Outtakes from our conversation with Dana’s Peter Cirulis A video needs to be short, sweet and get to the point—which always leaves a lot of good material on the cutting room floor. Take our recent video on Dana’s new e-commerce platform, which came in at a tight three minutes, but only scratched the surface of the interesting points from our interview with Dana. So below is our full talk with Peter Cirulis, vice president of customer experience, strategy, and product planning for the Dana Aftermarket Group. Jason Morgan, Fleet Equipment: To start us off, how is software and new e-commerce platforms, like the new website, changing the heavy-duty aftermarket? Peter Cirulis, Dana: There are several factors with new technology in the marketplace. New technologies will help us to communicate better, to serve the customer better, especially in situations that are very sensitive and tense. In a truck-down situation, you’ve got to be able to communicate better, and providing that transparency through a very complicated process, sometimes getting a part out to some obscure place in the country. So, I think that e-commerce platforms of the nature that we’ve introduced are key to bringing more transparency and better communication into the market space, first of all. That helps solve the customer problem. Second, I think e-commerce is a part necessary today because of the changing of the generation. As we have a lot of experienced people leaving the industry, we’ve got new folks coming in, and the technology makes that knowledge transfer a lot faster. The new generation thinks a little bit differently than the people currently in the marketplace, and we’ve got to adapt our training tools. I think e-commerce platforms such as this one help to do that. Jason: Including the high-resolution photos and being able to zoom in and see the stamp on it and even the schematic and the diagramming, there’s a lot of information that just helps standardize that whole kind of process. Peter: Absolutely. I think that providing the digital content with the pictures and the schematics and the description of the part gives the point-of-service person a lot more confidence, so that they know that they’ve got the right part and they can make that sale confidently. We want to be able to eliminate some of the finding the part, searching the part, ‘do I have the right part?’ type of dialogue. We want them to be confident in that, so that they can spend the time that adds the value for the customer, which is fixing that truck and getting it back on the road. The market we’re in is ultra-competitive, and we’re talking cents per mile now. You’ve got to be fast, and you’ve got to be right the first time. You don’t want to be reworking the repair on that truck, if you selected the wrong part. Jason: Talking about communication, I don’t think we can understate the importance of simply knowing where the part is, what the status is. Do you find that answering those questions, even if it’s not maybe the answer you want to hear, but just having that knowledge, makes the process so much smoother? Peter: Yes, that’s the ultimate solution for the customer, because if you tell them up front ‘hey, I don’t have the part and it will take a day,’ then it gives them a choice. A customer needs choice. We’re all here to solve the customer’s problem. If you over-promise and under-deliver, that is not customer satisfaction. That’s not in the customer’s best interest. Jason: In that same vein—from the aftermarket point of view, what are the big bullet points or steps that you’re taking to really bring that downtime down? Peter: It’s not only about bringing the technology to the market. I think one real big key is the availability of the part. You’ve got to have availability, for sure. The other element, I think, in truck-down is you’ve got to have a good back office system, back office coordination. There’s a lot of moving parts in a truck-down. It’s not just e-commerce, but it’s really the execution behind the scenes of any company. E-commerce facilitates that, so it’s not only the speed at which you need to solve a truck-down, the availability with a truck-down, but it’s also making sure that there’s transparency in it, so that you know where the part is on its way into being put into the technician’s hands to fix that truck. Watch our episode focused on the Dana’s new e-commerce platform. Jason: So let’s jump to custom manufacturing. You mentioned making the part available. Having the option to manufacture a part if it’s not available, to interrupt the line at the factory and say ‘I need this part and I need you to make it for me’ is a really interesting option. Where do you see that being most applicable, and what parts do you expect that to happen for, usually? Peter: Again, I think this is a changing viewpoint of big companies like Dana, in terms of surveying the aftermarket and being flexible enough to do so. Normally, we make OE parts in large quantities. Again, in the low growth market, we’ve got to be more flexible to be able to satisfy the customer when they’ve got a problem. It’s really about solving their problem and their pain points, not about just selling the part, but understanding and getting close to the customer. If one way to help you is for an obscure part or something that maybe hasn’t been built in a long time, we can schedule that within our own facilities. It may take a little bit longer to do, but at least to have the knowledge that we can do it is, I think, reassuring, because oftentimes it may be that you can’t get a part right off the shelf to the truck driver, but if they know that it’ll take five days or whatever it might be to get it made, they might say, ‘I need that part, and that’s good enough for me.’ Jason: What’s the scope of that offering? Is it the entire catalog, or is it just these segments? Peter: Eventually it will be the entire scope of the catalog for the parts that Dana makes OE, but currently we are starting with light-vehicle and commercial vehicle driveline parts in the U.S. and Canada. Jason: How often do you see that being utilized? Of the percentage of orders you expect to come in, is this like a 5%, 10% kind of thing? Peter: I think it’s a little bit too early to say. It’s the first option of its kind that we’ve offered, so we don’t have any statistics. I think it’s a little bit too early to say right now. But we have had feedback from the plant managers. If they know that there’s somebody that needs this part, and we energize the whole company around that, build the process around the problem, not just around sending the part out, that’s a big deal. That’s a cultural change. That’s being closer to the customer, a customer-centric solution point of view that we’re taking, versus just selling a part. We want to wrap the service around the part, which is to help the pain point that the customer has. Jason: Part of that, I imagine, is your distribution channel and your direct Dana channels. Anyone can search for a part, but only your direct channels can actually order the part, place the order. What value do you get from those distributors, and why is that the decision, as opposed to going direct to the user, for example? Peter: Our channel partners are extremely important to us. This is a business of relationship. To have a good relationship with the channel partner is one thing, but these channel partners have relationships with the customers. The expanse of our marketplace is so big, the geography is so big, Dana can’t be everywhere at one time. The channel partners have that reach to all areas of the country. There’s hundreds of thousands of miles of road out there. You can’t be everywhere at once. That’s first and foremost, I think, the real value of our channel partner, which we need. And they’re close to the customer. The proximity is important as well. They have the parts, oftentimes, on-site. They have the availability. They have the inventory. That is also a value to the ultimate end user as well. Jason: I imagine that’s pretty important, the fleet customers who really rely on those relationships. If you’re a fleet manager running 100-200 trucks, you don’t want to be shopping and placing the order and trying to make sure that part gets here. That’s what you have the partners for, to make sure it gets done. Peter: Exactly. We value that partnership with our channel partners, to be able to be closer to the customer in that regard. We want to facilitate that through our channel partners. That’s why we built the system the way it’s set up. Jason: Is there anything else that you think we should talk about or you want to mention? Peter: I think it’s really about being in touch with the customers’ problems. In the low growth environment that we’re in, you have to find ways to accelerate your business, and really, if you can focus on the customer’s problem, there’s plenty of opportunity out there, but if you look at it just head on, selling the part, that’s a little bit old school. We really need to get in touch with the customer. The customer-centric companies will be the ones that win in this environment.