BAY SHORE, NY —
Vince Trapani, owner and president of USA Industries, recently took some time to talk with aftermarketNews.com. Trapani talked about the rapid growth his company has undergone since its founding in the mid-80s. He also shared his insights on the starter and alternator segment of the industry, competition from China and a recent factory visit from President Bush.
Q: Please give our readers a little background on USA Industries. When and how was the company started?
A: USA Industries started out in 1985 as a three-man rebuilding shop covering the local market. I am the founding member. The company has grown from three people to 220 employees, covering 48 states. We handle distribution out of New York, Texas and California.
Q: To what do you attribute your rapid growth in the past decade?
A: Everything we’ve ever done has been reinvested back into the company and the company’s technology.
Q: What sorts of products do you offer?
A: We remanufacture starters, alternators, drive axles and disc brake calipers.
Q: President Bush recently stopped by your factory for a tour and discussion on job growth. What was that like?
A: That was an unbelievable experience. We were picked out of 5,000 companies in New York state. From those 5,000 companies, we went through an elimination process making it to a list of 350 finalists to another list of 12. Then, we were fortunate enough to take it.
The reason we were selected for the President’s visit was the fact that we’ve constantly taken profits and reinvested them back into the company. We didn’t do outside sourcing overseas, and Bush was very impressed with the fact that we are an American company, doing business in America and investing in technology, with the ability to go out there and compete. We’ve been putting our money and time into technology to build the highest quality product that we could. People are fearful about the U.S losing jobs. The reality is we keep creating jobs. Let’s put it this way: Nine years ago we were at 53 people, now we’re at 220.
Q: The USA Industries Web site says that the company will modify standard products to meet special requests. How unusual is it to make special modifications to a product, and how frequently are you asked to do so? Can you give us some examples?
A: Our special requests are a little bit different; they are internal special requests. We take the inherent flaws of a product – whether Nissan, Ford, or whoever makes it, — and because we remanufacture, we are constantly looking for the product’s failure point. We are always reengineering out the inherent problem to establish the highest quality product we can.
Q: Your Web site also says the company is “actively seeking resellers.” Please explain what your reseller program is.
A: We’re involved with a lot of program groups and they have been a good source for us. But we are trying to stay with a consistent market. We’re not trying to take all our eggs and put them in one basket.
I look at things a little differently than other people. If I’ve got 220 people working for me, the reality is that I’m responsible for 1,000 people, because everybody’s got a wife or a husband, and kids. You have to make decisions based on that. By choosing to put all my eggs in one basket, I would jeopardize the safety and survival of the people who work for us. So we’ve gone after a market that’s a bit different – a much smaller market. We chase the traditional automotive warehouse. We handle, to a small degree, some of the mass merchandisers. But we’re not going to jeopardize the livelihood of our workers.
We ship within 48 hours, no matter how big the order is. You’ve probably been hearing more and more about building to ‘just-in-time.’ What we do is build to inventory. By building to inventory we’re always building to a consistent quality. Right now we stock a little over a 100,000 finished pieces. We stock anticipating sales and orders, this way we are able to service our customers instantly.
Q: Parts proliferation and inventory management are always an issue in the aftermarket. What kind of system do you use to stay on top of your inventory?
A: We have our own in-house computer systems which give us up-to-date, daily inventory management reports. We’ve just implemented under ISO a new warehouse management system, which will enable us to, again, serve our customers better.
As crazy as it sounds, we’ve shipped to customers who have gotten their merchandise faster than they’ve gotten the paperwork down to the receiving docks. We’ve positioned ourselves in the best way to service our customers.
Q: What issues are you currently seeing in the starter/alternator market?
A: The biggest issue that we’re seeing is the situation with China. Everyone sees China bringing in low-priced product – some of it is good and a lot of it is not. The problem is buying a consistent component as time goes on. That’s the reason that we do so much of our own retooling and reengineering now. We are fanatical about establishing a quality product, which makes it easier for our customers to sell. They are getting the maximum return for their investment.
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