Despite a difficult economy over the past few years, one Tiffin company has continued to expand by diversifying and becoming a leader in its field.
With a business history of 125 years, Tiffin Parts LLC has faced many changes and the ability to evolve which has provided success.
President Mark Knight began working with the company in March 2009. A business unit of the Heico Companies, Tiffin Parts has for many years been considered the original equipment manufacturer for heavy industrial equipment maker Pettibone - with many parts in stock and 300,000-500,000 prints on file - but Knight saw an opportunity when he took over.
Over the past two years, Knight said the company has taken over parts distribution for two sister companies - Pettibone, a construction equipment manufacturer in Michigan, and Barko, a forestry equipment manufacturer in Wisconsin.
"Parts really didn't have the focus that it needed, so we thought it made sense to consolidate the parts organizations here in Tiffin," he said.
In addition, Tiffin Parts now provides parts for many competing brands, which has helped it grow. For example, last year forestry parts sales grew by more than 50 percent over 2009, a year with improved sales over 2008. Knight said he attributes success to customer-centric service.
"More than anything, availability is key," he said. "When you have a piece of equipment that is down, not running, you need to get it up and running as soon as possible, and getting the part you need is critical. That is really our focus, getting our customers up and running as soon as we can."
Construction has been a challenge, especially because many of the parts it supplies are for residential and small manufacturing, but Knight said it has not been negative for Tiffin Parts.
"Even though some of the markets we serve are not growing - in fact, I think some have shrunk - we've been able to drive some growth in select segments," he said.
And Tiffin Parts' work has been noticed at the national level. A June research study released by Aberdeen Group cited Tiffin Parts as a case study and recognized it as a "best-in-class" for service parts. Knight, who is honored to be mentioned, was asked to speak at a conference in October.
He said Tiffin Parts is far from finished looking for ways to expand. It is considering expansion into agricultural manufacturing and looking to integrate or acquire a business for that purpose.
"We're not limiting ourselves with how we might grow," Knight said.
In addition, a website introduced after Knight took over has helped more than 4,000 people a month connect with Tiffin Parts.
"The question is, if you don't know who Tiffin Parts is, how do you find them? The web lent itself nicely to letting us be found," Knight said.
Tiffin Parts is continuing to look ahead, but Knight said none of it would be possible without a focus on customer service, a value of the Tiffin crew.
"I think what really has made a difference for this business, and this may seem a little cliche - you hear it all the time - but I genuinely believe that it's the people that have made all the difference," he said. "The wealth of knowledge and the culture that exists here is what makes this business so unique and successful and I think that's why we've felt so comfortable integrating the two sister companies' parts into our business.