GS: You have an interesting job title. What does your position entail?
BM: I’ve been with SKF for almost 25 years now, and I’ve worked in nearly every division we have, from automotive to our OEM and aftermarket businesses, and I’ve been everything from a salesman to a manager in each of those divisions. My current job is to manage SKF’s industrial aftermarket business, including the best selection of “go to market” channels, if you will. So my responsibility is to help review the options for taking a product or service to market, make a decision about the best method of delivery, and then work within that channel to deliver it to our customer base.
GS: I’m assuming these “channels” can involve distributors, correct?
BM: That’s right. While we do sell direct to certain manufacturers, if that’s what works best for everyone involved, the most important point is that the customer’s needs are being met, and that often involves the services of one of our qualified distributors. A good example would be a gearbox manufacturer who contacts us wanting to purchase bearings and seals. I would first ask them about who they’re currently buying from, what their lead times are, the quantities they would be ordering at a given time, and what other products they need for this particular gearbox. There are many reasons for wanting answers to these questions, one being that we would probably need to ship in higher quantities than they’d want to order all at once—unless they’re truly a high-volume OEM—and another being that certain “bundling” opportunities might exist if they choose to work with a local distributor. Sure, we can provide them with bearings and seals, but what about Loctite to make sure their bolts don’t back out, and shims and sealants? That’s where a relationship with one of our distributor partners can really come in handy. If an average gearbox requires four bearings, four seals, Loctite, and some sealant, a manufacturer can work with their distributor to develop a kit containing those particular items, and they can be of varying sizes depending on the particular type of gearbox they’ll be making from one week to the next. That way you can call your distributor and have exactly what you need delivered just by ordering the particular kit number in whatever quantities you require. And what the OEM gains by that is being able to go to one source and place a single order, instead of several, and they don’t have to keep as much inventory on hand, either. That really plays well into this flexible, “just in time” manufacturing environment that many OEMs are currently engaged in.
GS: That’s a great point. I’d never really thought of a distributor supplying that service.
BM: Distributors can provide a tremendous service to OEMs. Another example would be a gearbox manufacturer who wants to include an oil level coolant heat exchanger in their design. In that case you would have the option of either making the subassembly yourself or outsourcing the work, and I know of a couple of instances where distributors have gone so far as to put that together for their customer themselves. So that’s when the relationship actually becomes an additional outsourcing mechanism, which really helps the customer streamline their manufacturing process. So the message we’re trying to send to the OEM market is that we want to help them understand the total cost of product procurement and ownership, because in today’s business climate where customers demand fast service, speed of delivery is almost as important as price. And when you take that into consideration, along with all of the additional services they can provide, the industrial distributor can really be something of a hidden gold mine.
For More Information: Visit the company’s Web site at [www.skfusa.com].