President, Masterack and FECAP Divisions of Leggett & Platt, Commercial Vehicles Product Group
What is your focus right now at Masterack?
Our focus for about the last twelve months is innovation. Innovative materials, innovative cargo management solutions and innovative supply chain management. Total supply chain management.
With all of the changes coming into our industry prompted by the OEMs and their platform changes and the vehicles that they are bringing to market, we know that the innovative supplier will be able to bring supporting solutions to market that meet the customer’s changing needs. Our focus in essence has been on product and supply chain innovation.
What are some of the changes that you are seeing now?
The full size Ford Transit will be coming domestically. That vehicle is a dramatic departure from the current cargo van. That vehicle will require a different cargo management system. We are prepared from a Masterack standpoint to be able to provide that ultimate cargo management system; ultimate materials to produce weight savings and efficiency for the vehicle, and also provide a cargo management system that will utilize the high cube of the vehicle. Ford is only one of the OEMs that will be coming to market with that high cube type of cargo van within the next twelve to eighteen months.
So that is prompting innovation from us and other suppliers in the industry.
What are some of the issues that or the concerns that fleets are raising with you now?
Obviously one of the major concerns that fleets come to us with and have come to us with is total cost of ownership. That has not changed since I have been in the industry. But they are focusing more on efficiency; they are focusing more on weight savings to drive fuel efficiency over time. So, that is actually our focus when we are looking to develop innovative solutions for a fleet management company or an end user.
We are focusing on lightweight materials. Lightweight materials to Masterack means taking up to 50% of the weight out of a current cargo management system. That might mean a departure from current materials to some other type of alternative material in the cargo area. That is really what fleets seem to be looking for now; a way to maximize their payload and also maximize their fuel efficiency driving to a reduction in total cost of ownership
Can you give us an example of a fleet that has taken advantage of the new lighter weight?
A great example that comes to mind for Masterack most recently is ADT. ADT came to us and they wanted to maximize efficiency of their vehicle for their technicians. We basically talked to them and did a 5S type of project where we met with their individual technicians. We laid out all of the tools that they use and we asked them to tell us which tools they use 80% of the time, 90% of the time or not very often? We were able to show ADT that they could be efficient in migrating from a full size van to a Transit connect, for example. That allowed them to increase their fuel efficiency. That allowed them to increase their technician efficiency because they had the right tools for the job every time after we did that type of study.
We also have an industry exclusive composite interior system. Our composite interior system reduces the weight of an average steel system by almost 100 pounds. We have found through outside studies that just 100 pounds of weight savings could produce up to 2% efficiency gains. So, that is a good example where Masterack did a white paper type of design and project working with a customer to take them out of a full size cargo van into a more fuel efficient Transit Connect and we think it worked well for both parties.
That is impressive. What do you see next in terms of product?
From a Masterack perspective,, our goal is to create a revolutionary change in the cargo management system. To us that means what I would like to consider a “next gen” shelving system. It could mean totally different materials or a material that complements our current steel material. I am pleased to say that the changes prompted by the OEMs have also sparked innovation within our organization where we are prepared to meet those changes with weight saving materials; alternative types of materials to improve efficiency and flexibility as it relates to cargo management.
One of the things that I think we are seeing from a fleet management standpoint and also from a fleet customer standpoint is the fact that it is not only important to have efficiency gains but it is also important to have a supplier that can provide total supply chain management. That includes insourcing of other purchase components that includes daily status reports back to the fleet management company or to the customer. We pride ourselves on being able to provide that so you know where your vehicle is in the upfit process. We aim to supply total supply chain management, turnkey solutions. So, that is really what our company is looking for.
We have seen a bit of a trend or departure, over time, from the traditional fleet manager to more of a procurement manager. The procurement managers that are part of tomorrow’s fleet companies are looking for that total supply chain management where they can provide turnkey cost effective solutions to their technicians and company
What changes have you seen in the industry that have been the most dramatic?
I have been in the industry for over 20 years now from the retail side now to the commercial side. I think the one thing that I have noticed is the pace of change. We have had changes over the last twenty years but I think the pace of change over the next two to three years will outpace all of the change that we have seen for the last ten to fifteen years. What I think is really exciting right now is the pace of change that we are embarking on from vehicle, education, fuel, alternative materials, and alternative fuels standpoints. That pace of change is what gives me joy and pleasure every day when I go to the office.
Clearly you have achieved a great deal of success in this business. To what do you attribute your own success?
I appreciate the fact that you believe that I am a successful person. I think anyone that is going to be successful in this industry has to have a passion for the industry. The old adage is that you love the smell of engine oil and you love the smell of smoke out of the tailpipe. You have to have a passion for automobiles and you have to have a passion for the industry. Now the passion that motivates me every day is not only for the automobile itself but for the people of the industry. The people within the commercial and the fleet industry are very prideful, they are very knowledgeable and they support the infrastructure, believe it or not, within the country. That is something that fills my passion every day.
Let’s talk about your mentors.
I had the pleasure of working with both Chrysler Corporation and also Ford Motor Company. Throughout those careers multiple different mentors touched my life and allowed me to grow into the person that I am.
With the transition to Leggett & Platt I continue to have mentors within that organization. I would have to mention that our CEO is someone that drives my passion and fuels my passion, a degreed engineer; one of the best engineers that I have had the pleasure of working with and for.
I think the migration from my former career in a Fortune 500 or Fortune 1000 company to an S & P 500 company has allowed me to see the industry from a different perspective, from a supplier perspective vs. from an OEM perspective. So, different types of mentoring in both of those different arenas, but you can’t get to a place in the fleet or commercial environment without good people around you. And I have had good mentors and good direct reports and peers throughout my career.
Having 25 years automotive industry experience with Chrysler and Ford Motor Company, Ross Haith began his career with Chrysler Corporation in 1987. He joined Leggett & Platt, Commercial Vehicle Products Group (CVP) as Group VP Marketing, VP Sales and Service in 2007. In 2012, he was named President of the Masterack and FECAP Divisions.
Before Joining Leggett & Platt CVP, and after 15 years of progressive leadership experiences within Ford Motor Company; Haith served as Commercial Truck Sales Manager, Ford Commercial Truck Sales and Marketing. There, he managed sales operations for over 280,000 Commercial vehicles annually.