Wired magazine has a special section in their March issue related to all kinds of piracy. What caught my eye was a quote attributed to Steve Jobs, “Why join the Navy when you can be a pirate?” I Googled the quote and found lots of speculation as to what he meant.
In my career in the trucking industry, on more than one occasion, I felt like I was doing what real pirates would be doing if they were in business today. So here is my pirate story.
A while back I worked for a fan clutch manufacturer. I was a regional manager working with fleets, dealers and distributors. For major fleets we had a national account manager whose job was to put the big deals together with major fleets. The company also had OEM sales engineers that took care of the OEM’s. The fleet account manager worked with us regional managers because we had to “babysit” the fleets after a deal had been struck for our fan clutch to be the spec choice on new equipment. Part of the negotiations was always warranty. The fleet wanted a warranty package that would typically cover the new trucks for the three or four years and for the 500,000 miles they would own the truck.
Fan clutch warranties when I started in the business were 100,000 miles. Then a competitor upped the ante to 300,000, so we countered with a 324,902 warranty. All the time the customers wanted a 500,000-mile warranty.
One evening while drinking our pirate grog, I told the fleet account manager about an observation I had made. The most trouble-free OEM that we had using our product mounted the solenoid (an air/electrical device that turned the clutch on and off) on the firewall of the truck. All the other OEM’s mounted on the engine, sometimes on the frame rail.
This difference in mount location reduced the heat and vibration that could cause the solenoid to fail and in the process cause the fan clutch to fail. After more research, the fleet account manager and I decided that when he had to give in to the 500,000-mile warranty as part of a deal we would require a firewall mounted solenoid.
So we are “doing the deal” as my associate loved to say, orders are coming in, OEM’s are following the instructions on the requirement to firewall mount the solenoid. We had it made with repeat, happy, trouble-free and loyal customers.
Most people don’t know this but many pirates were forced by circumstance to make a living as pirates. This is how we became the fan clutch swashbucklers of the trucking industry.
One day we attended a sales meeting and found out that the OEM’s were trying to reduce the production line labor by having vendor suppliers integrate as much pre-assembly as they possibly could. The fan clutch company loved the idea and called that the value-added program. Each fan clutch went up in billing price. This change turned us into pirates; this was being a pirate versus being in the Navy in this real world business case.
The OEM engineers came up with the idea of pre-mounting the solenoid to the fan clutch and attaching to the solenoid an air line connection that saves labor on the production line, but we pirates knew from field experience this was not good for the customer to put the solenoid in a high vibration and high heat area.
The Navy (OEM engineers) now tells the newly minted pirates that we have to talk customers out of the firewall mount and go along with the new value-added system.
Fortunately for the pirates in the typical corporate environment, the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing. They didn’t know that WE were the reason for the demand for firewall mounting.
So here we were doing the next deal, “Mr. Director of Maintenance you have to make a choice. Go with the OEM fan clutch mounting system as requested by our engineers with the standard warranty, or go with a firewall mount and the 500,000-mile warranty. The choice is yours, but we must stress, we encourage you to go with the OEM decision because some people in our company think the OEM is the customer, not you.” Mr. Director of Maintenance laughs and comments, “It looks like you boys (we were in LA, aka, lower Alabama and at that time that was correct southern) have got yourselves all the way up to your neck in corporate politics, and you are still fighting for me.”
So if you have made it this far into this blog I ask you to do three things. First, next time you see a firewall mounted fan clutch solenoid think these words, “YAY, for the pirates,” and second, next time you are faced with some corporate politics let your inner pirate take action, or at least let out a loud “ARGH!” Lastly, don’t forget Talk Like a Pirate Day, September 19th, 2012.
For my next blog I am thinking about reviewing my seventeen years in the air ride truck seat business. The working title would be “A Pirate Attacks by Helping Bose Ride Technology Win Market Acceptance, Another Uphill Battle”.