Paul Johnson was named president of Qualitor Inc.’s International Brake Industries (IBI) division in July 2017. Prior to joining IBI, Johnson served as president and chairman of NTN Bearing Corp. of America. Before that, he held domestic and overseas business leadership positions at both Federal-Mogul and General Motors. Johnson currently serves on the board of the Automotive Sales Council and also is a member of the AWDA Manufacturers Advisory Council. He holds a Master in Business Administration degree from the University of Michigan.
AMN: IBI has been in business for 50 years now. How has the rapid evolution of the modern vehicle today changed your product offering and the way you run your business?
Johnson: Brake systems have become increasingly application-specific and complex. This has resulted in a proliferation of parts, substantially increasing the number of brake hardware SKUs on the road. With advances in sensor technology and vehicle safety, there are now many new braking technologies, which help consumers maintain control and upkeep of their vehicle. All but the most exotic of technologies still require brake hardware.
We consistently offer the most comprehensive and latest coverage in the industry, so we have the components to complement every system on the road. We have the hardware our customers need, no matter the application, which makes a complicated category easy for our customers.
AMN: The IBI website features a number of educational videos for customers. What are some of the most common issues you see with customers that indicate the need for more training and education on your products? How else do you address this need for education and training?
Johnson: We have conducted extensive market research and found that only 20 to 30 percent of people are changing the hardware when they do a brake job. Compare that number to the 80 percent of customers who said they would change their hardware if their technician or counter person recommended it. Multiple studies, conducted by third parties and IBI, have shown that if the hardware is not replaced, the worn pieces can cause noise and premature wear on the new pads. By changing the hardware you get a complete brake job that ensures like-new braking performance. When you consider the total cost of a brake job, new hardware is a very small price to pay for a job done right that protects your investment of new pads.
To help share this message, we’ve created an extensive library of training videos, flyers, presentations and more on our site, including testimonials from notable third-party experts in the industry. Anyone who has seriously looked into this issue agrees on the importance of changing the hardware, but there’s a lingering misconception in the industry that hardware isn’t important and can be reused. In reality, brake noise generated by re-used hardware is one of the most common reasons for customer comebacks.
Changing the hardware is a low-cost investment, and the benefits are significant. More and more technicians do this, and they insist on new hardware for their clients every time they do a brake job to be sure it’s done properly, minimizing the chance of a comeback and an upset customer. The squeaking you hear is not bad pads; it’s old hardware! Our challenge is educate technicians and the public. The materials on our site carlsonmakesiteasy.com do a great job of telling that story clearly, quickly and in a fun and easy way.
AMN: What sets IBI apart from its competitors?
Johnson: Many of our competitors make brake hardware as just one small product line within their larger business. At IBI, brake hardware is what we do and our top priority. We closely control the quality at every stage of the product life cycle so our customers can be confident that we deliver the best brake hardware in the market. Our engineers are dedicated to brake hardware development and closely control the quality at every step of the product life cycle so our customers can be confident that we deliver the best brake hardware in the market. We design every part in CAD to unique specifications, incorporating up to 60 different dimensions to create a prototype with characteristics and tolerances equal to or better than the original OE part. We decide which materials to use, which heat-treating or plating processes to apply, and which tools are necessary to make the part. We validate every facet of PPAP samples prior to production, including dimensions, material, heat treat and plating, testing fit and function on full-caliper assemblies, using salt spray to validate corrosion resistance. We also sample random parts from each production run to ensure that quality is being delivered. And our in-house engineering library contains every light-duty brake caliper and drum assembly (and many medium- and heavy-duty assemblies) sold in the U.S. and Canada since 1967, so we can address all fit and function questions immediately.
Our commitment to quality also extends to customer service. We support our customers with the most up-to-date cataloging and interchange product data in the industry, and our in-house customer service team is available every day to make sure all product, technical and coverage questions are answered quickly and accurately by the appropriate person. When I visit our customers, I’m often asked to “say hello” to their favorite customer relations representative back in Lima, the same person who’s probably been servicing them for many years – we value consistency. We’ve also created a wealth of customizable training materials, available on our website, which help our customers communicate the value of hardware and the benefits of replacing with every brake job.
It is part of our core value at IBI to provide quality in every package, with every interaction, every time.
Tell us about your distribution model. How have e-commerce/online parts ordering/Amazon changed your business?
IBI services a broad range of customers, from retailers to distributors to rebuilders. Many of our products are sold through private labels, in addition to our Carlson brand. As our customers expand their footprint around the world and move into e-commerce, we are supporting them every step of the way. We don’t succeed unless our distribution customers succeed.
What would you like AMN readers to know most right now about International Brake Industries?
In such a competitive market, the margins on brake parts and brake jobs are slim. By doing the right thing and changing the hardware with every brake job, it’s a win-win for both technicians and customers. Customers receive better braking performance, less wear, less noise and longer brake pad life. Technicians have fewer comebacks, more satisfied customers, incremental sales and margin on their brake jobs and the satisfaction of knowing they’ve done the best job possible for their clients.