Delivered on time: Performance Advantage Company discusses firefighting tool mount systems

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Greg Young, Vice President of Performance Advantage Company discusses how the industry has changed and the lessons it has learned in the wake of the pandemic

Performance Advantage Company (known as PAC) has been a key component manufacturer to the fire industry for around 30 years. Dick Young, the founder of PAC, spent his entire career building fire engines of all sizes. When he pivoted toward the tool mounting industry, he brought that knowledge – building fire trucks – which gave PAC the values it still follows today.

Over the last decade manufacturers across all industries moved toward a just-in-time approach to sourcing, purchasing and fabricating. Just-in-time means that goods and raw materials are brought in house only when they are needed. There are many benefits that businesses can reap with this approach such as minimised damage or loss or freeing up more cash available for other business needs. Some manufacturers, like large ship builders, have very stringent requirements regarding delivery dates because they utilise enormous receiving docks.

PAC never followed this approach. We carry large quantities of stock – raw and finished – allowing us to accommodate our customers needs at a moment’s notice. Large or small order sizes and moderate demand fluctuations could all be managed by our stocking methodology. Having a large on hand quantity is an investment few are willing to make. PAC, though, stands with our customers and believes in our line. To serve the critical needs of the emergency services as well as the manufacturing community PAC will not waiver from making the necessary investments.

Historically our products are final components; something to be installed last. In most instances, our products will be received just-in-time by a manufacturer of fire apparatus. And so, our values dictate we must have stock on hand. We are actively investing in stock levels that allows for timely deliveries. We will not hold up our manufacturing partners when it comes to their final dates.

PAC has achieved notoriety and a solid reputation as a tool mounting system manufacturer. Our customers find that our support and shipping is industry-leading. Our OEM (truck builders and other manufacturers) partners have found that our shipping times support their manufacturing deadlines. These are achievements we do not take for granted.

Market pressures

Like other manufacturers, our ability to keep the pipeline full has been impacted by raw material shortages, labour shortages and other supply chain issues. Much effort has been made to keep our materials stocked but nevertheless some delays and shortages out of our control have occurred.

Manufacturers, including PAC, must now operate in a difficult environment whereby delays and availability are causing unprecedented decisions. These issues are forcing us to adapt to maintain full capacity. While the industry is shaken these challenges are making us stronger in certain ways. We are fortunate for those early lessons learned and most of all we are thankful for our original values based in manufacturing fire trucks.

This unprecedented environment has given us new ideas on how to improve our overall performance as a company such as adapting to these new challenges by emphasising on alignment within our internal teams. When we look at our existing product line with a whole team focus, we ask ourselves relevant questions regarding vendor quality, product reliability, sales trends and industry feedback. This ensures our tool mounts provide the utmost value to our customers.

Also, we are going even further. Sometimes the success of an item cannot be measured simply by product costs or profit margins. We must ask ourselves how successfully we may have marketed our tool mount systems. Are we giving out enough information about this mounting bracket? Have our dealers been educated on this tool board system? Can end users understand the value and features of our tool mounts from the information we have provided so far? Has enough investment been made in marketing and training so the public can utilise this tool mount appropriately?

The challenging business environment has also forced us to strengthen our vendor relationships. Long periods of relative stability had led many businesses to remain comfortable, failing to remain innovative or adaptable. We saw, however, that even the demands of our own customers have changed in unexpected ways. For example, some customers are buying in larger quantities to save on freight costs. This relates to our procurement team operating at a higher frequency or at higher volume, with some vendors unable to scale as needed. For reasons like this, manufacturers like ours have had to double-up vendors where necessary. This requires finding and approving new vendors we can rely on. Doing this ensures that we are well poised to launch new items, switch vendors, or to double-up if required.

Time to innovate

Finally, the pandemic related slowdown affecting tradeshows has given us more time to innovate. We have been using our time to look at other tool mounting opportunities we have not traditionally been interested in. These new products cross industry lines from fire to law enforcement to agriculture.

For example, 5 gallon buckets are used in many industries, including the fire industry.  They are commonly used for storing absorbents, de-icer and biohazard material. Our new bucket mount (part number BKM), which can also hold large traffic safety cones, provides a way to hang buckets or cones on a wall instead of taking up floor space.

Another new product is our rectangular pocket kits (part number K5081). This pocket kit can hold non-traditional cutters like the new models available from Holmatro and Hurst. Several new electric cutters are electric with incline blades or with very unique blades. These unique cutter models do not fit into our existing mounting brackets. When added to our existing tool mount kits for spreaders, rams, and cutters these new rectangular pocket kits can now accommodate more rescue tools in use today than ever before.

We’re currently innovating our marketing approach including our literature and web content. Several important changes are being made. We’re focused on helping customers solve challenges with our industry proven tool mounting solutions.

Many well-known OEMs continue to partner with us as a supplier to their product line. PAC is widely known in the industry for making tool mounts but our products can be found on OEM equipment in many industries. Many products including trucks for fire and military, skid units, electric fans and many more include our products as original equipment.

Not just for fire trucks

When we participate in tradeshows, new visitors will ask what our company does. It was always easy to answer by showing the line of products and the examples of how they are used in the field. In later years, we added that we not only manufacture tool mounting systems, but we provide components used as original equipment, mentioned above.

And now, which is more than likely pandemic related, we could also describe ourself with a third facet as an OEM manufacturing partner.

Very robust demand for fire fighting vehicles stands in contrast to pandemic era labour shortages. Our partners that build fire apparatus need to scale their production capacity to meet that demand. While the customers still need quality systems to complement their vehicles, labour shortages mean that these manufacturers must fabricate less and purchase more.

There are two types of situations where we have been approached by OEMs for manufacturing assistance.

The first situation is when a manufacturer no longer has the ability to fabricate their own custom compartment organisation systems per customer demands or specifications. Designing and building custom wall mounted, slide out, and swing out tool boards are not the most important steps needed to build a fire truck. PAC produces custom tool mounting systems – wall mounted tool boards, slide out units and swing out units – as standard kits. These are made to order, shipped assembled within a few days of ordering.

Several manufacturers have begun to pivot toward using our systems as their standard available accessories or upgrades to the basic fire trucks they produce. In doing so they know their costs upfront when they receive a fully assembled, ready to install, unit at the finish line. The customer receives a fully customisable tool mounting system that they can use for the life of the truck and beyond.

The second situation is when a manufacturer is looking for our help with their product, not necessarily with a standard kit of our own. We have been asked to provide sub-components with secondary operations such as machining, anodising and powder coating. In this way, manufacturers can bring in ready-to-install components at a fixed price. They can better focus on the important tasks at hand while reducing overhead, inventory and waste.

Now more than ever OEMs are realising the need to source ready-to-install components and assemblies. Tool mounting systems are becoming more of a procured item – than custom manufactured at the factory – in a similar way pumps, sirens and lights are sourced. More than ever, OEMs know our products as a quality and dependable item. They know that PAC provides components of the highest quality. They know that by sourcing tool mount systems from PAC will free up their engineering teams for more pressing matters. We’re proud to work side by side with these OEMs.

This article was originally published in the August edition of IFSJ. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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