LOUISVILLE, Ky.—The big trucking companies keep getting bigger, and the small commercial dealerships keep finding competition for business tougher and tougher. But Bill Babek, president of the International Tire and Rubber Association, recently offered some advice to commercial dealers and retreaders looking for ways to keep up in an ever-changing environment.
To begin, however, he said it is necessary to understand how the commercial tire industry is changing.
Today, over half of the commercial wheel positions are controlled by about 1 percent of the fleets in the U.S.—an astonishing concentration of purchasing power.
These huge fleets have eliminated—or are eliminating—their middle management decision-makers in place of outsourced ``total control systems using computer technology with management reports that provide concise, accurate information,'' Mr. Babek said.
``With the concentration of buying decisions in the national fleets, the major tire companies are bidding to become the supplier of choice,'' he said. ``These tire manufacturers will position themselves to provide a nationwide network of service and supply points that will be fully integrated with the major tire companies,'' he said.
The good news is commercial tire dealers will be the major points of distribution in that nationwide system, Mr. Babek continued.
But to become a part of those manufacturer-dealer networks, shops have to begin offering the latest retreading technology, follow service standards established by national fleets and offer computerized data collecting and reporting.
To that end, a number of companies attending the recent trade show—including an Australian firm—displayed their newest software products.
ASA Tire Systems' flagship TireMax software package can offer commercial dealers and retreaders retail, wholesale, inventory and retread management, along with order entry modules, bar code data collection and parts and labor catalogs.
Based on the east coast of Australia, Klinge & Co. Pty. said its commercial tire management system is user friendly and constantly updated to keep pace with new technology.
The system, which is compatible with Windows95, allows tire technicians to make changes in the system using a mouse or touch screen. The Total Tire Control program provides maintenance alerts including when rim testing is due, tire rotations are required, irregular wear, mismatched duals or when low or high pressure has been recorded.
The program, according to the 25-year-old company, gives tire dealers the information to provide correct remedial solutions to fleet problems.
Evansville, Ind.-based MaddenCo Inc. provides a software package that offers dealers control over everything from accounts receivable and payable, to company payroll, inventory control and retread management.
The system also provides dealers with a way to track invoice histories, warehouse order entry, parts cataloging, vehicle histories and sales analysis. The retreading portion of the program allows tracking of work order entry, inspections, production and adjustment analyses, invoicing, materials requirements planning reports and labor and overhead calculations.
Quik Look Vehicle Status (QLVS), the tire and vehicle tracking software from Quality Design Systems Inc., allows tire dealers to determine the cost and customization of the system they need for their size.
Developed by mechanics, fleet inspectors, drivers and data entry people, the program allows dealers to manage fleet information including tire inventory and tracking, retreading and repair data, tire recycling and disposal data. A feature of the program allows inspectors to capture and report tire data with the click of a button.
The TireTracker Retread Management System from Signal Software is a real-time, on-line automated tracking system that knows the status of every casing at all times, the company said. It's ability to interface with point-of-sale and business management software allows dealers to update inventory and generate invoices.
Report generation capabilities allow managers to track the production process to minimize scrap and maximize productivity. The system uses hand-held bar code scanners for pickup at your customer's site and bar code readers throughout the retread shop to reduce keyboard entry.
Dealers who are computerized and using the latest retread technology ``will be responsible for providing a complete service package under the (tire maker's) national account program,'' Mr. Babek said during the ITRA conference.