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Pete Kornafel: Never Done Learning

The longtime industry advocate makes the case for lifelong learning with his new book on inventory management.

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Amy Antenora has been reporting on the automotive aftermarket since 2002.

If anyone knows a thing or two about the automotive aftermarket, it’s Pete Kornafel. Having been active in the industry for six (yes, six!) decades, Kornafel could write the book on the aftermarket. In fact, he has … twice.

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With a degree in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, an MBA from Harvard Business School and a lengthy resume that includes time on both the OE side at Ford Motor Co. and the aftermarket, Kornafel has a wealth of experience to draw from. He served as president and vice chairman of Carquest Corp., and director of General Parts, in addition to volunteering his time to chair the successful Automotive Scholarship Program through the University of the Aftermarket. He is the former chairman of the Aftermarket Warehouse Distributors Association (AWDA) and received AWDA’s highest honor in 1988. He also received Northwood University’s Outstanding Business Leader Award and the Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association’s prestigious Triangle Award. All this to say, Kornafel knows his stuff.

Right from the get-go, Kornafel’s new book, “Inventory Management Volume 2 and Some Observations About the Future of the Automotive Aftermarket,” grabs your attention with eye-opening data that only a passionate expert would possess. He has a knack for taking an incredibly complex topic and breaking it down in a clear, succinct way.

As an example, in the introduction, Kornafel explains that owners of the 280 million vehicles on the road today, “expect their vehicle will be fixed correctly the first time and be ready by 5 p.m. That level of service isn’t generally available on many other items. It is unlikely you can get your computer, refrigerator, etc. fixed in one day. That level of service requires a huge investment in inventory very close to automotive service outlets, and managing that is a survival skill for automotive aftermarket companies.”

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Since retiring from General Parts six years ago, Kornafel has been doing consulting work, both independently and with Schwartz Advisors, a strategic consulting firm based in La Jolla, California. He says it is through this consulting work that he began to understand the journey of learning – particularly about inventory management – is never done.

“I think it’s still by far the biggest asset for everybody in the industry,” Kornafel said. “I’ve never met anybody who said ‘I’ve got the right inventory today. I’ll work on it tonight so I’ve got the right inventory tomorrow.’ Everybody needs to work on it.”

While Kornafel is incredibly knowledgeable about inventory management, he also has a significant grasp of the potential impacts of both industry and general consumer trends, which in part led to him writing Volume 2. 

While Volume 1, which came out 15 years ago, still offers solid “pure purchasing math” best practices, as he puts it, Kornafel says there have been some major changes in the past five years that necessitated this second volume. That includes the advent of what Kornafel calls assortment planning – what to stock in each location. Some of the big retailers such as O’Reilly, Advance and AutoZone starting doing this on an ongoing basis, while the rest of the aftermarket continues to stick with an annual inventory review, which is an outdated practice, he says. “The world is evolving more rapidly than doing stock adjustments once a year,” Kornafel said.

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While the 182-page book includes chapters on everything from SKU forecasting, purchasing and planning to the impact of COVID and longer-term trends, the biggest takeaways Kornafel would like to leave readers with are these: “One, that nobody is finished working, as far as applying all of the science they could to managing their biggest asset. And, two, I think that it will be an ongoing evolution of the technology being better and better and better.” 

Where to Buy Pete’s Book

Find “Inventory Management Volume 2 and Some Observations About the Future of the Automotive Aftermarket” by Pete Kornafel HERE on Amazon.com and the Author House website at authorhouse.com/en/bookstore.

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All royalties from the book will be donated to the Automotive Scholarship Program through the University of the Aftermarket Foundation.

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