In addition to her duties as Western Star’s president, Kelley Platt is also the chief diversity officer for Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA). It’s a position that urges the company to reach out beyond the normal channels one would think to pull from when hiring and promoting.
“Daimler Trucks North America, as a company, wants to be the kind of place that every kind of person can go to and say, ‘I can bring my authentic self to work every day,’” Platt explained. “We feel that DTNA gets a diverse set of ideas; we get solutions to problems that we wouldn’t get otherwise, and it’s a lot more of a fun place to work.”
That’s a philosophy that Platt has clearly extended into the Western Star truck brand, as the OEM rolled out a diverse offering of 4700 and 4900 off-road trucks—from a mixer and water truck to a 25-ton dump and Elliot HiReach—as well as the 5700XE highway truck at an April press event in Phoenix.
The Western Star 4700 in particular continues to propel the company’s success, thanks to its body-builder friendly features, Peter Arrigoni, vice president of Western Star sales, said during the event.
“Let’s say you want a vacuum truck that’s going into an oilfield application,” Platt began. “Every vacuum truck body manufacturer does things a little bit differently, and so they’re going to want the chassis and the electrical requirements to be a little different. We will work with them to create exactly what they want. We’ll also make sure we’ve clearly documented the process, so when they want two more just it, we can build it quickly and efficiently.
“This is what we do today, and we just get better and better at it,” Platt continued. “We think this is one of the things that was key to Western Star’s success as we were growing up as a company, and it’s a skill set that we want to keep refining.”
The challenges of crafting a unique product are seen in the number of components and complexity in the build itself. Every truck that is built on the Western Star production floor is different from the one before it and the one after it. Platt explained that it is far closer to being a custom manufacturer than a high-volume manufacturer.
Yet building is just one piece of the truck puzzle. Having a robust distribution network is key to the continued support of the truck after it rolls off the line—especially when the tasks Western Star trucks tackle are so diverse.
“It’s a matter of having the right distribution network and having people in our dealerships who can support the customers that are in their communities and the kinds of applications that they take on,” Platt said. “For example, the customers in Michigan have a lot of snow plows; the customers in Florida, not so much. On the other hand, the customers in Florida are doing a lot of bridge construction, a lot of infrastructure development and a lot of quarries. They have a different set of challenges, and it’s important that our dealers are able to relate to whomever the customers are in their particular areas.”