President Mark Schwabero says the company expects an increase in business this year despite the drop in truck sales. "We'll do it by introducing new products," he said.
Schwabero said the company will continue to develop product modules that add value, such as fully equipped trailer undercarriages and fully dressed truck axle and suspension systems. He also sees an increasing market in Europe for the company's truck and trailer suspension products.
Hendrickson is saving on production costs by building Customer Excellence Centers near truck manufacturing plants. The three in place so far (St. Thomas, ON; Charlotte, NC, and Monterrey, Mexico) assemble some of the more complex components near OEM plants and help speed production.
Schwabero said the company has been able to deal with the wild swings in annual truck production by building components at a series of smaller plants instead of one or two large ones. "If truck production goes down 15% this year, it won't hurt us at all," Schwabero said. "We just won't work Sundays or we reduce overtime."
Hendrickson is taking a conservative approach with e-commerce, choosing to focus initially on using the Internet to find alternative sources to supply certain components. "Most of the efficiencies of business-to-business e-commerce are in better communication with suppliers," Schwabero said. "We currently only sell our products through OEMs and seven wholesale distributors in the aftermarket. If we sell on the Internet, it will only be through these existing dealers and distributors."
Schwabero does not believe the Internet will replace human contact. "If anything, you will have more contact with customers," he said. "To succeed, you will still need to have your face in front of the customer as much as possible."