Getting to know Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems
Barbara Gould, Bendix director of communications
Please briefly describe the history of Bendix? (a quick summary is fine)
Incorporated in 1930, Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC (Bendix) has long been an industry pioneer and innovator in commercial vehicle active safety technologies, energy management solutions, and air brake charging and control systems. We have been headquartered in Elyria, Ohio since 1941.
In 2002 the company became wholly owned by the Knorr-Bremse Group, the world’s preeminent manufacturer of braking systems and supplier of additional sub-systems for rail and commercial vehicles, with 28,000 employees and sales totaling over EUR 6 billion in 2017. In 2004 Bendix and Dana Commercial Vehicle Products, LLC formed a joint venture known as Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake LLC (BSFB), combining and expanding the complementary wheel-end foundation brake technologies of two global leaders.
Our 3,200 employees are proud of our reputation as experts in air brake systems and leading-edge safety technologies in North America. Our focus on research & development, along with strategic growth opportunities over the decades, have helped us remain a high performing, strong, and steady business for today and tomorrow.
What makes Bendix a great place to work?
We are united under a strong set of corporate values. We believe in giving back to the communities in which we do business, and we pride ourselves on a workplace rich in collaboration, integrity, responsibility and respect. Our 3,200 employees across North America take part in an agenda of personal and professional development plus enjoy a vibrant culture of health and wellness that allows them and their families to participate in education and activities that support healthy living and healthy lifestyles.
How vital is it to have quality employees entering your business from younger generations, and how are you trying to recruit these younger professionals?
Maintaining a dynamic mix of generations across our workforce is essential. The opportunity to learn and interact with each other helps foster an environment of expertise and energy. We use a range of traditional and contemporary tools — from on-site employment events to integrating social media — as part of our ongoing recruitment program across North America. We incorporate engagement in employee resource groups, like our Women in Bendix, as well as multi-year Development Programs within key business areas to offer employees the opportunity to advance personally and professionally.
Does Bendix feel it is in the position to change with the times? If so how?
Being a strong and steady business for nearly 90 years requires us to remain agile, intelligent, dynamic, and strategic. That means always evaluating and enhancing how we do business, as well as proactively introducing the skills and enabling the mindsets into our organization necessary to build for the future. Our customer focus is our guiding light. We are dedicated to delivering products and integrated solutions — or safety, for trailers, for powertrain, for air bakes, and more — that address the customer needs of today and help proactively prepare them for a stronger tomorrow. The customer — across every aspect of our industry — always has a seat at our table, no matter the setting.
Jerry Conroy, Bendix regional vice president – aftermarket sales
Please briefly describe your company’s sales structure: What do you sell, who are your customers, etc.?
Bendix supplies active safety, air management, and braking system technologies to the commercial vehicle market.
What separates Bendix from competitors in its marketplace?
Bendix has a variety of competitors in the marketplace, of all shapes and sizes. I believe that Bendix stands out from the pack because of our ability to innovate and provide products which solve customer issues and provide real payback opportunities. This product excellence, coupled with the basket of aftersales support elements we bring to the market to support our distributor, dealer, and end-user customers allows Bendix to remain a strong supplier within the industry.
How do you believe customers perceive your business?
I believe our customers see us as a reliable supplier and a key partner. I also sense that Bendix is perceived as a strong brand with a proven reputation for delivering high-quality, technology-leading products.
How and why do your customers stay loyal to your business?
Our aftermarket customers historically have been quite loyal to our business. I attribute this loyalty to a variety of factors, including our continued presence as a leading supplier in the vehicle OEM market; our ability to deliver high-quality, reliable parts; and our willingness to support our products after the sale. People generally stick with what works, and in this sense, I would attribute the loyalty we’ve seen to the fact that the relationship they have with Bendix is working for them.
What is one thing most customers/suppliers don’t know about Bendix that would surprise/impress them? (i.e., tell us something about Bendix we don’t know)
Bendix and its parent company Knorr-Bremse are the world’s largest air brake and safety system supplier for commercial vehicles. In addition, Knorr-Bremse is a leader in rail systems, so as long as freight continues to move over the rails or road, Knorr-Bremse is going to be there to support it.
Do you have any advice for the next generation, as they work in this industry?
I am a firm believer in taking the reins of your career from the beginning. Set your sights high and work like crazy to reach those targets. Don’t expect someone else to make opportunities for you. Ask for constructive feedback from sources you can trust and be accountable to yourself for making improvements.
What are the three most pivotal moments in your career that you either learned from and/or that got you where you are?
I started my career calling on fleets, and I learned a great deal about end users during that time. This shaped my perspective on every future position I’ve had, as I’ve learned that when it comes to understanding the customer, there’s really no substitute for being there with them in their operation, seeing firsthand how they manage their business, and taking note where we (as a supplier) can add value.
Although my background is in sales and marketing, I took a role 12 years ago in product management. This was a major learning curve and out of my comfort zone, but it allowed me to learn an incredible amount about all other aspects of managing a business – finance, operations, supply chain, purchasing, product development, and human resources. I really enjoy being in sales again, but experiencing the role inside the business was critical for my professional development.
A third pivotal career moment was being part of a Strategic Leadership Program at Bendix in 2011. It was a cross-functional group of individuals from across the Knorr-Bremse North American businesses that offered a small group-based capstone course to address specific business projects. The group in which I was a part was brought together to deeply evaluate our aftermarket business. We made recommendations to the leadership at the time that continue to shape how we do things, which is rewarding. On a personal level, though, this allowed me insight into all operational elements of our aftermarket business which sticks with me to this day.
Are there any industry leaders that have influenced you/mentored you? Who were they and how has their knowledge assisted you?
Absolutely! There are too many to name. That said, I think that early in one’s professional career, it’s good to develop mentoring relationships with trusted colleagues and leaders. When you’re trying to maneuver the waters of a career, a mentor can help you navigate. They’ve been through their own experiences and can likely relate to your opportunities. In this way, you get the benefit of their perspective.
I would add that some of the best mentors I have come in contact with in our industry have been our customers. I have found that if you listen carefully to them, you can chart the course forward not only with respect to your career, but also to ways for building stronger, more meaningful business relationships that will allow you to bring more expertise to your organization.