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IFSJ Exclusive: Head to Head with Greg Young, Vice President at Performance Advantage Company

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Greg Young, Vice President at Performance Advantage Company, speaks with IFSJ about innovation in tool mounting and the future of the company

Greg Young has always been surrounded by the fire truck industry. He grew up around the family business, Young Fire Equipment, going to trade shows with his parents before heading to college to follow a career in mechanical engineering, gaining a broad array of experience on his journey back to fire trucks.

When I sit down with Greg and he tells me about his professional background and the road that brought him to Performance Advantage Company (PAC), he says that that having worked in a lot of different companies and projects over the years it always came back to vehicles: being around them from the arrival of the chassis, adding components, painting, welding, electrical system fitting. All of this together, he says, set the stage for his current role.

Tell me about your role at PAC and your views on the industry?

I am the Vice President of Operations and Sales. My role is to oversee and implement policy that keeps our organisation running and growing. I also look for business opportunities that will help our organisation grow as well as solving the needs for other manufacturers or dealers out there in different industries looking for tool mounting solutions.

 I’ve been back in the fire industry for ten years now here at Performance Advantage Company. I’ve made a lot of new relationships, some of them because they were business relationships but also just because we’re all in the industry together and we’re all of the same background, just trying to do things for the common good. I really understand the dynamics and the challenges of the manufacturing as well as this industry, so I’ve been having a great time making new connections and new relationships in this industry.

What have you been working on recently?

We have been looking at our current product line and looking at ways that we need to adapt to what’s been happening in the industry. We’ve been mounting tools for a long time but there are new designs out there that make us go back and look to see if our mount is still applicable for what’s on the market and there are some changes that we’ve had to make to accommodate different thicknesses and dimensions. We’ve been rethinking our standard brackets and tweaking them so they can accommodate what is available on the marketplace.

We’ve also been looking at new problems for which there haven’t been solutions. One of these is hand sanitisers. They’re such a small thing but they are out there and they’re rolling around in trucks. We want to get them in a place where everyone can find them and use them, so we made a mount for that and it is being received well. Buckets are another product which there hasn’t previously been a need to mount. We’re doing our best to get them up and visible in a place where people can access them in a safe and ergonomic way.

Are there any trends in the industry that have been impacting your business and your product development?

Rescue tools generally haven’t changed much over the years, but the electrification of tools is a big deal. Things are getting smaller and the tools are getting longer because the battery is now a fuel source. There isn’t an external hydraulic power source anymore – everything is self-contained.

These footprint changes of each tool are causing us to go back and look at our bracket and tool mounting lines and ask so ‘is this still appropriate for mounting a line of cutters or rams, extrication tools in general. Now that they’re electrified, we have to go back and look to see if the footprints match up with what we’ve been producing which has been for the hydraulic and gas powered tools, not really knowing what’s coming next.

We have to keep a watch over what’s coming out and get our hands on as many of these new models as we can. If we’re calling something a chainsaw mount or a cutter mount then it had better be all-encompassing and work for all different power sources. We need to make sure that what have works for the wide variety, cast a big net and make sure our products work for everything in that net.

Are there any solutions, tool mounting or otherwise, that you think will become more prominent in the years ahead?

There’s going to be a big push in the years ahead for fully cleanable and decontamination systems for tools, tool mount systems and compartments. Everything is going to have to be chemical-resistant. We talk about clean cab concepts and washing down tools and we want to remove harmful contaminants from tools and protect those using them.

All-electric extrication tools are going to become the norm which means we are going to see a rise in chargers and batteries that are brand specific, which are likely to change from year to year as they innovate and change sizes. One of the things that will be difficult for us is to mount chargers and batteries when there is no standard yet. Departments are going to need a lot of batteries and a lot of chargers so they can stay running as long as they need to when they’re in the field. The challenge for us is how to organise these electric tools.

As fire departments design new trucks they’re going to want charging outlets in the compartment. Where will they be placed? Will they interfere with other elements in that cab? This is going to be a conversation that will become increasingly commonplace among manufacturers.

Decontamination is a prominent issue for the fire industry – is that impacting the way you’re designing your mounts?

It is something that we’ve been looking at. There are tools that will want to be mounted, we need chemical resistance and drains in the tools so the fluids don’t pool and puddle. They need to be cleanable. This is something that is going to become a normal conversation down the road. We’re not there yet, but clean cab concepts are important and tools will be the next thing.

What challenges have you faced as a result of the pandemic or supply chain issues and labour shortages?

We have always had a goal that we manage our stock in a way that allows us to serve the fire industry as quickly as possible. Our products are something that go into a truck at the last stage of assembly and we don’t want to hold up a truck going into service.

We carry our stock in a way that allows us to ship quickly. If you want something we ship within a 24-hour time frame. However, because of the pandemic several of our vendors and suppliers are having much longer lead times, so it is taking them longer to get our product together. We were bringing in more at one time to accommodate for those longer lead times.

We’re having conversations with our vendors to guarantee long term purchases, give them forecasting and blanket purchase orders. It is starting to subside now but it caused us a big headache during the pandemic because we had to carry more material earlier which was a challenge in terms of floorspace. These challenges are new territory in the marketplace, we just have to make sure we have material to keep our customers running and keep trucks on the road.

Are there any regions you’re currently focused on working in/increasing your presence in?

We have a general space which we focus on which is tool mounting on vehicles, that’s our specialty, and that can be in any industry or region of the world. We’re looking at all situations where there is a need for tool mounting on vehicles, making sure that we have a fit there. We have a proven track record of creating solutions in those areas and in all industries. That includes military, law enforcement and of course fire.

There are situations where manufacturers of other things need to mount something to their apparatus, whether that is an industrial machine or a pump system. We welcome the opportunity to talk with manufacturers, we actively pursue those opportunities. Those are situations where we’re open to discussing those opportunities, and I don’t think people originally think of us as that. We’re here to have conversations that go above and beyond.

What plans does PAC have for the future?

One thing we’re getting closer is to overhaul our customer database software. We want our customers to know that we are here, we are strong, and our product line is diverse. We want to put the tools in place that let our team do that effectively and efficiently.

We are busy, we’re getting busier, and we’re looking at ways for the software to work for us and take care of these manual operations, streamlining this automation. The fire industry as a whole isn’t always the most technology minded. The industry is gaining momentum towards automation and embracing the future and we need to do the same, so we are exploring this area.

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

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