The Altrom Group

The Altrom Group is one of North America’s leading wholesale distributors of OEM (original equipment manufacturer) import car parts and top quality alternatives. Altrom was founded over 40 years ago and offers the right fit, form and function for the import aftermarket.

Headquartered in Vancouver, Altrom truly is a single source for all import parts with a vast network of over 300 suppliers and 3 million unique catalogue applications. Altrom Group today consists of a network of over 17 warehouses (over 400,000 square feet) across Canada and the U.S., supported by more than 300 employees.

Altrom began 40 years ago with a vision to service a gap in the Canadian automotive aftermarket. The previous ownership group recognized a proliferation of VW automobiles in North America after The Second World War. In order to service these vehicles, owners had to wait for the parts to be shipped from Germany.

This is where Altrom stepped in and became the solution to this challenge, importing and warehousing VW vehicle parts, and servicing the growing demand for these products. In 1985, Altrom purchased the Canadian division of Repco which added an extension to the European offering, and also Asian vehicle makes.

In 2008, Genuine Parts Company (NYSE:GPC) acquired the Altrom Group. This investment from GPC has allowed Altrom to continue to be a leader in the automotive aftermarket with planned future growth and expansion.

The growth trend around import nameplates positions Altrom perfectly to provide the quality import parts to the automotive aftermarket and gain market share to continue its year-over-year double-digit growth strategy.

According to Dean Medwid, Vice-President and General Manager of the Canadian Operations, the two main advantages that Altrom has in the market place are the company’s employees and supply partners. “The over 300 employees are truly passionate about our business model and the automotive aftermarket.

Without our 300 supply partners it would be difficult to maintain our ‘first to market’ advantage that we pride ourselves on. We have five product managers led by Nigel Bruce, Director of Product Development, who spend their days researching failure points on each and every import platform to ensure we are servicing the needs of our customers. In addition to the support team in the office, we have a dedicated sales team on the street that interacts with our 4,700 customers ensuring that the vehicle that they are servicing is back on the road as quickly as possible,” says Medwid.

The automotive aftermarket is ever changing, with the main challenge to stay informed and on top of the changing landscape around mergers and acquisitions.

“These business developments change the alliances as to where the OEM parts are sourced for the new vehicles rolling off the assembly lines. By keeping abreast of these changes, it allows our team of experts to be first to market with the part that becomes the solution to ongoing street level challenges,” says Medwid.

According to Dave Pawlowski, Director of Business Development and Marketing, the main value behind Altrom remains the same – education. The primary responsibility of the dedicated Altrom sales team ensures that Altrom customers are educated in the market changes as well as the products and services that Altrom offers. “These new additions to our products are all too often the solution that our customers have been looking for. Education is accomplished through the interaction with both our street level sales team as well as parts experts on the phones. If our customer is more comfortable using the web, Altrom has created a web-based solution called ‘Ask the Expert’ which is an online tool enabling our customer to ask anything that they wish about our products or services, linked directly to our product team.”

“Creating both customer and employee engagement is a priority for Altrom. Both parties need to understand the common goal of the organization and what success looks like. When we have exceeded our customers’ expectations by delivering on the promise outlined in our mission statement, then we are happy,” says Medwid.

The current trends around import nameplates positions Altrom perfectly to provide the quality import parts to the automotive aftermarket, and to foster the company’s double-digit growth strategy. In this light Altrom recently expanded its Vancouver facility, outgrowing its 35,000 square foot facility and moving to a new venue of over 85,000 square feet, with a future plan to expand the company’s Toronto warehouse facility to a similar size in late 2013 or early 2014.

“Our main growth strategy for 2013 is gaining market share and ensuring that the markets that we have already gained a presence in are further penetrated with increased service levels through both additional delivery fleets as well as sales people. We are constantly growing and searching for ‘A’ players to join our team,” says Pawlowski.

To create new efficiencies, Altrom continuously introduces new technology solutions that increase operational and sales productivity. The company implemented scan technology in 2012 to ensure that customers receive the parts they ordered on time. “We have also connected the customer service loop by adding success metrics to our delivery cycles. These cycles are initiated automatically when customers order their product, whether they order over the phone or online.

From the point of initiation, the order is tracked online, picked up and checked by scan equipment, and loaded into a GPS tracked delivery fleet to ensure that if the customer calls inquiring about their part, we can provide an ETA within minutes,” says Pawlowski.

Altrom also recently implemented solutions, allowing its sales team to track recent purchases and/or customer interaction with other company stakeholders, such as the Call Centre. The software also gives Altrom the opportunity to provide further value to the customer by placing orders on the spot, or training the customers with preloaded product information. “This addition of technology attracts top young talent as these solutions have become an expectation,” says Pawlowski.

To measure Altrom’s success, the company recently deployed the OKR (Objectives and Key Results) goal setting strategy. Originally launched at Google, the company sees the program’s merit in every organization. “By setting and openly communicating your quarterly objectives and key results, you ensure that you have employee engagement towards the common corporate goal. As a medium-size enterprise, we are looking to drive greater business performance in our people. Each and every employee will employ the OKR strategy in their day which translates to better customer service aligning to our corporate values of service excellence,” says Medwid.