No template truck or van body exists for any given business category. In fact, success for the manufacturer and the customer is found when the design is guided by market research, and a thorough needs analysis. The Utilimaster® process assumes the customer is not looking for a new fleet for the sake of change; rather, he or she is searching for a purpose-built solution to an ongoing business challenge. Tom Ninneman, fleet vehicles and services president, Spartan Motors, discusses how the Utilimaster process creates vehicles tailored to customers’ every need.
MWS: HOW DOES SPARTAN MOTORS ENSURE ITS VEHICLES MEET THEIR CUSTOMERS’ EVERY NEED?
Fleet Vehicles and Services, a business unit of Spartan Motors, Inc., encompasses the Utilimaster and Spartan Upfit Services go-to-market brands, which provide a variety of base models and target vehicles serving the utility, telecom, health-care, construction, food and beverage, and parcel delivery markets. We offer a combination of base packages and customized upfit services that are unique to our customers’ needs. We first focus on a discovery process considering every customer perspective—from driver to C-suite—and then a post-delivery analysis to ensure our engineered solutions are meeting the needs and challenges identified in the initial discovery.
MWS: HOW DOES YOUR UPFIT PROCESS WORK TO ENSURE VEHICLES WILL HAVE ALL THE FEATURES A CUSTOMER NEEDS—EVEN IF THEY DON’T KNOW THEY NEED THEM OR THAT SUCH AN OPTION EXISTS?
The goal of our upfit process, and what we call the Utilimaster difference, is not to arrive with a proposed upfit solution in hand, but instead to observe, learn, and educate ourselves on each customer’s unique business challenges. This allows us to design solutions with potential to drive business outcomes, and to execute duties more efficiently versus just selling a new truck. This process requires an investment of time upfront for conducting route ride-alongs, customer interviews, and driver-behavior research to find out key information, ranging from what door they most frequently use, to how they organize, store, access, and transport their tools. We also know the need for purpose-built vehicles often requires heavy-duty components that can handle anything the driver and team may encounter.
MWS: WHAT DOES SPARTAN OFFER THAT BUSINESS OWNERS OR FLEET MANAGERS CAN’T ACCOMPLISH ON THEIR OWN?
Utility fleet managers have a lot on their plates, and the industry as a whole provides a ton of options from which to choose. Often, these managers have to purchase from multiple suppliers to get their vehicle on the road. They might have to go to one supplier for the truck body, another for the shelves, etc. This creates a long list of items for a customer to think about, and more importantly, it encourages an unnecessarily long process. We eliminate this burden by streamlining the process with our one-stop shop.
MWS: CAN YOU PROVIDE A REAL-LIFE UPFITTING EXAMPLE?
Sure. Take, for instance, our work with San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E). They needed an advanced mobile workshop for failure-testing sophisticated electrical components. The solution required a vehicle to include accessibility to testing equipment, and open windows for visibility while testing. Our utility services team worked closely with SDG&E to design the upfit. A key component was having continuing conversations throughout the process, and even a video walk-through as verification that the vehicle was meeting their expectations.
MWS: SHOULD YOUR CUSTOMERS EXPECT TO BE EQUAL PARTICIPANTS IN THE DESIGN PROCESS?
With Utilimaster, the customer signs one deal for a product, and we take it from there. Our mission is to be a one-call, one-vendor, and turnkey resource to meet all needs during the entire process. Designing the product ourselves means it’s our duty to manufacture the truck bodies, order the shelves, benches, and other products, to create the perfect solution for our customer’s vehicle needs. We handle everything from inception to delivery, and everything in between.
MWS: IS THE PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN SPARTAN AND ITS CUSTOMERS COMPLETE ONCE THE VEHICLE(S) ARE DELIVERED?
The key to success in any industry is listening to customers, assessing their needs, providing unique solutions, staying atop of what’s next, and continually being available. Our upfit process is driven by these elements, and our staff does an excellent job of implementing each initiative for each customer. In fact, our Utilimaster process, along with our staff’s reliability, and attention to detail, has led many of the nation’s largest parcel, food, and utility brands to count on Spartan to design thousands of trucks, and walk-in and cargo van bodies to fit their needs.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Spartan Motors is a design and engineering manufacturer, and marketer, of a broad range of specialty vehicles, specialty chassis, vehicle bodies, and parts for the fleet and delivery, recreational vehicle (RV), emergency response, defense forces, and contract assembly (light/medium duty truck) markets. Find out more about Spartan’s products and services, visit www.spartanmotors.com.