October 29, 2018

If You Build It They Will Come

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The phrase, best remembered from the 1989 block-buster “Field of Dreams,” seems fitting for Thermo King Midwest’s dedicated auxiliary power unit (APU) facility in Indianapolis. Maybe not in the supernatural sense – the dealership is only attracting the living, but the specialized APU servicing being offered is definitely a success story to share. One that is telling of the growing number of APUs in the marketplace.

“We built the dedicated APU building for several rea-sons,” explained Tom Lantrip, executive vice president, Thermo King Midwest. “While APUs have become a big part of our dealer service work, they were often getting the short end of the stick when it came to timely service. Even with scheduled appointments, APU jobs would be pushed back if a refrigerated trailer showed up, especially if a load was at risk.

“APU service jobs were often taking a back seat to all reefer jobs due to space constraints -- our bays would simply fill up with trailer and truck repairs, especially in the busy summer months. We realized that to be suc-cessful with the APU business, we needed to change our way of thinking about the business. We needed to demonstrate to our technicians – and our customers, that the business was important and needed equal treatment. The way it was going was not only making our brand look bad, but we were losing customers and revenue.”

Investment Pays Off

To counter the problem, Thermo King Midwest Owner Dan Bartholomew decided to reinvest in the APU busi-ness by building a dedicated APU facility on site in Indian-apolis in the summer of 2016. Located just 75-100 yards from its main building, the APU facility has four bays sized for truck servicing, and dedicated APU technicians – three who are 100 percent TriPac®, plus one or two more who help out when needed.

With two years under its belt running this model of ser-vice, Thermo King Midwest has developed a reputation. “Drivers are crazy happy because they can get in quick-er. Drop-in customers don’t have to wait very long. With dedicated technicians, we have become very proficient in servicing and they are happier also. There’s no more shuffling of jobs, they understand that they play an im-portant role in our overall business, and they take a lot of pride in their work,” said Tom.

For all of those reasons, Thermo King Midwest now has APU-specific customers who go out of their way to visit their facility. They have earned repeat customers and the business that drove off previously because drivers could not wait three hours before service, especially with elec-tronic logging device (ELD) laws.

Growth Plans

The goal for next year is to add a second shift to the Tri-Pac shop so that nighttime calls can be taken care of 24-7 by a dedicated TriPac technician. And while Thermo King Midwest does have specialized APU technicians at its other locations, management is looking at the possi-bility of duplicating the successful business footprint cre-ated in Indianapolis.

According to Tom, it’s been a win all the way around. “In the past few years, the APU business has been growing fast. We are showing our customers that we are commit-ted to meeting their needs and that the drivers are im-portant to us. We are showing our technicians that APU is a core product that we are committed to supporting and growing, and that they are vital to our success and the increasing revenues being realized.”

Thermo King Midwest’s Dedicated APU Shop in Indianapolis