Dealer Expo 2004

Specializing in the distribution of motorcycle, snowmobile, ATV, Marine and RV parts and accessories, Bell Industries’ Recreational Products Group began a number of strategic improvement initiatives in 2003 that were intended to remove waste and cost from the business and position it for growth in 2004.

A part of Bell Industries’ business portfolio since 1968, RPG has grown from a small company called Midwest Mobile Home Supplies to a $45 million-per-year enterprise. While the recreational vehicle market continues to be its strongest, the company says it is committed to growing share in the powersports industry.

“The Senior Leadership Team at RPG recently developed a core business model to provide clarity in our improvement efforts during late 2003 and 2004,” Marc Higgins, director of purchasing and logistics, told Powersports Business. “In essence, that model had us add new employees, including outside sales people; restructure the catalog department; introduce an online ordering system for our dealers; enhance the BellRPG.com Web site; and plan other exciting new Web-based business initiatives to be announced early in 2004.

“It gives us a much more complicated business cycle model, but these appropriate tools help to ensure the front-end of our business is best in class.”

The company began to revamp in November 2002, when Bell moved into a 70,000 sq. ft. facility in Eagan, Minn. Then, in May 2003, RPG closed its Brainerd, Minn., facility, transferring work to Eagan and existing facilities in Germantown, Wisc., and Grand Rapids, Mich.

The next step of the initiative dealt with RPG’s employee base: Higgins joined the company in April of 2003; Patrick Mercer joined in September 2003 as a distribution center manager; and Brad Benson joined as motorcycle and ATV product manager on Jan. 5.

While the facility and employee base were being updated, Rod Sundblad, divisional vice president of RPG, began leading a team dedicated to issues dealing with customer satisfaction. Among the major issues: the ordering system.

Introduced in November, RPG’s new online ordering system – connected to wireless bar code warehousing infrastructure – allows dealers to order products, check inventory and check stock locations, among other options, around the clock. The system operates in real-time rather than uploading, and refreshes several times daily.

“Plus, new state-of-the-art handheld radio frequency computers and improved processes have streamlined our distributions centers,” Higgins said, “and a demand based, automated purchasing system with EDI capability for our Top 10 volume suppliers went live October 6.”

“Success will resonate from Bell Industries as we refine, improve and grow the business,” Higgins said. “Our growth plans are focused, purposeful, and timed perfectly with an economic recovery we’re all optimistic about.”

For more information, visit Bell Industries’ RPG Division in Indianapolis, Booth # 1910.

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