Sundowner Trailers Uses Vending to Reduce Wasted Walking Time
April 1, 2021
By Blue Print Editorial Team
By Blue Print Editorial Team
SAFELY MOVING AROUND
When the job is hauling a prized horse or a vintage corvette, the mode of transportation matters. Sundowner Trailers understands this and has used 40 years of experience to become an industry leader. Customers rely on them to build quality devices to haul precious cargo.
Something that sets Sundowner apart in the world of custom-built trailers is their response time. They know that timeliness is key. Speed lets them get – and keep – more business. And with a facility that produces more than 1,000 trailers per year, Sundowner is always looking for ways to get faster.
Because they are a single-location manufacturer, hundreds of employees are spread across one campus, most in one building, all working to build each trailer to the Sundowner standards with the right tools and parts in the most effective and efficient way.
“One of the biggest values that we take a lot of pride in here at Sundowner is being able to produce a product that is done in-house,” said Mike Mason, Sundowner’s purchasing manager. “And what I mean by in-house is, from start to finish, that trailer is done here on site in Coleman, Oklahoma, has been since 1976, and we take a lot of pride in the product that we produce.”
KEEPING PRODUCTION MOVING
Based out of Coleman, a small town in a rural part of Oklahoma, Sundowner employs 500 people; that’s more than the population of the town itself. And with just two gas stations in town and nowhere to turn for parts, having a supplier on site is critical. A previous supplier only had one person on site, and that individual was stationary, waiting for people to walk over to the crib to get supplies.
“In our vendor-managed location, we had a tool crib, which just happened to be right below my office,” said Justin Walker, Sundowner’s general manager. “And all throughout the day, I could see one person coming to the door, and then another person coming to the door, and then three people coming to the door to get a roll of tape or whatever, and it just made me think of all the wasted time and wasted steps.”
Moreover, when that vendor’s lone employee missed a day or stepped out, Sundowner would be at a standstill to get the items that were needed for work to keep moving. Sundowner decided it needed to cut down the wasted time spent getting items and stop parts outages from crippling the production flow.
After years of being the leader in the industry for horse and livestock trailers, Sundowner ventured out into new markets during the last economic downturn. They started building toy haulers for recreational use, side-by-sides, utility trailers, car haulers, and even high-end living quarters.
“The marketplace is more competitive than ever,” said Justin Walker. “And the components that go into our trailers – while we still want quality components – we want the best price that can be found. That’s what helps us control our costs and continue to grow and sell a quality product at a good price.”
It was decided to look for vendor solutions that went beyond just a tool crib. Fastenal came in with a team of Lean Six Sigma experts, showed the Sundowner team real-world examples of what a Fastenal onsite solution could offer, and put together a plan to help them achieve their goals.
CREATING A BETTER WORKFLOW
Fastenal’s implementation specialists went with Sundowner employees through the nearly half-a-million-square-foot facility to find the best locations for point-of-use vending machines. This has led to a large reduction in wasted walk time. Instead of employees walking all the way across the large building to get commonly used items from the tool crib, now they just swipe an ID badge and have the item they need drop from one of the 25 machines on the floor.
“Fastenal establishing an onsite facility here at Sundowner has actually increased production,” said Mike Mason. “Especially with the vending program that Fastenal’s implemented, I would say it increased production within the first month probably 10 to 15 percent.”
In addition, there are now four Fastenal employees working in the facility at no cost to Sundowner. They stock machines, manage a new tool crib (with digital tracking), and work with Sundowner management to offer solutions to problems as they come up or, in some cases, before they even happen.
THE ROAD TO A BETTER SUPPLY CHAIN
Sundowner, a builder of custom trailers, needed a custom solution to improve their supply chain. And that’s the benefit of a Fastenal onsite: The customer’s solution is unique and not a standard cookie-cutter approach. What worked best for Sundowner was to have Fastenal manage the point-of-use vending locations along with an onsite tool crib and warehouse with more than 800 SKUs.
“A lot of parts that we’re getting today are the same as we were getting before,” said Justin Walker. “They are at a better price; that’s important. But also having the daily dialogue with the people that are here on the floor – communication with our management, communication with our employees – that’s something that we’ve not had in the past.”
Interacting with the Sundowner team provides Fastenal’s onsite employees experience to prepare for the challenges that will come up during new builds in a rural manufacturing setting.
“Being a customer, especially in a rural area, there are a lot of challenges that you face through inventory, through logistics, and with service in general,” said Kyle Hughey, Fastenal District Manager. “A Fastenal onsite program plugs into that very well. We’re able to supply same-day needs. We’re able to live and breathe in their culture. We’re able to adapt and change as their business changes. And I firmly believe that our customers do what they do well. Whether they are a premier trailer manufacturer or in the hospitality industry or government or whatever it may be. That’s their strong suit. Them allowing us to come in and do what we do best, managing inventory and leveraging distribution, is what helps propel their business in the future.”
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THE TEAM'S PERSPECTIVE
Mike Mason | Purchasing Manager, Sundowner Trailers
“As far as how the Fastenal crew interacts with the crew here at Sundowner, it’s been a tremendous asset, always willing to go the extra mile, always willing to do whatever it takes to get product here, which makes my job a lot easier.”
Justin Walker | General Manager, Sundowner Trailers
“We’re a large company. We use a lot of small parts. I was really worried about the transition because there are hundreds and hundreds of parts that we did not deal with necessarily. And anytime you have a parts outage it can really cripple your production flow, which costs money. I was very pleased with the way Fastenal planned and prepared, and our transition could not have been smoother.”
Kyle Hughey | District Manager, Fastenal
“The benefit of a Fastenal onsite is that it’s the costumer’s solution and not a standard cookie-cutter solution. So, what worked best for Sundowner and what we’ve been able to implement is we manage a centralized warehouse – a tool crib, so to speak – but we’ve got 25 different point-of-use locations scattered across their campus and we manage over 800 SKUs. We were able to bring in four Fastenal employees that are at no cost to Sundowner, and they’re now part of the Sundowner culture and part of the Sundowner family.”
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