Oregon-based collision distributor uses newly developed technology to service shops amid the pandemic; builds and reinforces supply chain partnerships
Eugene, Ore.—Industrial Finishes & Systems, a multi-location distributor serving the collision repair market, isn’t taking the coronavirus on the chin and is instead capitalizing on opportunities to connect with customers on shop processes.
“It’s an opportunity for us to engage with our shops to discuss systems and improving communications through technology,” said Mike Duncan, director of marketing for the Eugene, Ore.-based company. “We want our customers to know that while we’re physically distant from them, we’re still here for them.”
The company had been in the middle of rolling out a new service for customers, Industrial Finishes Marketplace, which is a cloud-based ordering system to manage inventories, place orders and search for products, just before the pandemic began.
“The timing couldn’t have been better,” Duncan said. “We had a lot of customers who adopted the system and were able to get trained on it so they were comfortable using it. It has served us well — our sales staff can also use it to place orders on behalf of our customers. It’s been a tremendous asset.”
Industrial Finishes, which hasn’t had to reduce hours or staff, has also become aware that some shops are concerned about potential disruptions in their supply chains.
“There are some products we can provide to shops that are coming to us through existing vendor relationships — disinfectants, cleaners — but we’ve also established new relationships with other suppliers to satisfy market demand.”— Mike Duncan
“It may be that other jobbers are making adjustments — personnel, hours and store closings, for example — and they’re apprehensive how it might impact their business. We’ve had a lot of conversations with those shops to let them know we’re still here and we intend to be as we move forward.”
Opening up additional supplier relationships
Regarding its own supply chain, Duncan said that, aside from PPE products, the pandemic and economic crisis has opened up new supplier relationships.
“There are some products we can provide to shops that are coming to us through existing vendor relationships — disinfectants, cleaners — but we’ve also established new relationships with other suppliers to satisfy market demand.
“I think a lot of those relationships are going to outlast current circumstances because the companies are solid, the products are good and the world has changed.”
Industrial Finishes employs a full-time chemist who thoroughly vets new cleaners and disinfectants, reviews technical documentation to ensure application methods are sound and that there are no false claims.
“We’re also looking toward the future,” Duncan said, “such as anti-microbial coatings and other products that could become important as the pandemic has the potential to re-write the rules.
“When we have the opportunity to look back on things, we’re going to find that systems and technology for communication are going to live beyond current circumstances. People will become more mindful of having these products available and working with companies that can maintain inventory levels and service them during a time of crisis.
Duncan said the industry has been fortunate it hasn’t had to experience something like the pandemic in the past, but it has to be prepared for it in the future.
“As an industry — whether it’s the collision repair shop, jobber or supplier — we’re all going to be better as a result of this.”
CARES Act Resource Guide is launched
Industrial Finishes recently released a CARES Act Resource Guide designed specifically for auto body shops to help them navigate what assistance might look like and how to go about applying for it.
“We wanted to make sure we were adding to the equation and targeting the message to body shops, because they’re small businesses that qualify in many ways and they’re really important to local communities, particularly those that are locally owned and operated.
“We want to make sure they continue to do so, long after this is behind us.”