Snap-on Equipment Ltd., the new name for the company that distributes two long-established names in the garage equipment industry – Hoffman and John Bean – is no newcomer to the business. Hofmann produced their first balancer way back in 1932, and at the same time across the Atlantic John Bean began marketing their first wheel alignment machine. These two Snap-on Equipment mainstays have focused upon manufacturing premium level equipment for the industry ever since. In the UK Snap-on Limited call the Thames Valley their home, and recently Tyres & Accessories travelled to the company’s Reading headquarters to meet with new general manager Chris Behan and UK sales manager, Chris Pleass.
By the time T&A met Chris Behan in mid-July he’d already spent four months in the hot seat at Snap-on Equipment, and was drawing on his considerable management experience – Behan has worked with A&M Electric, Atlas Copco and AEG and, most recently as general manager for Tornado Fixings – to head up the company’s ambitious short and medium term plans. “The wheel service market – balancers, changers, aligners, is worth £170 million in total,” he said. “So there’s plenty of room to grow.”
And growth is precisely what Behan has in mind for Snap-on Equipment; he spoke of increasing the business 50 per cent by 2009, a goal that recent performance suggests may well be attainable. “Since March the company has had two record months,” he shared. “First in April, and then we beat this record in June – both great signs that we are definitely moving in that direction. People, products and servicing are important in this respect.” Some particularly significant deals of late have seen Nationwide Autos install tyre changers and wheel balancers from Snap-on Equipment into 62 of their depots via Unipart GES.
In terms of product, Snap-on Equipment prefers to stand on grounds of quality, not price. A lot of budget level equipment coming out of China, Behan explains, is simply ‘badged and boxed’, and once the customer receives it they’re more or less on their own. “Customers are taking a risk and a gamble on the cheaper end of the market,” commented Behan. Snap-on, in contrast, provides training at the premises in Reading, equipment calibration, plus a nationwide team of service engineers. Snap-on Equipment can offer customers a range of service packages including breakdown service, calibration contracts and maintenance contracts, all tailored to suit each individual customer’s needs. According to Chris Pleass, such service and maintenance accounts for 12 per cent of Snap-on Equipment’s business.
Hofmann produce their geodyna wheel balancers for the passenger car, light truck and truck vehicle segments, including the high-spec geodyna optima, a unit that diagnoses both balancing and run out issues. The geodyna optima uses a non-touch laser system to measure all data including wheel dimensions, lateral and radial run-out, number and position of rim spokes and the presence of any imbalance. Accurate measurements are assured through the inclusion of three integrated laser units with CCD cameras. Rims between 8 and 30-inches in diameter will work with the geodyna optima, and the unit runs at a measuring speed of 200rpm.
In late July Hofmann announced the introduction of a new LCD display unit on its geodyna wheel balancers. Both the geodyna 4300-2/p and geodyna 6300-2/p balancers feature the new display, along with more user-friendly software for increased operator convenience. Key benefits of the new display and software include the facility to view wheel data inputs at all times, along with the capability to select wheel and vehicle types with a single keystroke. Customised settings can also be saved and read out on the display, removing the need to re-enter data for multiple balancing operations on wheels and tyres of the same specification.
“Ease of use is an important factor when it comes to getting the best possible return from any garage equipment investment,” commented Chris Behan. “The new display and software makes Hofmann wheel balancers even easier to use than before, helping workshops to maximise throughput and ultimately revenue.”
While meeting with Chris Behan conversation progressed to the wheel alignment side of business, and Snap-on Equipment’s new general manager threw a cat among the pigeons. “Touchless doesn’t work,” he stated. “It needs four to five metres of width – two bays for the one machine.” He added that such a set up would kill return on investment. As for cordless CCD systems, he points out that they transfer data much more slowly than their corded counterparts, and require more maintenance. All cordless Snap-on Equipment systems are supplied with backup cords to prevent the occurrence of downtime should a cord malfunction or become damaged.
Customers need not worry, however, as Chris Behan points out that Snap-on Equipment products are renowned for their robustness. As a case in point he notes that the Micheldever Station deport (a record breaking retail outlet) exclusively uses Snap-on because of their durability and speediness, a fact he calls a “testimony to product quality.”