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TOWING & RECOVERY January 2011 Keeping industry pros on their tows tow Partners ADVISOR FOOTNOTES www.trfootnotes.com Starts Next Issue ® Beginning in Footnotes’ next issue, readers will enjoy a new monthly tow-Partners Advisor section, featuring news and stories from towPartners, program information about benefits providers, and articles of the top quality readers expect from the Advisor. This new monthly feature is provided by towPartners to reach not only its members but, through Footnotes, even more of the men and women of the tow-ing industry. “We are proud to partner with Footnotes to bring Advisor to our mem-bers and the industry on a monthly basis,” said Jeffrey Godwin, Vice Pres-ident of towPartners. “This partnership will add value to both of our organiza-tions as well as our members as we continue to work ‘for the industry’ while working with Footnotes to continue its long-standing tradition of diverse industry coverage, business and tech-nical education, and profiles of suc-cessful towing professionals.” towPartners is expanding its savings to members nationwide as well as driv-ing new revenue streams to them. To accomplish this, it is important to com-municate with members every month. Our new partnership accomplishes this by bringing together Footnotes, the industry’s monthly trade journal, and Advisor, previously a quarterly mem-bers-only magazine. The combination of Footnotes and Advisor will offer a great-ly enhanced information and reading experience to towing professionals everywhere! The first edition of the towPartners Advisor section begins next month in the February issue. Watch for it! Do manufacturers listen to your ideas when they design new equipment like this? Miller’ s new H-beam rotator , unveiled at the Baltimore show By Allan T. Duffin The development and manufactur-ing of towing equipment has often been a customer-driven process. Over the years, towers have provided input on the design and production of new and improved equipment that met their need to be safer and more effi-Volume 21, Number 9 © 2011 Dominion Enterprises. All Rights Reserved. ❘ $3.95 cient in their work and to have contin-ued business success in a very competi-tive marketplace.We asked some prom-inent industry manufacturers to give examples of advances in equipment that resulted from listening to their customers. “ C ustomer influence is essential for us,” said Scott Rahner, product special-ist for United Recovery Industries. Based in Kansas C ity, MO, and Eliz-abeth C ity, N C , United Recovery Industries (formerly Recovery Solu-tions) manufactures tow truck and car-rier bodies. “We are constantly in con-tact with our customers to improve and prototype equipment,” added Rahner. At Jerr-Dan in Hagerstown, MD, a continuous process they call “Voice of the C ustomer” (VO C ) provides helpful guidance for the company. “This input Towing & Recovery Footnotes ® 10 Bokum Rd. Essex, CT 06426 PRST STD U.S. POSTAGE PAID PEORIA, IL PERMIT NO. 315 factors into all of our product develop-ment and product improvement pro-grams,” e x plained Jeff Barbour, direc-tor of marketing and channel manage-ment for Jerr-Dan. “ C ost and ability to manufacture are key aspects of any project; however, the demands of the customer who is using the product everyday are critical.” According to Anthony Gentile, pres-ident of Dynamic Towing Equipment & Manufacturing in Norfolk, VA: “We seek input from the end users, includ-ing motor clubs and municipalities. Owning a towing company in New York helps us tremendously in testing changes made before [a product] hits the market. Also it helps us understand how efficient and easy the unit needs to be out on the road.” Here's some examples of the impact of customer advice on gear design: See GET IT IN GEAR! page 3

Get In Gear!

