PMF looks at how braking supplier Shaftec has adapted its processes to help one of its biggest customers, Autosupplies, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
The past few months have been challenging for everyone, not least for the automotive aftermarket. The arrival of COVID-19 signalled the start of some of the hardest business months on record. With lockdown in place and a large proportion of the population forced to work from home, vehicles sat idle and many businesses, from independent garages and motor factors through to component suppliers, were forced to either close or furlough employees and operate with a skeleton staff. Nevertheless, many in the aftermarket remained calm and continued to help each other.
A helping hand
Shaftec Director, Tom Curtis, explained, “As with all our customers, during ‘normal’ times, we work closely with Autosupplies to predict what they will need during any given month. This allows us to forecast the numbers of components and variation in range that they will need to offer a seamless supply. As one of our biggest customers, the Autosupplies Group has worked with us for 15 years, taking a large supply of the full range. This means we have a significant amount of data to work with, and so we were able to ensure continuity of range and availability, as well as uninterrupted delivery throughout the crisis.
“Despite having to furlough 90% of our employees, a combination of us carrying a good few months’ worth of stock and our customers largely requiring fewer parts due to their customers either closing or running at a significantly reduced capacity, we’ve still been able to meet all of our commitments over the past months. As well as range and availability, we’ve worked with our customers where possible to be flexible with terms, including the number and frequency of deliveries and carriage terms. I honestly don’t believe any of our motor factors were prejudiced in any way by seeing a drop in range, availability or delivery.”
On the up
Managing Director of the Autosupplies Group, David Clarke, is in complete agreement. He explained that as a result of a combination of the hard work and willingness of the remaining staff and the partnership of suppliers like Shaftec, by the start of July, the Autosupplies Group was back to full efficiency.
“As soon as the lockdown measures were announced, business dropped considerably,” said David. “Operating three motor factors across Chesterfield and Yorkshire, each business fared differently depending on both the number of garages and competitors being open and their workloads. But across the board, it’s fair to say that the whole of April and the first couple of weeks of May were very difficult. Staying open, maintaining close communication with our customers, providing good customer service and having good stock availability was key, as it dictated how we would emerge when restrictions eased.”
With the business climate looking sunnier, things are definitely looking up. In fact, things are moving so fast – helped in no small way by the hard work of industry bodies such as the IAAF to overturn the MOT extension – that in the past few weeks, the Autosupplies Group has recruited 10 more staff and also increased its fleet of delivery vehicles.
“I’d like to take the opportunity to applaud all those who lobbied at local and national levels to bring back the normal MOT testing frequency,” added David. “In line with the IAAF, we were very vocal in our thoughts on this. We made it our business to advise our customers to communicate to their customers the dangers of delaying these tests. In our area, figures show that initially our MOT stations were running at 25% testing during April and May, and throughout June and July, this has risen to 90%. The news that motorists will no longer be able to extend their MOT for six months from 1st August will not only significantly increase road safety, but will give a much-needed boost to the automotive sector overall.”
“Getting the industry moving again has been a real team effort,” Tom Curtis concluded. “Everybody has had to make compromises and be flexible. I’m proud of the relationships we have with our motor factors and proud of the Shaftec team who have really gone the extra mile to get things back to some kind of normality. Even though at the end of July we’ll still have some of our employees furloughed, we’ve introduced a collection of new-to-range parts over the past few months. Working together as an industry really proves your commitment to the cause. The last few months have shown me that it really is a case of what you can do, rather than what you can’t.”