DST Asks: How Do you Make Strategic Business Decisions - aftermarketNews

DST Asks: How Do you Make Strategic Business Decisions

There are almost as many sources of reference for making strategic business decisions as there are choices for planning and securing your future. Our respondents to last week’s question were in agreement that it takes collaborative efforts to design and implement a corporate roadmap, including internal management, consultants, observing and copying competitors' strategies, industry journals and publications and technology supplier partnerships.

MISSION VIEJO, CA — There are almost as many sources of reference for making strategic business decisions as there are choices for planning and securing your future. Our respondents to last week’s question were in agreement that it takes collaborative efforts to design and implement a corporate roadmap, including internal management, consultants, observing and copying competitors’ strategies, industry journals and publications and technology supplier partnerships.

The poll question asked last week and the one preceding it, which was “What business plan do you have for remaining competitive in a quickly changing business world?” go hand-in-hand. DST believes that those of you running your businesses are the true industry experts — you’re on the front lines of it everyday and are the catalysts for change. There’s nothing more valuable than the opinions of those with real-life experience. DST’s role is to supply the best-of-breed technology that implements your visions.

With that in mind, we asked some industry heavy-hitters for their opinions and we’re delighted to share them with you in this, our final “DST Asks” column. This one concludes our six-month run on aftermarketNews.com – 26 weeks of questions and follow-up columns with Babcox readers. Therefore, it only seems appropriate that we wrap up this series with the wisdom shared of the following visionary, innovative industry leaders:

Jeff Washburn, Hahn Automotive:

“We at Hahn Automotive are working hard to partner with organizations that are pro-active, especially in the IT arena. We must be able to react to change more quickly than we are able to today. In the past six months we have taken measures to move in that direction. We have put a big push on e-commerce with several new vendors and have seen our e-commerce sales grow month after month. Other members of the Aftermarket Auto Parts Alliance have followed this lead and are seeing similar results. It is amazing to see just how many of our jobber and service dealer customers have personal computers and want to connect to our distribution centers and parts stores to be able to look up parts themselves (reducing errors), order parts (keeps phone lines open for customers calling them, and us, without getting busy signals or being put on hold), use estimating systems, have labor guides, access to “tech tips”, get office management systems that integrate with our computer systems, etc. We will continue to work with vendors that see this as an important area in improving our goal of making our customers more successful.”

Tom O’Hare, Worldpac:

“Worldpac’s roadmap for achieving sustainable competitive advantage and to dominate the market:

Operational Excellence:

• Continual improvements to supply chain planning system to ensure optimal inventory availability for our customers while maximizing inventory performance.

• Continual improvements to supply chain execution system to maximize productivity for both warehouse replenishment and direct customer orders.

• Continual expansion and relocation of warehouses to optimally place inventory close to our customers.

• Continual improvements to our local delivery systems including our new Digital Driver project (handheld computers in the field) and eventual dynamic routing algorithms.

• Continual improvements to our overnight delivery infrastructure and algorithms (freight optimizer utilizing 12 warehouses).

eCommerce Leadership:

• Continual improvements to our speedDIAL client-based ecommerce platform. Goal to reach 80 percent self service. Add self service returns and A/R settlement.

• Continual improvements to our WebParts B2B2C platform to increase our Web Partners’ eRetailer business opportunities.

• Addition of browser-based DIAL platform for unsophisticated customers.

• Continual improvements to SMS integration to improve installer customer efficiency.

• Continual improvements to POS integration to support jobber channel.”

Rex Burkheimer, Marketing Director – Parts Plus, WM Automotive:

“We look 3 years ahead as opposed to the 5 year traditional model, as we think the business evolves so quickly that year 4 and 5 can never be more than a good guess. We retain flexibility in seeking new business and acquisitions, so our field people can make the deals that get and keep customers.

We evaluate new technology and business techniques on an ongoing basis and incorporate those that fit our model. As those are adopted, the model advances and evolves. Our IT selection group meets regularly to discuss developing technologies and meet with technology providers.

Currently we are expanding ecommerce to our 2-step and 3-step customers, with good success. Next on the horizon are improvements to operations, incorporating paperless processes. Store operations will evolve from standalone systems to shared servers to gain economies and operational control. RFID is a technology we are monitoring.

Our marketing program is evolving toward small-market media and personalized marketing of regional store groups. We look for community events and popular regional charities to partner with in promoting our stores.

Key to all this is communication between management, operations, vendors, field personnel and customers. We constantly receive and relay market, product and technical information to all concerned by a variety of print and electronic means. The better informed all the players are, the better they can serve the paying customer.”

Pat Biermann, President of HD America:

“Our goal/dream/ambition is to take maximum advantage of technology globally. We are going to tie our distributors, suppliers and fleets together in order to reduce cost in the system and improve efficiencies. The scheduling of raw material at the supplier level, improved stock levels, shortened shipping times, increased inventory turns at all levels of the distribution channel, logistics and vehicle downtime will all be positively affected. That combination makes everyone happy and more profitable.

The technology connectivity will allow us to take maximum advantage of ‘best practices’ globally. We can improve the bottom line of our distributors simply by managing the data and implementing the processes — nothing real complicated but the key is getting it all put together. We are well on our way to accomplishing that goal. Staying competitive is more about operations and processes than it is about prices. When you have the ‘system’ and the process you have the key and link to making it all happen.”

The candid input quoted above demonstrates the breadth of visionary thinking within the automotive parts and service industry. Those with a successful roadmap for achieving sustainable competitive advantage will ensure that their firms are positioned to ultimately reinvent themselves and then dominate the market.

Many thanks to aftermarketNews.com Managing Editor Amy Antenora, Publisher Jon Owens and Regional Sales Manager Staci Burkey for making it possible for DST to communicate with the industry in this forum over these past 26 weeks. If you’ve missed some weekly columns, they are archived on www.aftermarketNews.com and will soon be archived, with the kind permission of Babcox, on www.dstinc.com.

We’d love to continue to get your feedback and hear your thoughts. Send us an email at: [email protected] or give us a shout at 1.800.700.4DST.

_______________________________________

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“DST Asks” is written and sponsored by DST Inc. The opinions expressed in “DST Asks” articles appearing on aftermarketNews.com do not necessarily reflect the opinions of AMN or Babcox Publications.

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