Hennessy Industries, Inc., makes and markets the equipment that keeps all types of vehicles on the road. Gloria P. Cahill tracks the story.
A typical vehicle owner may not know Hennessy Industries, Inc., but the local garage, service center or dealership most likely knows the company’s equipment by name. AMMCO® brake lathes and lifts, COATS® tire changers and wheel balancers, and BADA® wheel-balancing weights are used in auto shops across the country and around the world. These are the first names in tire and wheel service.
Founded in 1922 by Jack P. Hennessy, a COATS sales representative who bought the company from Gil Coats, inventor of the tire changer, Hennessy Industries later added the BADA® product line. In 1978, Chicago Pneumatic Tool Company purchased the business. Danaher Corporation, a Fortune 500 company based in Washington, purchased Chicago Pneumatic in 1983. AMMCO was acquired by Danaher three years later and added to the Hennessy roster.
Hennessy is headquartered in LaVergne, Tenn., and has manufacturing facilities totaling 250,000 square feet in Tennessee and Bowling Green, Ky. In addition to its main markets in the United States, Canada and Mexico, the company has substantial sales in Central America, South America, Australia and the Middle East.
The largest full-line wheel service equipment manufacturer in North America, Hennessy offers its customers a full range of products, accessories, service and training.
Highlights of the Hennessy product spectrum include:
• COATS® tire changers. Hennessy is the only U.S. manufacturer of tire changers and is the largest supplier in North America. Models range from equipment for small shops that change only a few tires to large auto centers that do hundreds.
• COATS® balancers. These products are made with a unique direct-drive motor that eliminates the potential for belt wear or electronic “noise” that can create inaccurate readings. New computer technology and ergonomic design provide easy operation.
• AMMCO® brake lathes. Recognized as the industry standard, there are more AMMCO® lathes in service than all other bands combined.
• AMMCO® lifts. Two-post, four-post, quick-lube, alignment and low-rise lifts accommodate vehicles ranging from 7,000 to 60,000 pounds. Lift configurations offer a variety of options for door access, footprint size and support mechanisms. All lifts meet the stringent safety requirements of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the Government Services Administration (GSA).
• BADA® wheel weights. For more than a half century, BADA® has offered the most comprehensive selections of wheel weights and related wheel-balancing products in the world. Products include dry polymer coated and non-coated clip-on styles, plus non-coated and chrome Tape-A-Weights™.
In addition, Hennessy’s network of independent service partners provides qualified technicians who participate in ongoing training, use genuine COATS® and AMMCO® parts, and help identify ways for customers to minimize downtime, keep equipment running longer and build profits. The company also offers customers a safety program called R.I.M. (Read the tire size, Inspect the wheel, Mount the tire safely) to make equipment users more aware of the potential for injuries and the proper precautions to take.
According to Mark Cramer, director of marketing, Hennessy’s customers include all types of service facilities — from one- or two-bay garages to dealerships to the big chain auto centers. As examples, he notes that Sears auto centers recently upgraded their tire equipment with a huge order. The Tire Kingdom chain recently installed a large quantity of Hennessy products. Another major customer, the U.S. government, placed a hefty order for heavy-duty truck tire changers.
Vehicle manufacturers thrive on introducing new models every year, and Hennessy products keep up with the pace of change. Commenting on this year’s plans, Cramer says, “We’re talking about 20 new products, including a new brake lathe and a new wheel balancer. And we are making a big initiative in accessories for our equipment. These accessories are important to shop owners because a machine lasts 15 to 20 years, but the market is always changing with regard to the sizes of the tires and wheels. The challenge is to adapt to the future — to enhance the machine or upgrade equipment with these accessories.”
He cites sport utility vehicles as an example of changing market needs: “The challenge is in the sizes and weights of the tires and wheels. We’re seeing 22-inch and 23-inch wheels, and 24-inch models are on the way. Tire changers must have the capacity for these new products.”
Another opportunity comes from new tire products, he says: “Michelin has the new PAX tire, now available in Europe. It’s a tire within a tire. So if it loses air, it can still run. This is a departure from the way tires and wheels are manufactured. But this tire is difficult to change. We worked with Michelin to develop the tire changer and ours is the only one approved.”
On the subjects of satisfying current customer needs and meeting new requirements, Cramer credits a unique operating philosophy at work in Hennessy. “We use the Danaher Business System, known as DBS. This program is modeled on the Toyota Production System. This is a unique business tool that looks at the entire manufacturing operation for efficiency, quality and on-time delivery.”
Used throughout the Danaher organization, DBS promotes a common operating philosophy based on listening to the voice of the customer (VOC) and using the Six Sigma quality program to meet customers’ needs in providing products and services while controlling costs and improving operations. An example of DBS in action at Hennessy includes the melding of AMMCO® operations into the LaVergne site. Another accomplishment is an 81 percent improvement in quality for cylinder leaks on tire changers.
With its accent on quality and customer satisfaction, Hennessy is positively driven to succeed.