EAST Manufacturing built nearly 3,000 trailers last year—enough to finish 17th in Trailer/Body Builders’ list of the largest trailer manufacturers in North America.
But the Randolph, Ohio, company is more than a major trailer manufacturer. In recent years, East has placed increased emphasis on selling parts—both directly to customers in its local market and nationally through its dealer network.
When East first began manufacturing trailers in 1968, the company sold its production directly to its customers—typically specialized fleets in Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. As demand increased and the customer base spread out geographically, the company outgrew the direct selling approach, choosing instead to sell its line of specialized trailers through a growing network of dealers.
Even so, East retained its local market, serving as its own dealer in an area within a 130-mile radius. It is here that the company’s redesigned state-of-the-art parts center allows local customers easy access to more aftermarket parts and accessories, and permits them to acquire additional details to ensure they are getting the right part.
“The old one needed a facelift. It was close to 20 years old,” says Dave Miedl, director of aftermarket parts and service for East. “We completely rebuilt it.”
One of the new facility updates is the addition of flat-screen monitors in the parts center showroom. The flat-screen monitors are more than an entertainment center. East uses them to duplicate the computer screen that parts counter personnel use.
“They become big computer monitors,” Miedl says. “We have them wired the same way you would if you had a desk with two monitors. They work great for showing parts customers schematics and other graphics. We can use them like large, wall-mounted parts catalog. Whatever we can pull up at the parts counter, we can project onto the widescreens so that the customer can easily view the parts we are discussing.”
When not being used as computer monitors, they help create a comfortable environment at the new parts center. Customers can use them to check weather conditions or get caught up on the news.
In addition to adding widescreen monitors to the parts center, East redesigned the parts counter and the parts display fixtures. Fast-moving parts and impulse items are on display, as is typical for most parts display areas.
But one of the prominent areas of the new parts center includes something that is not so common—products for sale that display the East logo. “East gear,” as Miedl called it, sells well. The gear includes items such as scale-model East trailers, along with clothing, including shirts, jackets, and hundreds of knit caps that are popular when the weather turns cold. East sells multiple designs of caps, including pink camo.
“Our new parts center is more efficient to get customers in and out quickly,” Miedl says.
Going after aftermarket parts
The emphasis on parts does not stop with a redesigned parts center. Not content to wait for customers to come to the parts center, East recently hired its first outside parts salesman to go to customers instead.
As is the intent for the parts center, the outside parts salesman will serve only the local area. However, he is far from being able to cover the complete 130-mile radius.
“He only covers a 50-mile radius from here, but he already is at capacity,” Miedl says.
East produces quarterly parts flyers for him to distribute and to build up the customer base. Since being hired, he has dramatically increased the company’s retail parts sales.
In addition, the company has been developing a parts delivery program for its local market. The salesman currently delivers parts in the morning and sells in the afternoon.
Business is brisk in and around Randolph, but it’s the company’s national sales that pay the bills. To reach out for that business, East covers the United States and Canada with its network of nearly 50 dealers nationwide including three dealers in Canada. The Parts Center serves the network with East exclusive parts, in addition to common parts for all makes, such as airbags, lights, wheel ends and more. For faster service, East has created a drop-ship program, which permits parts to be shipped directly from the vendor.
Customers have easy access to cross-trained sales professionals. And, when placing orders by phone, an option for quick-order processing allows them to bypass a sales expert when they know what they want.
The East line of accessories is becoming more and more popular nationally. Among the accessories that East produces are heavy-duty toolboxes, cab storage racks, fenders, deck plates, tractor frame steps, hydraulic tank, and tire chain carriers.
Great computer capabilities
East is making major IT upgrades, in large part to serve its dealers. A team of four people in the IT department is at work to make the system more powerful, capable, and beneficial.
“Some of what we have wanted to implement takes time—and personnel,” Miedl says. “For example, we have been working on a product configurator that our dealers will be able to access online. We are slowly getting our entire trailer line on there to make it easier for our dealers to spec out trailers. Our dump trailers are available online now, and our flatbeds are close to being completed. Refuse will be our last product line to go on.”
The company’s ERP system, warranty system, the product configurator, and parts ordering will all be integrated when the project is finalized this fall.
To use the system, a dealer logs in online. There the dealer can order parts, file warranty claims, run serial numbers for bill of material inquiries, process parts returns, and check on the status of orders.
“These systems are designed to support our dealers. In the past, we have been told that ordering parts from us is not easy enough,” Miedl says. He also emphasizes that East will not offer retail parts sales online. The system is only available to East dealers and is expected to go live late this fall.
Parts and service
Trailer dealers work daily knowing the importance of parts and service. As a major trailer manufacturer, East does, too. The company hired Miedl in 2013 to direct East‘s parts and service operations, where he is responsible for all managerial, administrative and analytical support duties in the department. Reporting to President Dave de Poincy, Miedl’s long-term goals include growing the business by improving delivery lead-times, reducing back orders and researching aftermarket opportunities.
The 25-year veteran of parts and service operations, with extensive aftermarket experience, Miedl has helped companies expand their aftermarket assets and focus in addition to establishing strong dealer and customer relationships.
“This position is critical to the success of our company,” de Poincy says.
The newly designed parts center is Miedl’s project. He also has some ideas on how to get more production from the company’s 80 feet x 160 feet main parts warehouse.
“It’s crowded in terms of square footage, but we are in the process of using our vertical space more efficiently.”
At East, parts, service, and manufacturing form a three-legged stool with parts and service going hand in hand. The growing service shop is the parts department’s biggest customer.
Housed in a 140-ft x 200-ft building, containing 24 bays with 37 technicians, East offers maintenance and repair services on-site for all makes and models of flatbed, drop deck, dump and refuse trailers to support the dealer network.
“Being the company that engineered and built the trailer gives our shop an advantage,” Brian Wagoner, service manager, says. “We perform warranty work that some of our dealers can’t do. Plus being able to fabricate parts right here enables us to quickly make repairs for customers.”
Their services include trailer service, wetline installation and service, wreck repair, body installation and service, brake service, alignment and more. And the center specializes in wreck repair services that may be too large for some dealer service facilities to undertake.
“Repairing aluminum trailers requires a certain skill set,” Wagoner says. “So our technicians are specially trained and cross-trained. They all can tear a wrecked trailer down and put it back together.”
The service department also helps the engineering department, de Poincy explains. “When we are considering changes to our trailers, we run it by our service department. They have first-hand performance knowledge.”
As a trailer manufacturer, East continues upward in its growth strategy. To meet its need for addition capacity, construction is well underway of its new 73,000-sq-ft production facility.
Over the years, the company has added manufacturing space on multiple occasions. However, the new structure will be the largest single building in its history.
“We are at capacity now with backlogs out 12 months in some products,” de Poincy explains. The new facility allows East to significantly increase capacity.
“For us to be able to double our production, we will have to maximize our efficiency,” de Poincy continued. “We will add robots and additional automation to enhance production.”
Management sees a strong market for platform trailers continuing, boding well for both their flatbed and drop deck lines.
“We are at record levels of production with a backlog of more than 2,000 trailers. Construction is a big market for us. Cities like Detroit and Chicago are bouncing back, and companies are adding trailer capacity. The automotive business remains strong, and so does the demand from steel haulers. It all adds up to more demand.”
East manufactures dump, refuse, and platform trailers, including single drop models. The company built almost 3,000 trailers in 2014 and is on pace to manufacture 3,200 this year. ♦