Allan T. Duffin

Do manufacturers listen to your ideas when they design new equipment like this?<br /> <br /> The development and manufacturing of towing equipment has often been a customer-driven process. Over the years, towers have provided input on the design and production of new and improved equipment that met their need to be safer and more efficient in their work and to have continued business success in a very competitive marketplace.We asked some prominent industry manufacturers to give examples of advances in equipment that resulted from listening to their customers.<br /> <br /> “Customer influence is essential for us,” said Scott Rahner, product specialist for United Recovery Industries.Based in Kansas City, MO, and Elizabeth City, NC, United Recovery Industries (formerly Recovery Solutions) manufactures tow truck and carrier bodies. “We are constantly in contact with our customers to improve and prototype equipment,” added Rahner.<br /> <br /> At Jerr-Dan in Hagerstown, MD, a continuous process they call “Voice of the Customer” (VOC) provides helpful guidance for the company. “This input Factors into all of our product development and product improvement programs,” explained Jeff Barbour, director of marketing and channel management for Jerr-Dan. “Cost and ability to manufacture are key aspects of any project; however, the demands of the customer who is using the product everyday are critical.” <br /> <br /> According to Anthony Gentile, president of Dynamic Towing Equipment & Manufacturing in Norfolk, VA: “We seek input from the end users, including motor clubs and municipalities.Owning a towing company in New York helps us tremendously in testing changes made before [a product] hits the market. Also it helps us understand how efficient and easy the unit needs to be out on the road.”<br /> <br /> Here's some examples of the impact of customer advice on gear design:<br /> <br /> Some Example<br /> <br /> Zacklift: “Towers have long been showing up at the scene only to find that wheel-lifting is the best way to go,” said Steve Ford, engineering/technical director for Zacklift in Cle Elum, WA, as he described the impetus for a recent wheel-lift innovation driven by customers, [but] “if only they could lift from the outside of the tires, bumping absolutely nothing on the chassis front end.” Also, he added, heavy-duty rigs are often challenged when a smaller vehicle such as an SUV needs to be wheel-lifted.<br /> <br /> Responding to these needs, Zacklift updated its Heavy Duty Wheel Lift — now the number-one selling accessory for the company. “It does not require changing out any heavy crossbars or dragging on and off massive L-bars,” explained Ford, who added that almost every Zacklift wheel lift is now outfitted this way.<br /> <br /> Dynamic recently developed its own slide-in unit “for people who are looking for a low-cost unit to install on a pickup truck,” explained Gentile. The slide-in has a 4,000-pound wheel lift, a 7,500-pound tow capacity, and bolts in with a standard electric-over-hydraulic pump or optional clutch pump.<br /> <br /> Another Dynamic product that resulted from customer input was the Dyna Trac Rollback. The product was born out of many meetings with the AAA Club of New York. “We set out to build a unit that would do road service, battery sales and service, and towing, all in one unit,” said Gentile. The Dyna Trac Rollback uses two valve bodies, eliminating traditional linkages that can freeze in cold weather or wear out with heavy use.<br /> <br /> Miller: Customer input is also paramount at Miller Industries in Ooltewah, TN, where the Chevron, Vulcan, Century and other nameplates reside.John Hawkins, Vice President of Heavy- Duty Sales for Miller Industries, points to the company’s new H-beam rotator, unveiled at the Baltimore Tow Show last November, as a good example of a product refined through customer input. When Miller kicked off the development of the H-beam, the company picked 10 operators who had been using Miller rotators for many years.<br /> <br /> That focus group provided critical feedback during the design process for the H-beam rotator. Miller showed seven design concepts to the focus group, which debated the advantages and disadvantages of each option.“One of the things they absolutely demanded was that the underlift be an integral part of the machine,” recalled Hawkins. “Some towers say that a big recovery vehicle doesn’t need an underlift, but you can’t sell a big rotator without one.” <br /> <br /> Functionality, noted Hawkins, is a keyword at Miller Industries, so the focus group looked at the effectiveness of each design plan. “We took in excess of a year building this new machine, because it had to be right,” said Hawkins.<br /> <br /> Ron Nespor is director of carrier engineering for three of Miller’s nameplates — Century, Vulcan, and Chevron — manufactured in three plants in theU. S. Nespor considers his best design achievement to be Miller’s LCG (Low Center of Gravity) Carrier, a product created partly as a result of customer feedback. “The LCG carrier was a collaborative effort with Dave Jaeger of American Enterprise,” he said. “It incorporates a low-profile design that lowers the center of gravity of the carrier, which improves handling, stability, load angle, and payload height.”<br /> <br /> Nespor added that the lower carrier profile also makes it much easier to reach tie-down points for securing the vehicle loaded onto the bed. “And the lower load angle does a better job of loading vehicles with low clearance front ends.”<br /> <br /> United Recovery Industries credits its customers with helping create the company’s Universal Subframe. “The subframe almost doubles the original strength when it is used in our Classic Series units,” explained Rahner, “while in the X-treme 2 units, it provides a proven platform to build off of.” <br /> <br /> Jerr-Dan: Jerr-Dan’s Voice of the Customer product improvement process has contributed to a number of innovations at the company. The MPL self-loader line resulted from a lot of input from towers. The product line features negative tilt with level stop assist and a fifth-wheel/gooseneck attachment.