Blare Products Case Study
“What really moved us to giving e-BI a try was their global supply chain management (GSCM) system and their engineering ability. . . e-BI specialization in these areas gave us a major leap toward success and quickly rewarded us with a profitable solution to our business strategy. e-BI’s value became critical. “
——- Tony Blare, Blare Products Inc.
(Please note that due to the competitive nature of this product line, the actual product and company names have been substituted)
Blare Products, Inc. was founded by Tim Blare who also owns Blare Excavating, Inc., a third generation, family-owned commercial excavating/site utility company in the Kansas City area. Specializing in afer market parts that fit CAT/ASV and undercarriage parts for MTL Skid Loaders, these specific parts are made to endure various terrain and help with daily maintenance or repairs in the shop or filed with simple standard tools.
Blare Products was founded by Tim Blare, who had invented parts to help him reduce the jobsite downtime occurring on his fleet of Caterpillar Skid Loaders. His designs also lessened the high costs of after-market replacement parts and repairs. As he perfected his invented parts, word circulated that Mr. Blare’s so-lutions saved costs and extended the life of parts that were com-monly problematic for the Caterpillar Skid Loaders.
Armed with his proven designs and possessing a first-hand understand-ing of the specific frustrations of his potential customers, Tim Blare be-gan producing after-market parts for Caterpillar (CAT) machinery and undercarriage parts for MTL Skid Loaders. These specific parts were able to meet the requirements for enduring performance on varied terrain. They were also able to ease the maintenance load because they could be repaired in the shop or field with simple, standard tools.
Blare’ Products caters to a strong market, and has evolved into a profit-able business that is well regarded for its solid, proven products. The company hoped to expand its line with products that would replace other existing parts with better designed alternatives made of more durable materials. Blare management estimated that an expansion strategy based the specific proposed new products could increase growth by 12-15% in 2010.
Tony Blare, a third generation Blare member of the company manage-ment team, explained what the company was after. “Let’s use one of our products, the solid aluminum wheels that are used in small loaders, as an example. The original part was made out of rubber and plastic. Ex-treme wearing on the inside and outside of the track, which is common with rubber track, is caused at the contact area where the idler and bo-gie wheels contact the track's inner surface. This is because all the weight is applied at this area.” Blare described various solutions their designers considered: to reduce spinning the track on all surfaces, since this contact area has the most load this situation had us thinking about getting out of the business all together that would greatly reduce the wear that causes the desired flat contact surface area to take the form of a bicycle tire, which increases the load force per square inch.
Upgrading materials was the logical solution, but the cost for replacing the rubber with aluminum was prohibitive. Blare’s market research showed that contractor/operators of this type of equipment would pay 2 to 3 times more for improved materials, but the market price Blare en-countered was 20 times the cost of the original.
Needing to find alternatives, Blare began its search for a suitable part-ner to manage engineering, sourcing, off-shore manufacturing, and sup-ply chain. They had been working with a number of factories inside of China, which “turned into a nightmare for us,” Blare said. “We could never get consistent quality and eventually lost all communication with them. . .they just never answered the phone again,” Blare said. “This situation had us thinking about getting out of the business all to-gether.”Blare was determined to avoid putting a team in place in China, despite their limited expertise in overseas operations.
They also coped limited engineering capability and sought a solution where they could reliably send a sample, verbally describe what they needed to accomplish, and rely on their Chinese manufacturers to pro-vide an acceptable, quality solution. “We are excellent mechanics and operators,” Blare said, “and we had faith in our strategy to offer the af-ter market replacement parts that are a major, cost-effective advantage from the original.”
Frustrated with its Chinese initiatives, Blare began its search for a new company that could support their vision. They began by comparing a number of companies that had capacity to manage overseas manufac-turing as well as the ability to offer product development/engineering assistance. They selected e-BI because of the e-BI GSCM system, after evaluating companies that offered varying levels of web-based capabil-ity. “No other competitor offered as complete a solution as e-BI,” Blare said. “We can easily log on and see every step of our order. And I mean every step. Within our own staff we have half a dozen people use the GSCM system, from order status to engineering drawings to managing our shipments.
We can see every movement of our product. It really is amazing.” Reflecting on communica-tion challenges with their first partners in China, Bain noted the difference with e-BI. Orders were handled efficiently, on time, and their questions were answered on time, supported with pictures via email when needed. Access was freely given for Bain to communicate directly with suppliers. “Many of my worries were put to rest,” Bain said. “eBI spent the time and resources to understand our problems and worked with us to develop a solution that met our needs.
They helped us navigate through the manufacturers in China and assisted us with delivery of a high quality, low cost product.” By 2010, after five years of working with e-BI across four prod-uct launches, Blare has met it strategy to expand its line of products and increase sales. Bain’s new ASV30 Axle Upgrade Kit, for example, upgrades the front and rear axles to use tapered roller style bearings, increasing useable life and adding the benefit of aluminum alloy wheels which are tapped with a grease fitting for quick and easy lubrication of the bearings. e-BI sup-plies the majority of this kit, which reduces Bain costs across the board, including engineering, production, packaging, purchasing. “We would not be able to provide this kind of packaging without e-BI’s talent and GSCM system. Their help enables us to deliver products that help our customers save the cost of expensive dealer prices and extend the life of their equipment,” Bain said, explaining that the kits enable customers to fix or maintain their machine in the field or shop without lengthy delays. Looking ahead, Bain expects e-BI to play a key role in sourcing materials and manufacturing products in other countries. Noting that most of their products are alloy aluminum, which is very competitively priced in emerging countries, Bain is expanding into Australia and foresees an expanding network of global dealers.
“e-BI gives us the advantage of being able to drop ship from the factory to any location, which is very powerful for us. I would highly recommend e-BI to anyone who wants competitive pric-ing, attention to detail, and a partner who can help make the manufacturing process go as smooth as possible,” Bain said.