Auto Service World
News   May 14, 2010   by Auto Service World

Survival and Change in a Changing Economy

Auto Parts Central of Thunder Bay, Ont.–the 2008 Jobber News Jobber of the Year–has seen more than its share of challenges beset its local economy.

In the past several years Thunder Bay and surrounding area from Longlac to Kenora has seen 11 sawmills closed, seven pulp and paper facilities closed or mothballed, and three plywood or pressboard plants close indefinitely.

In years gone by, the region has seen half a dozen mines close within a 500 kilometer radius.

As a result many businesses in the area have had to re-invent themselves, downsize, or close.

Such is the case at Lakehead Alternator and Starter Company Inc. Operated very successfully by Gunther Stahr it has had to change with the times.

It was acquired by the Maunula Group of Companies in 2005 at the beginning of the downturn. As the economy started to slide it went from six full time employees to three in only five years. They have been able to maintain their market share in the mining and forestry business, but unfortunately the market is smaller in some cases non-existent.

With the change of economies the company made a decision to move into it sister company’s operation and run it as a business within a business.

Auto Parts Central operates out of 10,000 square feet on Amber Drive in Thunder Bay.

By re-jigging the operation through better warehousing, dividing off the show room and adding 2,500 square feet of mezzanine shelving, it was able to make one business into two.

The cost of the move could be recovered in two years through savings alone, but other advantages of the move could speed this considerably.

“Access to another half million dollars in inventory and additional customers from both companies may prove the move to be more beneficial than just the dollar savings,” writes owner Wayne Maunula.

“John Sobkowich, branch manager, Ernie Chown, technician, and Andre Martos, technician are working together with Wally Phillips, branch manager at Auto Parts Central, and his team to make the new situation a win-win-win, especially for customers.

“The synergies are apparent to everyone, from staffing; to access to new inventory; to one stop shopping; to the overall cost of overhead, it just makes sense. But making the most of the synergies will require the companies and people to work together as a team to make sure the customers and staff can take full advantage of the situation with out getting in each other’s way, but rather helping each other to serve the customer more completely.”

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