Getting to know Velvac
Herb Brown, manager, Aftermarket sales and marketing at Velvac
Please briefly describe the history of your company.
Velvac is an 86-yea-old company that started with the manufacture of vacuum brakes. The original name of the company was The Vacuum Power Equipment Company. We became Velvac in 1940 to align with the new product the Velvet Vacuum Brake. Velvac began manufacturing mirrors for truck OEs in the 1950s as a Tier-1 manufacturer. Velvac is owned by Eastern Corporation.
Please briefly describe your company’s sales structure: What do you sell, who are your customers, etc.?
Velvac is a three-tiered company. We supply parts to the medium- and heavy-duty truck aftermarket, medium- and heavy-duty OE and OE recreational vehicle markets. The two OE segments are served by internal sales teams. The aftermarket business is supported by a director of sales and marketing, national sales manager, sales support analyst, product manager and marketing manager, as well as 53+ independent representatives. Our OE customers include all the large truck OEMs, Ford, GM, Trailer OEMs and almost all RV Manufacturers. In the aftermarket we serve all market: buying groups, national accounts, independent WDs, truck and trailer dealers, truck body upfitters and government suppliers. We have over 4,500 SKUs in inventory, with line item fill rates of over 95 percent in 24 hours. We ship from four warehouses, New Berlin, Wis. (corporate), Dallas, Anaheim and Ontario.
What separates your business from competitors in its marketplace?
Our mix of product with brake systems being coupled with mirrors and one of the largest offerings of air cylinders and valves to actuate those cylinders. We are also supported by an engineering staff of 17 engineers, which is probably something most people don’t know.
How do you believe customers perceive your business?
I believe customers find us to be a company that is easy to do business with due to our fill rates and turnaround time. We have excellent quality products with warranty rates around 0.5 percent (not 5 percent but 0.5 percent). Having 4,500+ SKUs in the offering makes it easy to place orders.
How and why do your customers stay loyal to your business?
Same reasons stated above.
What is one thing most customers/suppliers don’t know about your company that would surprise/impress them? (i.e., tell us something about your company we don’t know)
Many of the aftermarket customers don’t know we are a tier one supplier to the truck OEMs or RV OEs. We are IATF 16949 and ISO 14001 certified, with 17 engineers in New Berlin.
What makes your company a great place to work?
Culture! Jeff Porter the president and CEO of Velvac empowers his staff to drive change and improvement.
How vital is it to have quality employees entering your business from younger generations, and how are you trying to recruit these younger professionals?
It is essential to get younger people in this industry. Look around at the cocktail hours at any of our events and you will see lots of grey hair/no hair people. What needs to be emphasized to new people entering this industry is that the general culture is enjoyable. You will make many lifelong friends all across the country if you stay with it.
Does your business feel it is in the position to change with the times? If so how?
Velvac is poised to change with the times because we are situated at a perfect size. Small enough to be flexible but large enough to have the support to make the changes needed.
Do you have any advice for the next generation, as they work in this industry?
Don’t worry about the fact that truck parts are not “sexy”! Embrace your business with a passion, learn all you can and you will succeed!
Why did your company join GenNext? How can GenNext help your employees?
My former product manager was in GenNext. I have a new sales support analyst that I will have join GenNext. We need to keep getting more young blood in the business.
What are the three most pivotal moments in your career that you either learned from and/or that got you where you are?
- My first job in the industry was as an independent rep. You learn a lot about multiple products in that job.
- My first corporate position was at Tramec Corporation. There I learned more about air brake systems than I have learned since.
- Moving to Velvac and working for Jeff. I went from being in a sales position where my only job was to sell, to a position where it is my job to work on helping my company progress in who/what we want to be in the industry.
Are there any industry leaders that have influenced you/mentored you? Who were they and how has their knowledge assisted you?
Too Many to list! Doug Thompson (Sloan), Toby Harris (CVG), John Minor (Midwest Wheel), Armond Sikes (AA Wheel), Dave Settles (Weldon Parts) and of course my current boss, Jeff Porter (Velvac).