MANAGER: Mitch Barker
TITLE: Service manager
FLEET: Farmers Oil Co., Anthony, KS
OPERATION: Specializes in the transportation of liquid petroleum gas products, liquid fertilizers, distillates, and cement throughout the Southwest and Midwest with 90 trucks and 130 trailers
Making sure the right parts are on hand at the right time to keep a truck up and running has never been an easy task in the trucking business. But two different sets of regulations — one governing truck exhaust emissions, the other beefing up safety rules — are putting a new squeeze on parts availability, says Mitch Barker, service manager for Farmers Oil in Anthony, KS.
As a result, the equipment in Farmers' operation has become more diversified with different engine platforms and technologies, particularly with the new aftertreatment systems designed to meet strict 2010 emissions requirements, Barker points out.
“You have to carry a lot more parts in stock for the different engines; and with the regeneration systems, it takes longer to do a preventive maintenance service,” he notes.
At the same time, the company is discovering that it must also keep a much tighter rein on its maintenance records due to provisions within the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program established last year.
Barker says there is a greater need for different, lesser used parts that can be easily overlooked during parts ordering, such as those associated with the wide-base tires the fleet runs.
“We need to stock more S-cam brackets,” he explains. “Since we haven't had to order those parts as often before, it can be an easy item to overlook until you go to the shelf and it's not there.”
The engine, exhaust and brake components on newer model trucks have definitely made maintenance and inventory much more complicated. Since Farmers operates a mixed fleet of Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks, the company decided to jettison its old parts inventory method in favor of Kenworth's PremierCare Connect system.
“Previously, everything we kept in inventory was on a spreadsheet that had to constantly be manually updated and was very time-consuming and labor-intensive,” Barker explains.
He points out that one critical feature of the PremierCare Connect system is that it manages parts inventory, maintenance, fuel and tires regardless of truck make. That's important as many parts for the same components on Farmers' Kenworth and Peterbilt models, especially the aftertreatment systems, can't be interchanged.
“We also began equipping all of our new truck and trailers with disc brakes in 2011. We've had some challenges regarding parts availability, so keeping a wider range of parts on hand has become much more important,” Barker points out.
Overall, the system has helped Farmers become more efficient in all aspects of inventory tracking, especially costs. It even reminds the fleet when specific parts need to be reordered. That's been especially beneficial as the company is expanding from one shop in Anthony staffed with five mechanics to a second shop at a new depot in Afton, OK.
“As our fleet has diversified between different makes and models, our inventory has had to change with it to accommodate the different parts we now have to keep on hand,” Barker says. “But PremierCare Connect made this transition possible and allows us to maintain our inventories and parts selection to keep our fleet on the road.”
Barker says the system allows him to compare pricing from different parts suppliers, eliminating the need to make numerous phone calls before making a purchase decision. Further, since the system is linked to his local Kenworth dealer — Wichita Kenworth in nearby Wichita, KS — he doesn't have to carry as many parts in his own shop's inventory.