Brake Friction: New Formulations, New Challenges

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With all the new formulations, grades and types of brake friction in the market today, how do you find the “sweet spot” between good coverage and a properly balanced inventory?

The brake friction market is obviously critically important to jobbers in terms of volume. But it is also a category that is highly competitive and can be quite price sensitive.

Furthermore, new formulations and technology, and legislative changes like the phasing-out of copper by 2025, have led to confusion among many jobbers. Without having all these new formulations and types taking over your warehouse, how can you ensure you have the right inventory balance for your customers’ needs? We asked some leading brake suppliers how to cut through the noise and ensure the best selection for today’s vehicles while maintaining your own bottom line.

According to Dan Weber, VP with ProForce Automotive, it starts as it always has: by offering a carefully planned selection of good, better and best brake friction.

“A mid-grade offering with a complete hardware program included is typically the ‘sweet spot’ for many garages,” Weber said. “They offer a solution to the NVH problem: low dust, upgraded shims, full hardware program and noise damping characteristics.”

Other considerations Weber recommends are availability for late-model vehicles, and a one-price offering to optimize sales and profitability.

“The OEM market is very complex and diverse – you’ve got six manufacturers with 10% or more market share and several others in the high single digits,” Edward Gerhardt, Marketing & Data Service Manager, Akebono Brake Corporation, pointed out. “It is a business necessity to stock hundreds of part numbers; then you add in multiple grades and brands and that number grows exponentially.

“At Akebono, we have a very tactical and educated approach, with regard to ‘part number proliferation.’ On the OE part number level, you’ll see a new OE number for some of the most minor, often insignificant changes. Some of our competitors create a new part number for these events, which gets them another new part introduction, and a quick sale in that every one of their customers just puts another part on the shelf. But in the long run, it doesn’t help them sell more parts, and causes bloated inventory and fewer turns.”

Instead, Akebono helps to streamline inventory by evaluating the change, and if it is notable, they’ll upgrade the existing part so that all vehicles that the part fits get the design enhancement.

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The Brake Report

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