TRANSTAR'S UNWAVERING RESOLUTION
By Stephanie Cargill
New Year’s Resolutions: They’re made, they’re broken, and may be renewed the next year. Isn’t that how it usually goes?
That’s not how it works at Transtar. For more than 40 years, Transtar has been unwavering in their resolve to deliver only the highest quality products to their customers every single day.
Ever since Transtar’s CEO, Ed Orzetti, arrived at Transtar more than 18 months ago, he has spent a considerable amount of time engaging with Transtar customers, employees, and suppliers. It didn’t take him long to establish three major priorities for the company:
Torque Converter quality and brand reputation
Branch-level fill rate and supplier relationships
Enhanced customer experience
“These are not just this year’s resolutions,” Orzetti clarifies. “They have been and will remain the focus of our business for the foreseeable future.
“We have changed the way we operate internally – and that’s a good thing,” Orzetti continues. “We are driving a cohesive connection between our teams, from the leadership team through the manufacturing plant, to sales and category management. It has been an interactive process that has become a capability, both operationally and culturally.”
This process has been most apparent at the company’s remanufacturing plant in Cookeville, Tennessee. At this facility, Transtar remanufactures torque converters under the brand names of Recon, Dacco, Performance Plus, Engine Works,
and several private labels. Hard parts and solenoid blocks are also remanufactured in Cookeville.
“Our goal is to build a world-class torque converter that no one else in the industry can consistently produce,” states Chris Koshinski, President of Transtar’s U.S. Distribution. “I spend most of my time on the road visiting customers. They are very happy with the quality of our torque converters and recognize the strides that we have made in the past year and a half.”
“Significant advancements have been made at the plant,” comments Mike Colyer, Senior Vice President of Operations and Remanufacturing. “These improvements have required substantial investment from the company.”
Old, antiquated machines have been replaced with new, state-of-the-art equipment – often the same machinery that is in use at the OE manufacturers. This hi-tech equipment requires less maintenance overall and results in a consistent and repeatable high-quality product. Jay Peterson, Transtar’s Director of Remanufacturing, is particularly excited about the new equipment. “Using the latest technology, like the new welders, we get almost instantaneous feedback,” Peterson reports. “The welder can actually gauge variances and self-adjust on the fly. This state-of-the-art digitaltechnology reduces contamination and variation in the final product.”
In addition to the welders, Transtar has added media blasters, upgraded the parts washer system, and replaced manual lathes with CNC lathes. This precision equipment provides comparative measurement data that removes any opportunity for human error out of the equation.
Kevin Rozsa, Vice President of Marketing and Category Management, has been around Transtar for a very long time – first as a supplier and now as an employee of Transtar. “The first time I visited the plant was more than 20 years ago when I was with another company in the industry,” Rozsa remembers. “Many of the people that I met on that first visit are still associates of our company.”
Jerry Ward, Transtar’s Continuous Improvement Specialist, is one of the many long-tenured employees. “I’ll tell you what,” Ward says emphatically, “I’ve been working for this company for 34 years and I can say with confidence that we are building the best product that has ever come out of Cookeville.”
“Each time I visit there is a noticeable change – and not just in the facility,” Rozsa continues. “When I walk through the plant today there is a pride and enthusiasm in both the product and the company that is tangible.” “If you have someone who is enthusiastic about the company, they’re going to be more attentive to their job,” Ward concludes.
MINDSET OF OWNERSHIP
Tom Presutti has been in this business for more than 30 years, beginning at the Recon facility in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania. “To me, our biggest asset is our employees,” states Presutti, Transtar’s Remanufacturing Technical Specialist. “We can spend all the money we want on improvements but if we don’t have buy in from employees we will fail. It took a while to convince the manufacturing team that we needed to do things differently, but now, through diligence, training, and hard work, we have a team of associates who feel enabled, engaged, and empowered to do their job. They feel like they can really make a difference. Now that’s what I call success.”
“At Transtar our training is more like mentoring,” says Matthew Roybal, Director of Customer Quality. “We don’t just tell our associates what to do. We describe how to do a task or process and then explain how that task impacts the finished product. This changes the way that people look at their job.”
“We are setting up a system of expertise,” Colyer concludes. “One person becomes a master at what they do. That master then mentors others, so in the end we have a plant full of Torque Converter experts. It’s a philosophy of continuous mentorship.”
THE FUTURE IS HERE
Where is automotive technology heading? What’s up with that 10-speed transmission? Which converter do I use in the vehicle that’s on my lift? How in the world am I supposed to keep up?
These are just a few of the questions that transmission specialists around the globe are asking every day. There was a time when Transtar depended on customers to answer those questions; when inventory on the shelves was determined by customer request.
Mike Cargill, Transtar’s Senior Category Manager for the torque converter product line and TCRA board member, responds: “By necessity, we have become a forward-looking company. We are continuously doing research into late-model vehicle design to determine what vehicles are going to be on the road, when they will need transmission- related repairs, and what product we will need to have for our customers to do those repairs. This is the future of automotive repair.”
Cargill, along with a team of more than a dozen people, recently completed Transtar’s new torque converter catalog, which identifies product and application information through manufacturing year 2017. This catalog, a compilation of thousands of hours of work, is by far the most comprehensive guide to torque converter identification and diagnostics available.
Research and analysis are key to staying on top of technology. “As we prepared for the new torque converter catalog, we examined more than 225 OE torque converter units,” Roybal reports. “We took them apart, carefully measured, and built specifications for each unit. The end result is that we not only can build a converter that matches the OE specs; we can ultimately improve on the OE design flaws.”
Roybal, whose 25-year career in manufacturing includes 11 years with Transtar, helped lead the reman facilities integration of two outstanding companies: Transtar and Dacco – making Transtar the largest torque converter remanufacturer in the world. “What I’m excited about is that we have taken the ingenuity of an entrepreneurial company and coupled it with the technology and structure of a legacy manufacturer.”
“Bringing two companies together is never an easy thing,” Orzetti concludes. “Are we perfect? No. At the end of the day we’re better together than we ever were, but we’ve only scratched the surface of where we want to be.”