Reveals Global Nature of Industry Challenges
If anything was clear from a visit to Equip Auto in Paris, France, it is that there are some striking similarities between the challenges the European market faces and those we face here at home.
Chief among these has to be the issue of skills shortage.
While both Canada and the U.S. have struggled, to varying degrees, with the recruitment of young people into the industries at all levels–a problem that manifests itself both as a shortage of technicians and counterpeople as well as a shortage of natural successors to the businesses they would work in–the organizers of Equip Auto see the problems as great enough to warrant top billing.
“Every exhibitor tells me that they have trouble finding people with the right skills,” said Amaury Hanla du Fretay, president of the show. This has caused the show to make the issue a central theme among the equipment, tools and parts.
The show has even installed a “People and Skills” exhibit of significant size. That exhibit area provided a location for exhibitors to discuss career opportunities with students and young people who have been invited to the show–they expected some 12,000—with an additional on-line job board, with hundreds of jobs posted.
Still that only scratches the surface of the problem, which is obviously widespread, and it is not inaccurate to say, probably a global one.
“In fact we have noted that there are quite a number of companies who had difficulties with staffing. There are two concerns: when people retire, to be replaced, and no people to take the jobs that are available today,” said Danielle Larrivierre, director of communications for the event.
The reality of the European situation is that young people there don’t feel particularly attracted to the industry. This is a sentiment that should sound familiar to anyone who has spent any time studying the problem in North America.
The problem isn’t just in the aftermarket, says du Fretay, but it is there that it is particularly acute. “There is a very great need in the aftermarket. Their needs are spread widely, so we don’t know exactly how big the issue is. I expect, though, that we are talking about several hundred thousand jobs that are open in Europe.”
An estimate by one individual in the skills booth put the need at about 1,000 a month in Europe, just for the aftermarket; these are jobs that may currently go unfilled due to the shortage in both technicians and other personnel looking to the aftermarket for employment.
It was also interesting to note that automaker Renault was front and centre at the skills area, recruiting not just for skilled labour, but also for people interested in taking over existing garages operating under the Renault banner.
There were quite a few businesses in danger of closing down, said the representative, as the ownership is greying across the network and interest from within those businesses, or at least those with the resources to act on the interest, has waned.
Most agreed that it seems to be a problem of the western world, where significant proportions of the young go to university and not to trade schools–a fact which may catch some in North America by surprise, considering the general impression of Europe as being very receptive to careers in the trade compared to parents and youth on this side of the Atlantic.
But, understanding that we are in a global market is not the same as suggesting that the market is homogenous.
This was also a point brought forth by Frank Ordonez, who heads up Delphi Product and Service Solutions, the aftermarket arm of the world’s second largest components supplier which has been so much in the news of late.
There is, he told me, a lack of understanding in Europe of what filing for Chapter 11 means, which the company had done in the U.S. only days earlier.
The larger customers understand, he said, but the smaller ones have some difficulty as in Europe no such protection exists, and the filing was only in reference to U.S. operations anyway.
“Our European subsidiaries are not included, only the U.S. Our Delphi European operations are cashflow-positive. We will continue to operate in Europe with business as usual.”
After his official presentation he took a few moments to chat with me about that issue–business as usual on this side of the Atlantic too, with emergence from Chapter 11 in 12 to 18 months–and should not affect customers at all.
He said too that the aftermarket business of the company was doing well, delivering ahead of projections. He also said that these issues–financials, right to repair, access to information–can sidetrack the aftermarket from more immediate challenges, such as the skill levels of the technician and the effectiveness of the aftermarket to attract parts business and import nameplate service away from the car dealer.
And, while I prepared to leave the show early in order to attend the Ottawa lobbying event to advance the issue of right to repair with our own federal politicians, I was forced to admit that his was a point which should resonate with anyone in the aftermarket, regardless of which side of the Atlantic you are on.
Equip Auto 2005
The International Grands Prix for Technical Innovation
The International Grands Prix for Technical Innovation awarded at the EQUIP AUTO trade fair have become an increasingly respected part of the international event.
The selection is based on voting by a jury made up of journalists from 21 countries, including Canada.
The basic criteria reward innovation and practicality over outright technology. Award winners, presented in three categories, were as follows:
Engineering and Advanced Technologies
Gold Trophy: BERU EYQUEM for its Pressure Sensor Glow Plug (PSG) which will allow for precise monitoring and adjustment of diesel combustion pressures for reduced NOx emissions when it is available in 2007.
Silver Trophy: VALEO for power line communications, a method of multiplexing technology.
Spare Parts and Aftermarket
Gold Trophy: PPG INDUSTRIES for the CeramiClear D8105 clearcoat, which presents optimum surface hardness thanks to a silica “nanoparticle” technology.
Silver Trophy: AUTOSOCK for the “Brings you home” Autosock, which fits over a tire to aid traction when stuck in the snow.
Gold Trophy: FROG’S for the Air Process–Bodywork repair process which uses flexible jacks, moulds and heating elements to repair metalwork.
Silver Trophy: BOSCH for the KDS non-contact optical wheel alignment system.
Silver Trophy: SPANESI for the TOUCH WHEELS control system for running gear diagnostics.
The international jury also awarded three special prizes:
–BREMBO and SKF for a full electric braking system. The full electric braking system, developed jointly by Brembo and SKF, uses electricity as a source of energy to activate the four brake callipers. Designed for small cars with average performance, it requires power compatible with the current 12-volt vehicle power supply.
–ETAS for the NVH MTS 4100 vibration analyzer. Developed by Vetronix, a subsidiary of the ETAS group, the MTS 4100 NVH Analyser is a system used to analyze noise and vibrations, isolate their origin and thereby find out what is causing them.
–HUBINONT for the Vibropac removal tool for small glow plugs.
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