The Future: Looking Good

We speak with Mike Schlup, Managing Director of Kalimex on why things are looking up for the aftermarket

Published:  23 May, 2022

An interview with Mike Schlup, Managing Director of Kalimex, the UK distributors of JLM Lubricants products and Quiksteel, and the manufacturers of K-Seal Coolant Leak Repair.
   
How has the global pandemic affected Kalimex?
As a business that depends on global supply chains to source components for manufacturing and to deliver finished goods to international customers, the impact of the pandemic on our global logistics has been significant. Of course, we were not alone with this problem as many businesses have experienced the same pain. Despite always maintaining buffer stocks in the event of unexpected problems we could not in our wildest nightmares have foreseen the massive impact the pandemic with its knock-on effects, would have on our business. Not just the initial impact either, but the length of time it has continued. What became clear was that the logistics’ channels were operating a fine balancing act and it only needed something like the pandemic, combined with the extra issue of the Suez Canal blockage, to expose the multiple cracks and weaknesses in the system. That is mostly behind us now thankfully and we’re rebuilding our buffers.
    
However, global shipping will become more costly, especially if it is to become more resilient, and able to manage the downs as well as the ups. Every one of us in the automotive aftermarket supply chain from distributor to stockist, mechanic and motorist is going to have to share this cost if we want to enjoy a regular supply of all products in the future.

You talk of positives emerging for the automotive aftermarket
Definitely. The impact of global price increases on everything from food and fuel to clothing and even housing is now being felt by consumers. However, on the other side we are seeing real opportunities for mechanics to excel, especially the hard working, agile independents with the freedom and flexibility to implement changes and improvements with relative ease. Consumers want to save money and are trimming budgets to the bone. Their car however is a must-have. The vehicle upgrade they had their eyes on is now on hold, at least until the crisis is over. As the average age of vehicles increases it leads naturally to more servicing, more repairs, and more opportunities for the independent mechanic to stand out as a real hero. So, mechanics must invest in marketing to remind and encourage motorists to maintain a proper service schedule for their cars. Simply foregoing a routine service or ignoring warning lamps on the dashboard is a false economy. Savvy mechanics need to share these important messages with motorists in an initiative-taking manner because they need educating.
    
At Kalimex, we are unapologetic flag-flyers of Darren Darling and his DPF Doctor Network. Because of our close connection, we are often on the receiving end of feedback from Darren and his DPF Doctors. Motorists ignoring warning lights, attempting forced regens by thrashing their car on the motorway, or filling up with a cheap-as-chips DPF refill fluid for example can unwittingly lead to the DPF on their vehicle being damaged beyond repair with a price tag running into the thousands for a replacement. Short-term savings can rapidly develop into unnecessary additional costs as undiagnosed problems and tired or broken components begin to fail. This is compounded by motorists undertaking shorter journeys than pre-pandemic because of changes in working patterns and lifestyles. It is precisely these situations that underline the importance of a preventative service regime, including the use of quality professional additives to help maintain the function and performance of such components as injectors, EGR valves, turbos, catalytic converters and DPFs. A failure of any of these components could lead to bills in the thousands, compared with just a few pounds every few months invested in a decent fuel system or emissions’ additive product which can help protect and prolong component life. Plus, a clean engine will perform better and help reduce fuel consumption. Mechanics must be vocal and use every communication channel to educate and inform customers.

Which leads nicely onto the need for mechanics to invest in training
Referring to Darren again, he will tell you from experience that not every mechanic is a fully fledged DPF pro. A mechanic can discharge a vehicle with a faulty DPF believing it is repaired only for the problem to reoccur with the light flashing on the journey home as evidence. Investing in training is something that really makes a workshop tower over its competitors. It’s not enough to tread water – simply doing today what they did yesterday. Every mechanic needs an edge; A reason for customers to come to them; to recommend them and to keep coming back. If a workshop is serious about repairing DPFs and being in the top 5% of mechanics in the UK, attending Darren’s live online training will give them the tools they need to lead from the front and position themselves as a genuine DPF workshop with a first-time fix reputation.
    
Moving beyond Darren’s training, if a workshop is looking to present themselves as a specialist, then underpinning their expertise and experience should be the latest training in their chosen specialist field. The pandemic has rightly led to motorists looking even more to their independent mechanic to provide the right advice and the right service at a fair price. Long may that continue. Just because motorists are feeling the pinch does not mean they don’t appreciate good customer service and expert advice from a business that is trained to the gills.

Sustainability is something you have touched on previously. How can a busy workshop be more sustainable?
We live in an era of information overload. However, the topic of sustainability has thankfully been given a real platform. But it is understandable for a busy workshop to believe there is little they can contribute to the sustainable cause. However, there is much they can do. For example, undertaking a simple root and branch audit of how they buy and use products and how they dispose of their waste including the percentage that is recycled over landfill should yield valuable pointers for improvement. Something as simple as switching to a local provider of products whenever possible, using plant-based products in the washrooms and installing a water cooler where staff bring their own flasks to fill up rather than using one-time plastic cups or single use water bottles will make a positive difference. These are not token gestures.
    
When a business has gone all out on the cause of sustainability with a bundle of great gestures, they should promote their sustainability policy to customers and prospects. It is yet another initiative that shows how good and responsible they are. More reasons to come back. More reasons to recommend.

Any final thoughts?
Times may be tough but for the independent mechanic hell-bent on delivering exceptional service, supporting their customers with useful tips, and investing in their training and development, the future is bright.

Kalimex is the UK distributor of the JLM Lubricants trade trusted product range. This includes their iconic and global bestselling DPF products. To find out more email info@kalimex.co.uk

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