By Ryan SpencerIf you’ve sprayed foam for any length of time, then you’ve also worked on your gun. Or your proportioner. Or any other piece of equipment in your rig. Unfortunately, ongoing maintenance is a necessary reality for any spray foam operation. O-rings need to be replaced, chambers get clogged, and side seals get worn–replacement parts can move in and out of spray guns almost as quickly as chemical does. When faced with ordering replacement parts, contractors must take one of two paths: OEM (original equipment manufacturer) or aftermarket.
By opting for OEM parts, contractors can get the exact part they need, produced to the manufacturer’s specifications. OEM parts are identical replacements for the parts used during initial assembly–no more, no less. Aftermarket parts, on the other hand, comprise a wide-ranging market where specifications can stray, positively or negatively, from those of OEM parts. The aftermarket spectrum can range from manufacturers trying to hit lower price points by incorporating the cheapest materials possible, to manufacturers seeking to improve the performance of existing parts by incorporating different materials and manufacturing techniques. In the latter part of the aftermarket spectrum, it’s all about finding niches and delivering solutions.
“We meet contractor needs that aren’t being met by OEM parts currently on the market,” explained Pat Gililland, owner of SPF Depot, an aftermarket SPF parts manufacturer based in Louisiana.
No market addresses the needs of every customer, so there’s always a niche to be filled. That’s how markets grow, in fact. Suppliers with economies of scale may forgo product variety, allowing smaller, nimbler firms to provide customers with a wide array of choices. In the case of SPF Depot, Gililland asserts the company’s agile nature allows it to give customers options in terms of performance, durability, and differentiation.
Over the years, SPF Depot has brought to market numerous unique products, including hard coated mix chambers and side seals, genuine DuPont Viton O-rings manufactured to MIL-SPEC, and long-range chambers that shoot up to 15 feet. While most of SPF Depot’s parts were the result of focused research and development, others were circumstantial (the long-range mix chambers evolved from tinkering with drill positions during machining). With a unique variety of parts, aftermarket manufacturers like SPF Depot deliver value by providing customers with choices they otherwise wouldn’t have with OEM parts.
However, some contractors, particularly those who are just starting out, may not even have a choice between OEM and aftermarket parts, depending on where they initially bought their equipment.
“If you’re buying equipment on eBay, you may have a hard time getting OEM replacement parts and service from a distributor…the first thing they’ll ask you about is where you bought it,” explained Gililland. “That’s why we even stock and sell OEM parts that we don’t manufacture–yet.”
In that case, aftermarket parts may be a contractor’s only option. While it can be cheaper to buy parts on the secondary market, after-sale service is by no means guaranteed. That shortcoming constitutes a market need, and in response, SPF Depot has positioned itself to serve customers having difficulties getting service elsewhere.
“We want to lead customers in the right direction,” said Gililland, who further elaborated that this attitude often means guiding customers to not spend money. For instance, customers expecting damaged equipment to warrant extensive repairs or complete replacement might be advised that only minor repairs are necessary. In fact, SPF Depot established a small repair operation to handle common situations like mix chambers with broken-off drill bits and damaged front ends.
Beyond minimizing expenditures on repairs, perhaps the best way aftermarket manufacturers like SPF Depot can help customers save money is to reduce the number of repairs they have to make by enhancing the durability of their parts.
“We focus on making SPF Depot parts last longer than parts contractors are used to and we also make OEM parts better with heat treatment and surface treatments,” said Gililland.
Underlying this perspective on over-engineering replacement parts, there is a bit of a paradox: the production of replacement parts is a profitable enterprise. It would seem that improving the durability of replacement parts would limit the profitability of such a business: when parts last longer, customers don’t need to make as many purchases. However, Gililland persistently objects to this line of thinking, insisting that word gets out among contractors that a manufacturer’s longer-lasting parts save them money in the long run.
And it seems Gililland can back up his position, as SPF Depot’s recent successes like the Presidential E-award for Exporting and Louisiana SBA Award are excellent indicators that contractors worldwide are extremely receptive to having choices. After all, an aftermarket manufacturer like SPF Depot isn’t so different from its customers: finding opportunities in the market by filling gaps. •
Contact SPF Depot
Direct any questions you have about spray foam equipment and replacement parts to SPF Depot:
Phone: 318-742-8000 | Website: www.spfdepot.com
Photos Courtesy of SPF Depot