Distributor adds value with mobile service

Distributor adds value with mobile service

With 13 locations in three states, parts distributor Power Train Service has identified mobile service as a way to expand its horizons and increase value-add to its customers.

A leading warehouse distributor with a passion for supplying parts for decades to truck fleets of all sizes has discovered still another way to “delight its customers.” With 13 locations in three states (12 with service bays) across the Midwest, Power Train Service, headquartered in Indianapolis, has identified mobile service as a way to expand its horizons and increase value-add to its customers.

“We want to be the person who throws the box away,” said Lyle Bass, president of Power Train Service and industry pioneer with the drive of a 20-year-old. “We simply must deliver more than providing parts over the counter or through our delivery fleet. So with our technicians in road service trucks, we’re able to take our parts, customer service and technical abilities to the street.”

It’s what Bass and his business partner, Joe Leffel, call “horizontal integration.” Many WDs offer service bays to install the parts they sell. But Power Train wanted a more aggressive approach. Through the growth of acquiring two independent service garages (ISGs), Power Train now offers 73 service bays with roughly $16 million in parts inventory throughout Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky.

Power Train’s Bass points out, “Our technicians and shop managers hear the positive customer feedback, and we’re able to measure satisfaction, manage inventories and know our operating income per bay. With CSA and possible on-road citations, we know fleet customers can’t risk OOS citations and can’t wait in long lines at dealerships for repairs.”

In Oct. 2010, Power Train acquired Truckers 24 Hr. Road Service, an Indianapolis-based independent service garage with six mobile service trucks covering Indianapolis, Ft. Wayne and Terre Haute, Ind., plus a 24-hour service shop in Indianapolis.

And recently, Power Train made another acquisition: C. Colyer & Son’s Truck Service in Cincinnati, Ohio, which operates 23 service bays in three locations and will continue to market itself under the same name.

“This acquisition makes us one of the largest privately-owned networks (service and parts) in the aftermarket truck parts and service industry,” said Bass, who cites services as the fastest growing element in the truck aftermarket.

Each service truck costs Power Train about $60,000 plus $15,000 in parts inventory. “We don’t tow; we know how to fix it, and we get them home safely,” summarized Bass.

30% of a service technician’s time is spent working on safety and training. “We focus on the safety of these vehicles and train repeatedly on how to approach a down truck, how to navigate around the truck safely, how to use signs and lights, and to park in front of the customer vehicle,” said Bass, whose company regularly updates technicians on new technologies.

Aside from addressing a service shortage, Bass also recognizes there’s a distinct shortage of counter personnel and technicians.

“There aren’t many schools developing and training these individuals,” he said, “and it takes five years to develop counter personnel internally—to truly understand the dynamics and breadth of product lines. Younger counter personnel have no problems with computers and technology, while experienced counter personnel use catalogs and have familiarity with the new methods.”

Sharp technicians are somewhat like young lions, and are more apt to learn computers and electronics. “We must move them up quickly on salary or they’ll jump for $5 to $6 more per hour,” he said. “Power Train uses Ivy Tech and Lincoln Technical Institute to identify new technicians.

“We watch closely what’s happening, and there’ll be a new wrinkle…a way we can add value and service for our customers,” noted Bass. Soon, Power Train will operate its mobile service trucks with integrated mobile workstations “to eliminate any issues of parts inventory on each of the trucks,” he added.

Investing in keeping an entire workforce trained and up to speed on equipment, best practices and new regulations is an essential part of doing business.

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