When Transtar opened the doors of its first small warehouse in a suburb of Cleveland more than 40 years ago, there were a handful of employees, some parts on the shelves, a master plan, and an outlandish dream of being the largest distributor of transmission parts in the country. No one knew if that was even possible and no one really cared. They just built the business one customer at a time, which is exactly what Transtar still does today.
“When I think about what has made Transtar successful in the past 40 years, it is the same thing that continues to make Transtar successful today: People,” states Ed Orzetti, CEO of Transtar Industries, Inc. “One person on one end of the phone taking an order from a person on the other end of the line that starts a chain reaction of events resulting in a satisfied customer.” That chain reaction, however, now involves hundreds of people behind the scenes in more than 85 locations who work to serve tens of thousands of customers across the globe.
On the surface it may appear that nothing has changed in 40 years. Repairs are needed, orders are taken, parts are accurately picked, packed, and delivered to customers, and happy consumers drive back onto the road. It sounds simple, doesn’t it? The difference now is that rather than happening in one location this now takes place from coast to coast and beyond.
“The secret to our success,” Orzetti continues, “is that at our core we still consider that one customer to be as important today as they were 40 years ago.”
Although an order seems to begin with a phone call, in reality the process to successfully deliver that order begins many months before that phone call is made. It involves every person in the company operating with one goal – getting the right parts to the right place when customers need them. “Defining our objective is easy,” says Chris Trevino, Transtar’s Inventory Manager. “It is having all of the parts that a customer needs for a particular order in the branch that is closest to them. The process that supports that objective is the complex part.”
“Our stocking strategy is created from a very intricate algorithm that involves looking at historical sales, regional and geographical variances, and customer demand,” reports Kevin Canavan, Senior Vice President, Category Management. “We have also begun a process to strategically allocate parts for new transmission technologies and specific product categories in order to proactively address potential future inventory needs. We are currently deploying this strategy in a phased approach so that we can respond and react quickly to customer needs and adjust the process as necessary.
“This collaborative effort involves a team with members from several departments in the company as well as the branch managers, who meet together weekly to review the progress and evaluate the results,” Canavan continues. “Each person on the team sees the process from a different perspective and their collective input is vital to the successful execution of the project.”
“I want to say thank you for all of your advice and help with my transmission. I never expected such a high level of customer service. In addition, you had everything I needed in stock. I appreciate you telling me which parts should be inspected and replaced while the valve body was out of the transmission. It was a pleasure learning from you.”
— PHIL MIGLIORE
“We are tracking this project at the branch level, and have seen a nice bump in local customer fill rate that is directly attributable to our efforts,” Trevino concludes. “Our success is not measured by how much time or money we save. Our success is measured by satisfied customers.”
Members of the senior executive team spend most of their time on the road visiting customers, suppliers, and Transtar team members. “You might assume by my title that most of my time is spent in an office, when in reality the majority of my time is spent in the field,” says Mick O’Donovan, Vice President, Process Improvement. “Why? So that I can understand what we do right and what we could do better. You can’t learn that behind a desk.”
When the Transtar team travels, they wear the Transtar logo on their chest with pride. “We’re kind of like the Notre Dame of the transmission industry,” O’Donovan states. “You’ll never see my name on the back of my jersey but I wear the Transtar team name with honor. And when I say ‘team’ I don’t mean just a couple of individuals. I mean the entire Transtar team.”
“As a team, we have three major initiatives on which we are focusing for 2016,” Orzetti reports, “and they each revolve around creating a consistently outstanding customer experience across the board. We are in relentless pursuit of serving our customers with excellence.”
“It doesn’t take more than a few minutes with Ed to know that he walks the talk,” O’Donovan explains. “It is a matter of integrity with him and it is woven throughout the culture of the company. It is what you can expect from every Transtar employee.”
“For me, nothing is more important than credibility – both personally and professionally,” continues Orzetti. “I want our associates, customers, and supplier partners to know that we say what we mean and we mean what we say. That is the Transtar promise.”
THE TRANSTAR ONLINE EXPERIENCE
If you’ve been to the Transtar website recently you probably noticed the sleek new design. The website uses a responsive technology, which adjusts to fit perfectly on any screen; this ensures that all information is easy to navigate, regardless of whether customers are visiting the site from a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
The site houses a tremendous amount of product information and technical reference material organized in a manner that makes sense to customers. Check out the new Technical Services Bulletin search lookup. There you’ll find technical information directly tied to specific transmission applications and trouble codes. “I am particularly excited about this new functionality,” says Kevin Rozsa, Vice President of Marketing and Category Management. “It’s a Google-like search engine for technical service bulletins. Customers can access more than 1,500 TSBs using year/make/ model, VIN, or transmission application lookup. Additional information can be obtained using trouble codes. This is a ground-breaking partnership with ATRA and ATSG: Customers who have association memberships will link directly to their website.”
Transtar’s EZ Tech forum is another example of how Transtar is leading the industry in digital technical expertise. On this forum technicians can reach out to their peers for answers to unusual situations that might show up in their shop. As monitor of the site, Dave Hritsko, Transtar’s Technical Services Manager, takes personal ownership of the forum. “We’re all in this thing together,” he says. “It’s a quick and easy way for customers to get help from ‘friends’ they may never have met.” As one user recently posted, “I reckon that I’ve never met any of the guys on the forum but there does seem to be some kind of connection which makes it seem like a big family.”
Perhaps the most important piece of the digital puzzle is eSource™, Transtar’s online storefront. Transtar was the first distributor in the transmission industry to provide an eCommerce solution with eSource almost a decade ago. Since that time, eSource has evolved to meet the ever-changing needs of the market. Chris Nierintz, Director of Content Management, served on the executive board of the Automotive Content Professionals Network for nine years and has plans to take eSource to the next level with enhanced features, an expanded library of product identification photos, and additional diagnostic and technical information. “eSource is a good tool today and we intend to make it even better,” Nierintz says. “Our goal is for customers and sales reps to have everything they need at their fingertips to create the best total online experience. We want our shop owners, managers, and technicians to have all of the information they need to look like heroes to their customers.”
“I have been using eSource ever since it’s been available and I wouldn’t order parts any other way. It shows the availability in my local warehouse and my cost. You can create order templates for transmissions that you do a lot of; just add the template to your cart, checkout, and don’t worry about it. The product pictures make for easy identification – you click on the part number and it shows all the options available. And you can pay your account online using either a credit/debit card or PayPal. It’s very easy to use and so convenient!”
— JIM BOCKUS
Muscle Shoals, Alabama