It has been years in the making, but the new Auto Truck facility in suburban Chicago is proving to be well worth the wait, giving the company capabilities that it never had before.
Management knew that the increased demand for property near Chicago's O'Hare International Airport eventually would lead Auto Truck to move further out. That time came last year, and the truck equipment distributor made its anticipated move from Bensenville, Illinois, to a new location 12 miles west.
The sprawling 103,000-sq-ft complex in Bartlett, Illinois, enables the company to better serve its traditional markets while also opening up some new possibilities. Specifically, an expanded engineering department increases Auto Truck's ability to design solutions to customer needs, while the new shop allows technicians to be more efficient as they complete the work trucks that the engineers have conceptualized.
The facility has been in operation for almost a year, and the response has been very favorable.
“The overall facility, the footprint of the building, has all been working great,” says Denny Jones, vice-president. “The two biggest advantages have been that we have been able to get everything under one roof and the 16 acres of paved parking.”
The building was designed to enable the company to serve traditional customers such as railroads, major fleets, and municipalities. These are the types of customers whose truck equipment needs generally require distributors to have substantial shop space and the ability to perform custom fabrication.
The new Auto Truck shop — 25% larger than its predecessor near O'Hare International Airport — delivers that. But it also contains something the company has never offered in its Chicago area location — a 5,000-sq-ft showroom for parts, accessories, and smaller truck bodies. The showroom replaces a separate parts operation that Auto Truck had in North Aurora, another Chicago suburb.
“We have been actively pursuing the local market with a dedicated sales group for more than 10 years now,” says Matt McGowan, sales manager.
The new showroom, along with a spacious customer lounge, represents further commitment in that effort. But the area is versatile. The displays are completely portable, and the space can quickly be converted for use as a dining area when Auto Truck holds one of its frequent dinner meetings for customers.
Another improvement is the 30-ft x 50-ft “design center.” Located next to the engineering offices and the conference room, the intent of the design center is to provide the customer with a clear picture of what the proposed truck will look like and how it will operate.
“The goal is for the customer to leave with a detailed set of notes and drawings if necessary,” explains Jim Dondlinger, Auto Truck president and a degreed engineer. “It's important that the customer knows exactly what he is getting.”
Auto Truck uses the area for final inspections as well as for prototyping. When the cold winds blow, this is a major advantage. The trucks — and the customers — can be brought inside the room and out of the elements. An exhaust system keeps the air inside the room fresh, regardless of the length of time that the truck engine is operating.
Getting more from the shop
In designing the new facility, increasing shop throughput was a primary concern. Here are some of the ways the building addresses that concern:
Increased ceiling height. Technicians have a 32-ft working height in the new facility — eight feet higher than in the previous facility. The added height helps when working on cranes and large dump trucks.
Eighteen overhead doors to provide access to the shop. Of those, two lead directly to six quick turnaround bays.
Everything is now under one roof.
Sixteen acres provide plenty of paved surface for parking and inventory storage.
Upgraded paint and finish capabilities. The shop has two booths, plus a dedicated wash bay. The booths can handle trucks up to 40 feet long.
A revised layout improves the efficiency of the company's fabrication department, even though the equipment and the floor space has remained virtually the same as that of the previous shop.
The ins and outs
Whether the truck is in for minutes or multiple days, the shop is designed to get vehicles in and out with a minimum of disruption.
The layout allows trucks to be double-stacked in the work bays. They can enter a bay directly through an overhead door, or they can travel a central aisle and enter the bay from the other end.
“If we have dismantled a truck, the other truck can still get in and out,” Jones says.
The company also is benefiting from the quick install bays.
“These are something we have never had before,” Jones says. “We use them for installing running boards, caps, and other accessories. They are great for dealers and retail customers.”
Much of the building uses recycled or locally obtained materials. For example:
30,000 tons of locally sourced recycled concrete aggregate were used in place of mined limestone.
Structural beams, bar joists, floor deck, and columns were made from 95% recycled steel.
The asphalt paving contains 20% recycled asphalt materials.
85% of construction material (by weight) came from within 200 miles of the facility.
In addition, the company chose skylights and larger windows to bring natural light into the facility. Likewise, energy-efficient lighting fixtures and motion sensors reduce energy consumption 66% in inactive areas during business hours.
Getting in position
The new location is not the only step Auto Truck has taken in recent months.
“We have really been targeting the municipal market,” McGowan says. “We have added sales people and taken on new lines.”
Two of the additions to the line card are Aquatech sewer vacuum trucks and Stanley hydraulic tools.
“The hydraulic tools aren't truck-mounted, but they make sense for us to sell because we already are calling on the people who use them,” McGowan says.
In recent months, Auto Truck has expanded the sales staff of its Chicago-area location. The staff now totals seven with the addition of a municipal sales specialist and two who sell general truck equipment.
“Our goal is to call on the end user more frequently,” McGowan says. “In the past, we have really stressed calling on truck dealers. But we really offer a lot of products and services that we need the end user to know about. Yes, sales are soft right now, but we are working hard to position ourselves for tomorrow.”