Masterack: Innovative Product and Supply Chain Solutions

Ross Haith, Jr.

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.



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