By Chris McLoone
Chief Operating Officer, Pierce Manufacturing
1. How have the new configurations for the Ascendant aerial introduced at FDIC International 2016 been received by the market?
Actually, very well. The reason we came out with those variations was because of feedback from the field asking for those configurations. We look at the single-axle aerial market and the quint and the Texas Chute Out bodies were actually the majority of the market. So, there is a big place and a good reception for the Texas Chute Out style of body and hosebed configuration. The PUC has been an extremely popular product line and part of our single-rear-axle product portfolio in the past, so it’s natural for it to be part of that. And, the benefit of the Ascendant is also the additional ladder storage-getting more than 200 feet of ladder storage in a quint type of configuration as well as the no pump/no tank configuration. We had a really aggressive demo schedule when we first came out with the Ascendant. Across the country, we had four trucks out doing continual demonstrations. Really, that product you saw at FDIC International came from comments at those demos, and we did what we were asked to do.
2. At the time you introduced the Ascendant, you also introduced Command Zone. Where do you see these types of systems heading on fire apparatus in the future?
It will go in a path that adds value for fire departments. What they see and get tangible value out of-whether information responding to and from a scene or features that allow them to manage and reduce lifecycle costs with the product. So, that’s our number one focus-it has to add value.
3. Would you comment on moving some custom fire apparatus production to Florida?
Our Florida operation has been largely focused on commercial products-products that are built on Freightliner, Navistar, and Kenworth chassis, etc. We have always finished out our Saber custom product there-the pump house and body-and delivered it from that location. We’re moving more of that work to the Florida operation. And, what’s driving that is that our backlog has been growing significantly. Part of moving part of that content work to the Florida line is an effort to free up more production capacity in Appleton, Wisconsin, so we can deliver trucks in a reasonable amount of time for the fire departments.
4. What is Pierce’s place in the global fire apparatus market?
We sell products globally. It’s more prevalent now than it was before the downturn. We put more emphasis and effort there. We do really well in specific countries that we target and export to. And, it continues to grow and be part of our portfolio. As of recent times, we do face some headwinds from exchange rates. The dollar is very strong right now, which is really great for the consumer. For the manufacturer, it makes it a little rougher to compete in the global market. But, we’re holding our own and we’re where we think we should be in that arena.
5. What keeps you up at night?
It’s really people. The success of our company is our people. It’s our salespeople and the relationships they develop. It’s our new product development people who come up with the ideas and execute them. It’s our operations and our manufacturing people. And as we continue to grow, we are bringing new people into our organization. The average tenure here is 23 years, and what that drives are retirements also. We’re blessed that we’re growing and that we’re in that position, but it’s bringing those new people into our culture and having that drive and that passion to continue doing what the company has been built around-that singular focus on customers. That’s really our success, and what keeps me awake at night is how to continue that culture and keep that moving forward. We’ve done some things with that. We have a Pierce University that we’ve created where new hires come in and actually work on and build trucks offline to get that experience before they move on to the assembly lines and work. We have a mentorship program. Retirees come back and we pair them up with new hires to go through a mentorship for a period of time. That’s always something that we are looking at and working hard at and always wanting to invest in. We talk about investment in the facility and the machinery, but equally important is our investment in our people. That’s what keeps me awake at night-how do we carry that culture over that we’ve built here at Pierce?