Company: Boring Transport Inc., Belleville, Pa.

Operation: Regional truckload carrier with refrigerated, milk tank, flatbed, and dry van operations; Mike Grassmyer, fleet maintenance manager

PROBLEM: With 23 tractors and a full complement of reefer, tank, van, and flatbed trailers, Boring Transport maintains a substantial inventory of both service and common replacement parts. As a relatively small fleet, however, it hasn't been able to justify the investment in a standalone parts management system.

"If we saw we were low on a particular item, we'd call and order it," says Mike Grassmyer, the fleet's maintenance manager. "When a part came in, someone would put it on a shelf wherever there was room. If someone else put a part away I might not see it, and it would get reordered." Or worse, a part wouldn't be reordered at all, and someone would have to make a quick trip to the dealer when it was needed.

SOLUTION: Boring's local dealer, Motor Truck Equipment of Carlisle, Pa., offered the fleet an opportunity to improve both the inventory and ordering processes. Under a new a Kenworth Truck program called PremierCare Connect, the fleet's shop purchased a portable bar code reader and installed support software on a PC equipped with a dial-up modem. Now it has an automated parts management and tracking system that allows it to keep the inventory lean without fear of running out of needed items.

"We started by going through our entire existing inventory," says Glassmyer. "We found we had too many of some things as well as outdated parts for equipment we no longer own. When we finished sending back the parts we didn't need, I'd estimate we'd cut our inventory by 15 to 20%."

The shop was fitted with bins for small parts and organized shelves for larger items. As parts come into the shop, they are scanned with the bar code reader and put in the proper bin or shelf.

When a mechanic opens a work order, he scans each part used, automatically assigning the part to the vehicle. "Now we have a record of what we installed and when for warranty," says Glassmyer. " It also allows us to create reports on repairs by category or by vehicle"

But the best part occurs at 2 a.m., two hours after the last mechanic has gone home. "Our computer automatically dials the dealer's computer and tells it what parts we used that day," Glassmyer says. "When the dealer opens the next morning, they ship those parts, and we have them that afternoon. We scan them as we put them away, and all I have to do is just check the prices to see if they've changed."

Not only does the system provide parts for the fleet's Kenworth tractors, but it also tracks inventory for Boring's other power units, trailers, and reefers. Since Motor Truck is also a Thermo King dealer, the system automatically orders those parts as well. "If it's a part they don't handle, I just use the daily reports to call in an order to another supplier," says Grassmyer.

"Now we never run out of parts, we don't order more than we need, and we don't needlessly tie up our money in inventory," he concludes.