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Westrans Company

Eaton’s response to customer concerns provides relief for bruised knuckles

“Eaton has definitely exceeded our expectations. [They] took the initiative to provide an important solution for one of its customers. You don’t always get that from larger companies like Eaton. And we commend them for that.”

Background

Since its founding in 1967, Westrans has enjoyed remarkable growth over the years and today is one of the largest distributors of truck parts in Canada. Located in a 61,000-square-foot facility in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the company specializes in the remanufacturing of transmissions, differentials, brakes, driveshafts and power steering components.

With two additional locations added in 1984 and 1990 in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and Regina, Saskatchewan respectively, Westrans customers include truck repair facilities, small to medium sized truck fleets, and truck dealerships that are “in a pinch and looking for a quick turnaround,” according to Chief Executive Officer, John Williams.

Some of those customers have been dealing with Westrans for more than 30 years.

Williams attributes the company’s success to, “a dedicated team of employees who have worked hard to establish the company as a touchstone of reliability, assurance, and efficiency in the industry. The team continues to provide our customers with an unparalleled service experience by facilitating their unique needs wherever possible.”

One team member, Jacquie Little, joined the company in 2012, working as a warehouse person and delivery driver. Always efficient and highly accommodating to all customer requests, Little was eventually promoted to dispatch supervisor.

She took those attributes to a new level in 2014 when she approached one of the company’s key suppliers with an idea to improve efficiency.

Challenge

The supplier was Eaton, which had been a long time supplier of input shafts for Westrans’ lineup of remanufactured heavy-duty manual transmissions. Little didn’t feel the shafts were being shipped and packaged in the most efficient manner, and this was causing headaches for just about everyone who had to handle them. Removing the shafts from the crates and skids on which they arrived was difficult and time-consuming, said Williams.

“While we had no issues whatsoever with the quality of the shafts, it was especially difficult getting one out of the box because of the shape of the gear at the bottom of the shafts,” he added. “You almost had to take all of the shafts out of the box just to get to one.

“If you didn’t, the products would bang together and they would get slightly damaged. It wasn’t as clean as we would have preferred. On top of that, people who were handling the shafts sometimes cut their hands on the packaging because they had to mess around with it so much. We never had any serious injuries, but no one liked it. Everyone was frustrated.”

Except Little, who decided to do something about it.

Solution

After witnessing the challenges among her co-workers who were mostly pickers for internal and external parts, she brought the issue to Williams, who contacted Eaton’s Roadranger parts and solutions manager. Shafts would be much easier and safer to access, Little believed, if they were placed horizontally on slotted corrugated cardboard platforms with the gears on the outside of the slots, instead of vertically with the gears and shafts in the same slots without enough separation.

Reinforcing Eaton’s philosophies of pursuing complete customer satisfaction and developing a zero-incident safety culture, Eaton’s solutions manager ran the concept by the plant where the shafts were being manufactured. There, a prototype was soon developed and presented to Westrans.

Both Williams and Little were pleased with how quickly Eaton responded, noting the turn-around time was less than two months.

Result

They reserved their highest praise, however, for the new packaging.

“I believe that the slew of bloody knuckles around here will just about be eliminated,” said Williams. “So will the nicks and scratches on the shafts that we had to tolerate in the past. Eaton has definitely exceeded our expectations.”

He also noted that he anticipates the new packaging will, in part, help improve his company’s bottom line due to the fact that handling the shafts is much more efficient and productive than in the past. That, in turn, is allowing the Westrans team to improve its efficiency and productivity with customers.

“The morale of our pickers is certain to improve,” said Williams. “Jacquie saw something she didn’t like and spear-headed the changes that needed to be made. For its part, Eaton took the initiative to provide an important solution for one of its customers.

“You don’t always get that from larger companies like Eaton. And we commend them for that.”