Polar Corp., a full-line tank-trailer manufacturing, parts and service organization, on Friday, April 22, announced initiatives to reduce production lead times and expand after-sale support for customers that transport fuel, chemicals, propane, food and other products.
“Tank fleets are challenging their suppliers to help them be more competitive and efficient,” says Ted Fick, chief executive officer of the St. Cloud, Minn.-based company. “Polar recognizes these challenges and has introduced manufacturing and service programs to give our customers a distinct advantage.”
Fick outlined specific steps to reduce lead times, provide customers with more detailed information about specifications and cost calculations, and provide price quotes that are less susceptible to fluctuations in materials costs. These measures include:
• A second production shift at Polar’s factory in Opole, Minn., and a third production shift at its plants in Holdingford, Minn., and Springfield, Mo. All told, the company has hired 500 employees in the past 9 months to respond to increasing demand for its products.
• New precision manufacturing tools. This includes a new tube bender, laser cutter and plasma cutter at Polar’s Opole plant and other state-of-the-art fabrication equipment.
• New software for 3D mechanical design and digital prototyping. This reduces the time and cost of product development and improves coordination between the customer, Polar engineers, and the factory floor.
• Expanded manufacturing capabilities so each plant can produce a wider variety of trailer models and configurations. “This increases production flexibility and minimizes transportation costs associated with delivering the final vehicle,” Fick says.
Polar Service Centers provide reliable access to trailer inventory, aftermarket parts, field service and qualified technicians who can work on any brand of trailer. This commitment to sales and aftermarket support includes:
• More locations. The company increased the number of Polar Service Center locations from 20 to 29 in 2010 and plans to add 15 to 25 locations within the next 24 months. In April 2011, the company is opening Polar Service Centers in Cincinnati, Phoenix and Louisville, Ky. Fick says additional new locations will focus on open markets where customers have requested that Polar establish a presence, and markets where Polar can complement the strengths of its independent distributors.
• Access to rental trailers through Polar Service Centers, allowing customers to satisfy immediate operational needs until their new trailers are delivered.
• New electronic vehicle configuration resources that improve quoting accuracy, reduce order processing times and help customers compare the cost, weight and other characteristics of Polar products.
• Electronic inventory tools that allow customers to see Polar equipment that’s available to lease, rent or buy.
• A significant investment in ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) to streamline the flow of information about costs, quality, product specification and delivery among Polar, Polar Service Centers, customers and suppliers. It provides more efficient, responsive electronic parts ordering and fulfillment services for dealers and independent distributors.
“Our sales, manufacturing, and aftermarket networks are tightly connected to help us and our customers make better strategic decisions related to parts availability, pricing, delivery status and fleet cost-tracking,” Fick says.
Polar’s acquisition of JARCO, a manufacturer of propane delivery trucks and truck-mounted tanks for refined-fuel, allows the company to up-fit propane bobtails through the Polar Service Center network. Polar can offer a consistently built truck-mounted tank product to customers nationwide.
In addition to capital investments, Polar secured new labor agreements with its manufacturing employees. “Instead of rationalizing capacity or manpower, Polar has been investing and implementing new programs to help our customers prepare and grow their business,” Fick says. “We’re able to immediately respond when customers need equipment, parts or service.”