LOUISVILLE, KY. Today at the annual Heavy Duty Manufacturers Assn. Breakfast at the Mid-America Trucking Show, Tom Plimpton, president of Paccar Inc., said growth in the truck market will depend on how truck OEMs and their suppliers step up to the plate.
“Growth in the truck [manufacturing] market is obvious,” stated Plimpton, “but we can position ourselves better for upswings to supply customers [with enough trucks]. He also said the “immense aftermarket business requires focus each and every day.”
Noting that the Class 8 outlook for ’05 is in the range of 270,000-280,000 units [U.S. and Canada], he echoed remarks made by other OEM chief executives this week that truck makers could build more trucks were there enough of the right OE parts at all the right times in the supply chain.
Plimpton said part of the solution rests with suppliers relying not only on “pull-through marketing” to get their products spec’d by fleets but on more “early cooperation” with OEMs to attain product positioning.
“The three key success factors manufacturers should keep in mind are quality, technology and innovation,” Plimpton remarked. To that end, he said there should be “design collaboration between suppliers and OEMs and that should be obtained with Six Sigma” quality improvement processes.
According to Plimpton, suppliers should do as Paccar does and benchmark against their competition, as well as leaders in other industries. Specifically, he urged that quality as measured in defects per million for truck suppliers should fall to the level of 50 per million as is common in the automotive manufacturing industry.
“Investments are required,” he continued, “because the industry is growing. And the prudent OEM invests in their suppliers. “It’s all about satisfying the customer and customer demands are growing.”
Plimpton, who has corporate responsibility for Kenworth, Paccar Mexico and other operations, also said that as “Asia recovers and China grows, high commodity prices per ton may be the new reality” for manufacturers.
As for diesel fuel prices, he said it is “not a question of if, but when oil prices will rise to $70 or $80 per gallon.” Plimpton pointed out that high diesel prices don’t just hurt truck operators but also “lower overall consumer demand--which hurts everyone.”
Turning to issues dogging truck operators, Plimpton said there will always be a technician shortage so manufacturers must help to recruit and train techs.” As for curbing the driver shortage, Plimpton suggested that “trucking must become a real job of choice; a fulfilling profession,” if all needed drivers’ seats are to be filled.