Five Questions for Pierce Manufacturing’s Bobby Williams

Chris Mc Loone

I recently joined the thousands of other Pierce Manufacturing customers who travel to the company’s Appleton, Wisconsin, facility for a tour of its headquarters. While I was there, Bobby Williams, Pierce’s vice president, sales and marketing, sat down with me and answered a few questions about Pierce and the fire service.

CM: How are things shaping up for Pierce and its 100th anniversary celebration?

BW: There is a lot going on, and it’s pretty exciting all the things we’re doing. What I like the most about it is that we are focusing on the people and the stories about Pierce. The marketing team has done a really great job of taking time to talk to folks who have been here, and we have wonderful stories about sons and fathers and grandfathers who have worked here through the years and have heard some of the rich history of what they’ve been involved with. For me, that’s the most exciting thing-to hear the stories and to really learn the legacy of Pierce.

CM: What’s next for Pierce?

BW: Really, we’re still excited about the Dash CF and see a lot of good things continuing to happen. We were out in the field this past week at what we call a “Road Rally” where we take the product out and show customers at their locations and really had a phenomenal turnout and a real excitement about what that does for the fire service. We know that we strive to be a leader in innovation of products for the fire service. We try not to innovate just for the sake of saying we have something new on the board. But, we really look at and listen to the customers to say, “What is it that you need? Where are we missing the mark? Where do we need to challenge ourselves to change and adjust?” And so, moving forward, we have some exciting things on the board that will be coming forth to the marketplace.

CM: What do you think is the most important innovation in the fire service during the past five years?

BW: To me, the most important innovation is really a paradigm shift in how fire departments look at themselves. They are required to do more with what they have. And, I’m hearing a lot about how they look at themselves and their constituents in the neighborhoods and in the communities they serve. They are finding ways to reach out and engage their constituents and rethink how they approach them. So for me, I see more departments naming their top executive as CEO as opposed to fire chief and changing how they think about themselves.

CM: What do you think the biggest issue is facing the fire service today, and how should the fire service address it?

BW: I really believe it’s doing more with less. Budgets have been cut. Tax revenues are down. They are stretching out vehicle purchases. So many of them are struggling to get gloves, turnout gear, and all the equipment they need. So, it’s trying to find innovative ways to do more with less. And, it’s quite challenging. I’ve seen a number of creative ways departments try to relook at how they are buying apparatus-whether it’s a buy-back program, or stretching out how they use apparatus, or how they approach front-line apparatus as smaller quick-attack vehicles, things like that. Departments are really looking at all different aspects of their operations to see how they can stretch those resources that they do have.

CM: What keeps you up at night?

BW: For me, it’s being a good steward of what we’ve done here at Pierce and its legacy. We’ve been in business for 100 years, which is pretty exciting. Not a lot of companies can say that they have that rich history. So, it’s taking care of all the people who have gone before us and established that foundation for us. And then, how I help continue and lead the organization into the next 100 years so that somewhere down the road someone can be sitting in this chair saying, “We’re so excited to be celebrating our 200th anniversary.”

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