<br /> <br /> Additional Jerr-Dan products that resulted from customer feedback include the Side Recovery System, reconfigured controls, flip-down spade feet on Jerr-Dan’s 16-ton units, improved storage options and tool management systems on heavies, and the new XLP-6 Low Profile Car Carrier.<br /> <br /> Soliciting input<br /> <br /> United Recovery Industries. Rather than waiting to receive phone calls and feedback forms, manufacturers actively reach out to their customers for information. Rahner said that customer Input at United Recovery Industries is received on a constant basis through direct contact. “We speak to hundreds of customers a week about their current equipment, whether it’s ours or someone else’s,” he added.<br /> <br /> Visiting Jerr-Dan<br /> <br /> As we noted in a recent issue, Jerr-Dan has consolidated its assembly lines to streamline the manufacturing process, with the result that their standard-duty vehicles are now built as kits, all moving along on the same assembly line. The parts are built and painted before reaching production.<br /> <br /> Hal Wyatt, Jerr-Dan’s operations manager, noted that he serves as the “voice of the customer” in the development of the company’s products. Safety, ease of equipment use, and the diverse needs of customers are among his primary design challenges.<br /> <br /> Here are more photos from Jerr-Dan’s newly consolidated assembly facility that he sent to Footnotes to share with our readers:<br /> <br /> Jerr-Dan. On the sales side, distributors and salespeople provide information culled from their interactions with customers. “We maintain a marketing information depository,” said Barbour, “in which any information from customers, distributors, or field sales force is entered. We can then identify and respond to recurring themes or ideas.” For large projects, Barbour added, Jerr- Dan makes use of focus groups to refine the development process.<br /> <br /> Zacklift. When customers contact a manufacturer, it’s important for the company to make a good impression, noted Zacklift’s Ford. “Zacklift’s goal is to ‘wow’ them,” explained Ford.“Listening to every customer, figuring out how to best meet their needs — this is the first step in communication.”<br /> <br /> Dynamic. Maintaining that relationship with customers, Gentile said, ensures that Dynamic’s product line will continue to serve the needs of the market. “We are constantly following up with customers,” said Gentile. “We speak to them at tow shows. We also call them at times asking how everything is. We are always looking for input or ideas.”<br /> <br /> Miller. Hawkins noted that Miller studies products created by manufacturers outside of the towing industry.“We’re always going to different trade shows,” said Hawkins. “We don’t get stuck within our industry.”<br /> <br /> To that end, Miller sends representatives to trade shows that feature firefighting, marine, and construction equipment, among others. This includes the triannual CONEXPO-CON/AGG international marketplace for the construction industries. “You want to see what people are doing outside your industry, and how to bring it into yours,” explained Hawkins.<br /> <br /> As an example, he points to the composite boat bodies unveiled at marine shows: “We build a composite body for our wreckers. That came out of the boat industry,” he said.<br /> <br /> It is clear that for vehicle, parts, and accessory manufacturers to succeed, they must understand the importance of communicating with their customers and ensure that the communication works both ways.<br /> <br /> Steve Ford of Zacklift summarized his feelings about the importance of the customer in this way: “Every accessory that evolves, every change in mounting, standard equipment, valve layout, even color, is the result of having all eyes and ears open to what customers are needing. When focusing on customer needs comes first, then success naturally follows.”

Footnotes Welcomes TowPartners Advisor

Beginning in Footnotes’ next issue, readers will enjoy a new monthly tow- Partners Advisor section, featuring news and stories from towPartners, program information about benefits providers, and articles of the top quality readers expect from the Advisor.<br /> <br /> This new monthly feature is provided by towPartners to reach not only its members but, through Footnotes, even more of the men and women of the towing industry.<br /> <br /> “We are proud to partner with Footnotes to bring Advisor to our members and the industry on a monthly basis,” said Jeffrey Godwin, Vice President of towPartners. “This partnership will add value to both of our organizations as well as our members as we continue to work ‘for the industry’ while working with Footnotes to continue its long-standing tradition of diverse industry coverage, business and technical education, and profiles of successful towing professionals.”<br /> <br /> TowPartners is expanding its savings to members nationwide as well as driving new revenue streams to them. To accomplish this, it is important to communicate with members every month. Our new partnership accomplishes this by bringing together Footnotes, the industry’s monthly trade journal, and Advisor, previously a quarterly members- only magazine. The combination of Footnotes and Advisor will offer a greatly enhanced information and reading experience to towing professionals everywhere!<br /> <br /> The first edition of the towPartners Advisor section begins next month in the February issue. Watch for it!

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