Polar Corporation celebrated its 65th birthday on October 18th, but in many ways it looks and feels like a young company, according to Theodore “Ted” Fick, Polar president & CEO. He recently spoke with FleetOwner about the company’s recent growth spurt and the changes impacting the tank trailer business, including operations at Polar.
“Right now, we are up almost 100% from where we were just 18 months ago,” Fick said. “During that same period, we grew from 1,000 people to 1,700. Expanding that rapidly caused a few growing pains along the way, but we are adapting well.”
The company is continuing to make capital improvements to modernize design, production and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), he noted. Recent investments include 3D mechanical design and digital prototyping tools, precision manufacturing tools and plant footprint expansions. New ERP systems are expected to streamline the flow of information about costs, quality, product specification, and delivery among Polar Tank, Polar Service Centers, customers and suppliers.
“We are expanding the size of our most successful operations,” Fick said. “About five years ago, we had five facilities. Now we have thirty.”
For Polar, the biggest growth in tank trailer demand has come from the energy sector, specifically from companies engaged in crude oil and natural gas exploration. “The energy market is white hot,” Fick said. “Rigs and wells are going up so fast that they need trucks and trailers to get from the drill site to a railhead or pipeline. There just isn’t any other infrastructure yet in place. Trucks are very flexible and can also move on to new sites as the exploration moves.
“The energy market currently represents about 29% of our business,” he added. “Most of the tankers are used to haul crude oil or sand [used in the fracking process].”
Hauling of food-grade products and of gasoline and diesel has stayed at fairly normal and steady levels, Fick said, while construction-driven business has remained down. “To be honest, [we are so busy now that] I don’t know what we would do if the construction business suddenly came back,” he said.
However, fast growth has not kept the company too busy to develop additional new products and services. “We are developing a contract-maintenance service to help insulate fleets from the variability [inherent in maintenance],” Fick said. “It will work almost like a full-service leasing company. Outsourcing maintenance just makes a lot of sense for customers who keep trailers a very long time. And when they are ready to trade, we can handle the used trailer for them through our used-trailer sales operation.”
According to Fick, the new maintenance service will be “a flexible and a la carte program.” Polar plans to roll it out in Q1 of next year.
The company acquired Jarco, a propane bobtail business, in November of 2010, and has been expanding that business as well. In September, Polar announced three new locations. Fick said they expect to grow to eight locations by the end of next year.
“As we celebrate this [65th birthday] milestone, it’s a great time for Polar and our customers,” Fick said. “We’re combining advanced technology and production techniques with a legacy of innovation, engineering and customer support. At 65, we’re more nimble than ever.”