Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size image
Introducing Mark Spaulding, PERA President
By Doug Kaufman
Some of the most recognized names in the engine remanufacturing industry have sat atop the Production Engine Remanufacturers Association (PERA) Executive Committee over the past 59 years. Many of these men have had lifetimes of experience and brought storied family histories in the industry to their terms as president of PERA.
Mark Spaulding jokes that he is not one of those men. "I'm somewhat of an anomaly in this industry, because I didn't grow up in it," says Spaulding, chief operating officer of AER Mfg. Inc., in Carrollton, TX.
"I'm probably the least-recognized president PERA has ever had!"
Yet, recognition factor aside, PERA members who don't know Spaulding are going to find out that the soft-spoken Texan DOES have years of experience, a keen financial sense and a positive outlook for the association's future. He is ready, willing and more than able to lead PERA into its 60th year of existence.
"The short story of how I got here is that I have my accounting degree and maintain my CPA license. But the long story includes not getting hired for the job I wanted," Spaulding explains.
"I was working at a large accounting firm and AER was one of my clients. During a financial audit several years back I found out that one of the senior accounting guys in the company was getting ready to retire. I approached one of the others about coming to work at the company. He actually told me no!" Spaulding laughs.
"After the financial audit was over, however, they invited me back in, and I then had the opportunity to join AER as company controller," Spaulding says. "I'm a bean counter, but thanks to AER's continued growth in the original equipment arena, I've had the chance to have many roles within the company, many of them away from the accounting realm."
Spaulding credits AER's president Ray Fink with giving him the chance to grow beyond his original position studying the bottom line to directly impacting it. "When Ray asked me if I'd be interested in an operational role with the OEs, I jumped at the chance," he says.
Spaulding explains that AER's core business has historically been to service the remanufacturing needs of the automotive OEMs. "Our ties to Ford are the longest, but we also have a great relationship with GM, Nissan and Mazda. We've done some work with Land Rover and Jaguar as well."
Spaulding explains that the company's growth plan includes an aftermarket engine division as well.
"We don't really have a Chrysler program, but we're working on developing some expertise in that area to sell through the aftermarket - we hope that we'll then be able to get a leg up at Chrysler."
Spaulding explains that he joined AER from Deloitte and Touche Accounting in 1993 and moved over from the accounting side of the business in 1997. "When our manufacturing manager left, I just slid into that role and ended up being responsible for the plants and the OE contracts. It worked here, because I had a very strong support mechanism," Spaulding says. "Ray was there to oversee what I did plus we had very qualified production people who were good enough to guide me along until I was able to sufficiently fill the shoes I needed to."
Horse Sense, Business Sense
Filling shoes is something that Spaulding has been able to do very well, even before he knew about the remanufacturing industry.
"After high school, I went to college for a year and then decided to take a sabbatical from studying," Spaulding says. Growing up around horses gave him the incentive to serve the animal world first. "I became a farrier (one who shoes horses) and began working horseshows and rodeos."
Because the condition of a horse's hoof is so vital, a skilled farrier needs to look at his profession as more than just a job - it's a calling in which care and craftsmanship must go hand in hand. It also is a demanding career that often requires significant sacrifice of personal agendas and comfort.
"I was shoeing horses at the races in New Mexico which is where I met my wife," Spaulding says. She was going to college at Eastern New Mexico University, so D'Raye and Mark decided to get married and settle in New Mexico. "Since she was doing it, I decided at that time to go back to college and get my degree as well," he says.
And what would a Texas boy be without some rodeo blood in him? Spaulding says he did team roping for years. While he says he doesn't do it anymore, the concept of the sport still plays well into his daily routine.
Briefly, team roping, the only team event in rodeo, is a timed event that relies on the cooperation and skill of two cowboys and their horses. The two cowboys involved in team roping have unique responsibilities. The first, known as the "header," ropes the head of the cattle. The other cowboy, known as the "heeler," ropes the heels or legs.
Because there are specific roping requirements as well as other rules the cowboys must follow, team roping is a great event to watch due to the amazing coordination and cooperation of all the competitors. Team members must work well with each other and with their horses respectively.
This attitude carries over to Spaulding's current responsibility. "Our goal at AER is to treat all of our customers the way we treat our largest customer. We want to provide high quality remanufactured engines. If we can do that in a consistent manner we're happy."
Meeting the needs of its customers has, in some cases, changed the way AER does business. "The biggest change we've seen is that the quality in OE engines has continually improved…and since we sell warranty replacements, our warranty business has changed. Several years ago, all of our warranty work was sealed long blocks. Now, it's evolved into an expanding cylinder head program."
Because customers are constantly looking to control their costs, Spaulding says AER's methods have changed. "Three years ago, we would sell 40-50 cylinder heads in a good month. Today, an average month for us is over 1,000 heads and we do have months that top that. The offset to our warranty business is that we now provide a lot more retail work to the aftermarket," he explains.
Spaulding understands that working as a team is critical both within the walls of AER and within the structure of PERA. And despite his relative youth in the industry, he says he is confident that his experiences will be beneficial to the association's membership.
"My time moving through the chairs on the board has been extremely helpful. I think our industry will continue to consolidate, but I also feel that it will continue to grow," Spaulding says. "As some shops close, others will see growth to help pick up the slack."
Spaulding says from his perspective "growing together" offers a positive outlook for the future of the industry. And by continuing to develop and market tools such as the online reference tool ElectronicDataSouce.com, he feels PERA is in a great position to help its members continue to be successful.