Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week (HDAW) was held last week in Grapevine, Texas. It’s the largest North American gathering of the independent heavy-duty truck industry. This year, more than 2,800 executives and managers representing 761 companies attended from the U.S., Canada, and 17 other countries. Manufacturers, distributors, and service providers spent four days learning about the latest industry developments, discovering new products and services, sharing best practices, and helping to shape an industry that is literally the backbone of North American commerce. Through visits to booths, education sessions, and talking with other attendees, I saw a few key themes emerge from this blockbuster industry event. Here’s my take on them:
As a business development executive for a technology company that proudly serves this industry, it was very eye-opening to see the breadth of technology being deployed in an industry that has existed for over a century. The ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) is definitely one of the leading enablers of many of these advancements, which include:
- Self-driving vehicle technology
- Dynamic routing of vehicles and shipments
- Advanced camera systems/forward-looking
- Collision mitigation technology
- Automated driver scorecards
- Electronic logging devices
- Trailer, equipment, and parts tracking using telematics
It’s clear safety and reliability come first for trucking companies and the suppliers that provide them with parts and service. If vehicles or their individual components are not reliable in high-use applications, they are subject to failure which could result in lost revenue, accidents, and even loss of life. Safety is thus a paramount concern, and reliability is critical to keep this industry moving down the road. A broken-down heavy-duty vehicle is a money-loser to trucking companies, fleet, and owner-operators. It can mean lost time on the road which results in missed sales opportunities, incremental costs, delayed shipments to customers, and lost wages to operators.
Total Cost of Ownership
I observed how important total cost of ownership is in an industry that logs nearly 140 billion miles each year. Heavy-duty trucks undergo tremendous use, traveling up to 100,000 miles per year or more. Many vehicles may have 3-4 owners in their lifetime - and over the course of that lifetime, the entire vehicle may be rebuilt from top to bottom. Trucking companies partner with parts suppliers to develop and enhance parts that are more durable, perform better under heavy use and reduce repair or replacement costs which ultimately must be passed on to end-users through increased shipping and transit costs.
With tens of thousands of brands and tens of millions of SKUs and part numbers, keeping track of inventory and fulfilling orders requires sophisticated systems and processes. Adding to this complexity are similar or nearly identical parts and products in categories like OEM, aftermarket, remanufactured, rebuilt, used and new. The wrong application of part or price could result in a multiplicity of errors and problems for manufacturers, aggregators, suppliers, distributors, fleets and owners/operators. Moreover, industry participants are becoming increasingly reliant on all types of data from numerous sources such as customer data, transaction history, inventory, pricing, and competitive information. Thus, finding and using data is becoming increasingly complicated. Zilliant Chief Marketing Officer Lindsay Duran presented “Missed Sales & Lost Revenue: Using Data to Change the Game” at HDAW to address these challenges, and discussed how to begin better leveraging existing pricing and sales data throughout the value chain to stay competitive.
While the heavy-duty industry is very competitive, it is also highly cooperative. Partnerships are prevalent if not a prerequisite to success. I spoke to one very large supplier of heavy-duty truck components who mentioned partnering with one of the largest customers of their OEM parts (independent of the vehicle maker), a ‘household name’ in delivery services. He described their partnership as built around the design and monitoring of state-of-the-art parts and components installed on their delivery vehicles. The companies collaboratively test and improve component parts that are installed on these vehicles so that they are more efficient and more reliable and can better withstand the unusually heavy demands of high-mileage delivery vehicles.
I was also struck by the individual and collective industry experience of those I met at the conference. The average commercial truck driver is 55 years old. Those I met had 20, 30, 40, even 50 years in the business. Many had been with their present companies for more than three decades. In some industries, veterans might be considered ‘dinosaurs.’ But this is an industry that is built on, and values, experience. One reason for the tenure in this industry is that those who choose to participate generally have a passion for the business and the products - they love the culture, the big equipment and the importance of it in our everyday lives. As a result, they continue to grow, improve and innovate in an industry that we all rely upon more than we may know.
These themes and takeaways from HDAW - Technology, Reliability, Total Cost of Ownership, Dealing with Complexity, Partnerships, and Experience - also mirror key pillars of the solutions brought to this market and many others by Zilliant.
Zilliant’s software solutions are grounded in data science and built on the industry’s best cloud native architecture. Moreover, Zilliant maintains the highest availability and service levels in the price optimization and management industry. Our focus is always on delivering ROI and reducing the total cost of ownership for our clients. Zilliant’s diagnostic process gives our customers the ability to validate assumptions and make decisions based on their own data. We reduce complex data sets into actionable information which informs pricing and sales guidance, resulting in revenue and margin expansion. Our company is built on long-term relationships; many of our customers have been with us ten years or longer. We also value our key partnerships with other industry-leading technology providers such as Salesforce, Oracle, SAP, and others. We have two decades of experience delivering high-value pricing and sales guidance to a variety of manufacturing and distribution businesses.
In many ways, each of our clients are ‘heavy-duty’ regardless of the business they are in. Meaning, their businesses require durable solutions to complex problems with long-term, sustainable results. Whether you are a manufacturer, distributor or service provider, and regardless of which industry vertical your company fits into, our team takes the time to get to know your business. We tailor each solution to drive the pricing and sales outcomes that matter to each unique business. By doing so, you can keep traveling the road to success, in all market conditions.
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