Strategic Partnerships Pay Dividends

It’s a scenario that every fleet or maintenance manager dreads. The typically hectic day is over and it’s time to settle in for some family time or relaxation, or maybe even watching the big game live on television. Then the cell phone rings. There’s a truck down with an engine issue, and it is a long way from one of your facilities.

It’s got a critical load and it needs to get back on the road - now. It’s a problem, and it’s now your problem.

But if you’ve partnered with the right suppliers and vendors, you may not have to shoulder the problem alone.

WHO TO CALL?

It’s Super Bowl Sunday, 9 at night, and a new truck is broken down because of an engine failure in Pine Bluff, AR, says Bill Mueller, Quality Carriers’ service center manager for the company’s facility in Pleasant Prairie, WI. “Who do I call? I don’t want an 800 number. I want to talk to a service manager.”

You would be hard pressed to find a fleet or maintenance manager that does not share Mueller’s wishes. When the unexpected arises and emergencies happen, everybody wants somebody to call.

For Mueller, that somebody is often Bob Kranzusch, service advisor at JX Peterbilt - Wadsworth in Wadsworth, IL. He is the first point of contact for Mueller and his Quality Carriers’ terminal.

JX Peterbilt is a subsidiary of JX Enterprises, headquartered in Waukesha, WI.. Founded in 1970, JX Enterprises operates 15 medium and heavy duty truck dealerships operating as JX Truck Center and JX Peterbilt in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin.

UNPLANNED DOWNTIME

While the unexpected is a way of life for every fleet and maintenance manager, unplanned downtime takes on particular urgency for Quality Carriers.

The just-in-time carrier has a strong customer base with automotive and equipment manufacturers, transporting high-quality primers, paints and finishes. If product isn’t where it needs to be when it needs it be, entire assembly lines can come to a halt and disrupt production.

Quality Carriers is the liquid and dry bulk transportation division of Tampa, FL-based Quality Distribution. It is the largest bulk transportation company in North America with more than 7,500 stainless steel tankers and customized trailers and more than 3,300 tractors. The company runs in Canada, Mexico and the contiguous U.S.

Quality Distribution has terminals throughout the U.S. and Canada, including the one run by Mueller. It is the company’s largest, and its original terminal, in operation for more than 50 years.

CLEAN EQUIPMENT

In addition to customers needing their loads fast, they also need them clean. Just as a late load can shut down an assembly line, so can a contaminated one.

“Cleanliness is critical,” says Mueller. “Not only do we move products in bulk, but we also take care of all the equipment from the tractors to the tank liners.

“We have a state-of-the-art cleaning facility onsite to ensure our customers receive the highest-quality products that are free from any imperfections.”

With the exceptionally high standards demanded by Quality Carriers’ customers, it is no wonder the company demands the same of its suppliers. That’s where the team at JX Peterbilt comes in.

SELLING SUPPORT

While the partnership, which is proving mutually beneficial for both dealer and carrier, was a long time in developing. It took nearly 10 years and regular calls from the dealership’s sales team to get a shot at the business and required a commitment to a full-service approach that could not be compromised.

Mueller explains he was investigating parts and service sources that were closer to his terminal as his existing suppliers were both 60 miles away in opposite directions. He knew of the JX Peterbilt dealership in Wadsworth which was less than five miles away.

“I always keep an open mind to bring vendors in and listen to what they have to say because I’m a believer in the latest technologies,” he says. “So in talking with JX, and having lived the life of a maintenance manager and being an ASE-certified master technician, I knew the value of a good, strong local dealership.

“I’m over maintenance at this terminal (Pleasant Prairie), and we have 250 trailers and 50 to 70 power units here at any given time. I knew not having a relationship with a strong dealership in our area hurt us.”

He says the distance of their current suppliers at the time was having a negative impact on operations, but there were other factors as well, including parts availability and inventory.

So when JX came to call the next time, the discussion went beyond truck sales to focus on all areas of after-sale support - parts, service, warranty and roadside.

“We listened closely to what Quality Carriers required and it was clear, like with many customers, it’s what happens after the truck sale that is the most important element,” says Kurt Jorgensen, JX Enterprises’ vice president of sales. “We worked to put together a package that included comprehensive support, around the clock.

The approach worked, but more importantly, it continues to work because the expectations and requirements continue to be met.

SKILLED TECHNICIANS

One of the advantages that helped JX Peterbilt win and capture the business was, according to the dealership’s Kranzusch, factory-trained technicians that are tuned into industry trends and regularly participate in ongoing training offered from suppliers and through other industry resources.

“The importance of a well-trained, well-informed technician can not be overstated,” he says. “Truck technologies are always advancing and vehicle systems are always growing in sophistication.

“You can never stop learning in this industry. If you want to serve customers to the best of your abilities, you need to stay current.”

It can be a competitive differentiator that determines where customers go for their aftermarket needs.

Having skilled technicians is a tremendous advantage for any dealership or repair operation, maintains Mueller. When a truck gets to a facility, its technicians “need to be knowledgeable and have the skills, abilities and credibility though training and re-certification of their brands that allow them to properly diagnose a truck and give me accurate information.”

He say JX Peterbilt’s service advisors are able to tell him, based on the dealership’s technicians’ experience and ability, exactly how long that truck will be down. “When you factor in having the right parts available or being able to get them, I’m able to get an accurate time of when that truck is going to be back up and they stick to it.”

ASSESSMENT OF DOWNTIME

An accurate assessment of downtime complements Quality Carriers’ complex and technology-driven approach to its logistics management. Mueller says each truck - regardless of where it is in North America, is monitored electronically. With a few keystrokes, he can check any unit’s location, movement, mileage, fault codes and failures.

“We can access all of this information, give it to the dealership and know exactly when that truck needs to be scheduled and what needs to be done with it,” he says. “Much of that same information is also accessed by the JX Peterbilt service department, which proactively recommends maintenance or repairs.”

The dealership’s ability to assist in the monitoring of mileage and performance, coupled by in-depth knowledge of the fleet’s service history, also helps minimize downtime through failure trend analysis and predictive replacement strategies.

“Anticipating trend failures is another great help,” Mueller says. “That is a tremendous management advantage because those breakdowns on the highway were very costly.”

WARRANTY ADMINISTRATION

The dealership’s willingness to work with Mueller on warranty administration was another selling point. Just as trucks and components grow more complex, often, so do the warranties attached to them.

Mueller says simply keeping up with warranty terms and administering warranty claims can quickly turn into a full-time job. With the dealership handling warranty matters there is one less thing to worry about.

By becoming a one-stop source that offered multiple solutions, JX Peterbilt helped both Mueller and his Quality Carriers make the most of their time.

“As you evolve in this business, you find yourself wearing three, four or more hats,” says Mueller. “If you have a vendor who is willing to take on responsibility of standing by its products after the sale, which JX did, that’s a winner.”

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