orders, reorders come immediately, and then it’s like, hey, you know what? We need to push this to all of our locations instead of just the test locations. And it just started going really fast. And what it was getting people trained to sell, trained to use it, and getting people to try it.

So we helped incentivize people to try and just, if you have something, good word of mouth carries pretty quick. And that was the scenario on this one. It was just having someone let us do what we do and support them and help them go to market, and then they go and do what they do really well. And it just snowballed. 

Jamie Irvine: 

Well, that makes me think of the importance of not just training the technicians that are doing the repair work, but you also need to have the parts people to be able to make good recommendations on the right replacement parts and have that whole thing come together so that the right part goes on the first time and the problem is solved and everybody is happy there. 

Blake Deavers: 

And that’s exactly how it happened. You’re a hundred percent correct. Making sure that the guy behind the counter is just as well trained as the tech that we’re all chasing and the whole chain was in line on that particular one.

And that’s got to be a model for anyone trying to break into something is making sure you touch every point that’s going to have a chance to touch your product. And that’s the best success. That was just last year. 

Jamie Irvine: 

That’s fantastic. Well, I’m happy for your success. If you were going to just have people kind of remember one thing from our conversation today, what’s the one thing you want them to not forget? 

Blake Deavers: 

I think the number one thing that people don’t know about WAI, again, we’re a privately held company based in the US is that we’re a hundred percent new. There’s no core investment, and we’ve been doing it a really long time. And if you’re having issues and availability or quality or anything else, those are where we like to step in and show you another path and hopefully develop a partnership for years to come. 

Jamie Irvine: 

Fantastic. So if you’d like to learn more, go over to waiglobal.com. Links will be in the show notes. Blake, thank you so much for being on the show. I really appreciate it. Appreciate it. Take care. Well, that brings our episode to a conclusion today. HDAW was a record breaking event this year, and it was so fantastic to be there at the show and to conduct these interviews.

Next week we are going to interview three more exhibitors from the show floor. And in next week’s interview, we’re really going to focus in on exhibitors that are challenging the status quo in the heavy-duty parts industry.

You won’t want to miss out. If you haven’t already. Head over to heavydutypartsreport.com and hit the follow button. You’ll sign up to our weekly email. You’ll get one email a week so you never miss out on any of our content.

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