The New Norm in Distribution
If you are in the Automotive Aftermarket, you know how the economy has affected the Industry. On a smaller scale trickling down, the way we are and will continue to be affected will be in product availability or lead times. More and more extended delivery dates and availability issues are affecting our bottom line. To help in reducing the reaction phase of this ongoing scenario, putting things in proper perspective will help us to move forward and ease the surrounding tension of our customers.
It is up to the retail end to maintain a level of customer confidence as all levels redeem their stance or adjust to new ways of doing business.
Many Manufacturers are dealing with an influx of materials from their suppliers or "Just-in-Time" scheduling with limited manpower, leaving them vulnerable to shortages, running with skeleton crews just trying to get the job done. This scenario also applies to the WD's that have to make do with much less, compiled with errors that come from spreading in-house functions too thin with un-trained personnel. A more recent trend on Importation limits is appearing as imports increase to meet the demand.
It is "chaotic" to say the least. Most Manufacturers have resigned to this and offer no excuses; they just do what they do best. Most W.D.'s are scrambling to keep their businesses going amidst the shortages and 1/3 (or less) of their required workforce. They see both sides and are stuck in the middle.
How this could affect your business:
To protect yourselves and your businesses, I would recommend increasing the time allowed for deliveries on each Brand you carry and make the customer aware or note it in your terms. Being aware of the problems that could be affecting you is half the battle. Remember that the Rep.'s you deal with may not have the time to return phone calls or respond immediately to emails or RFQ's, they may not dot the I's and cross the T's, just do it for them, protect yourself by protecting them and things will work out.
It will help to have an alternate plan in place and keep up with who stocks what, or replacement brands defined if needed. Most of the popular brands can be found at stocking warehouses, but they are also trimming down, so never assume. Even if an item is in stock, many are so short handed it may take a few days just to get it out.
Where do we go from here:
The worst is definitely not over, I have seen this before and it will take time to get better, it is usually the bottom rung on the ladder that finds relief last, but it also starts there by making adjustments to ease the blow and maintain customer confidence.
This article was initially written to a group of automotive niche site owners, but thought it may be useful to other Industries dealing with the effects of the economy.