With more than half a century’s dedication to advanced design and engineering, Grumman Olson continues to make breakthrough revolutionary products. April Terreri engineers the story.
Grumman Olson delivers on time so that its customers can do the same. Whether it’s a Ryder truck moving your daughter and her world into her college dorm, or a United Parcel Service (UPS) truck delivering that eagerly awaited contract to your business, the constant factor is the dependable Grumman Olson truck body making these events happen.Headquartered in Sturgis, Mich., Grumman Olson Industries, Inc., has facilities in Montgomery, Pa., Alvaton, Ga., and Tulare, Calif. The company employs approximately 850 people, and its combined facilities occupy more than three-quarters of a million square feet. Grumman Olson’s aluminum and FRP truck bodies, which are its core products, serve customers in such diverse industries as parcel delivery, bakery, truck rental, newspaper, tool, laundry, snack and utility. In fact, each of us sees at least one Grumman Olson truck every day we drive on any highway in the nation.
Quality is where it all begins for Grumman Olson. The company is committed to producing only the best products, only ones that earn the status of the industry standard. This commitment begins with a dedicated design and engineering staff. “We use a Unigraphics CAD system with three-dimensional modeling,” says Joe Grecu, vice president of sales, marketing and strategic planning.
What does this mean? “It means we can download engineering and design CAD information right into our manufacturing equipment,” explains Grecu. “We can be certain that this information is not open to someone’s interpretation, because it’s all computerized.” To Grumman Olson’s customers, it also means that the repeatability of precise tolerances can be assured today, tomorrow and in the future.
Another engineering and design checkpoint is the company’s digital fit check. “This system assures that assemblies match up as they are designed to,” says Grecu. “It’s a quality-control check up front while you are still in the drawing stage, well in advance of the product hitting the shop floor.”
Walk Right In
Getting a true fit every time is the goal guiding the design, engineering and production of Grumman Olson’s walk-in van bodies – which are built on chassis carts traveling on automated conveyor systems. “We are the only ones in the industry manufacturing walk-ins in this way,” says Grecu. The truck bodies receive true builds because the variables are eliminated. “The tires could have different inflation pressures, or the suspension systems might be a bit off in the chassis. We emphasize true fits,” he adds.
Aluminum walk-in vans were first designed and launched in the United States by Grumman Olson just after World War II, for frequent deliveries of a variety of products. They were engineered to help speed the time it takes for a driver to retrieve products from the truck van and then deliver them. Today, “they are used by customers having a large number of stops throughout the day who want to move and deliver products quickly,” says Grecu.
Grumman Olson’s Route Star(tm) walk-in vans offer efficiency and saves time; the truck driver just has to step down from the driver’s seat and walk into the back of the truck to get the products being delivered. “And there is less wear and tear on the driver because of the convenience of not having to get out of the truck, walk to the rear and climb in to retrieve the products,” Grecu adds.
Customers using the Route Star(tm) walk-in include all major parcel delivery companies, like Federal Express, UPS and the U.S. Postal Service. Other companies using Route Star(tm) walk-ins include Dolly Madison, Hostess, Wholesome, Wonder Bread, Frito Lay, Snap-On Tools, Mac Tools and uniform delivery companies like Aramark and Unifirst.
“Interesting companies to watch are the home grocery delivery companies, whose orders are generated on the Internet,” says Grecu. “Peapod is one of these companies, and we’ve manufactured most of their units. We’re talking with other companies in this line of business as we try to determine the right formula for this area of growth.”
For this line of products, Grumman Olson works with the major chassis manufacturers, including Workhorse, Ford, Freightliner and Navistar.
Grumman Olson’s Freight Star(tm) straight-truck vans are used to deliver medium- to heavy-duty loads during routes requiring fewer stops between deliveries. “These straight trucks have what is commonly referred to as a box on the back of a straight-truck chassis manufactured by companies like GMC, Navistar, Ford or Mitsubishi,” says Grecu.
“We have myriad customers in this segment,” he adds, “including Ryder Rentals, Penske, Frito Lay and UPS.” The company works with major chassis manufacturers for the Freight Star(tm) line, including Bering, Ford, GMC, Isuzu, Mitsubishi, Navistar and Freightliner.
Grumman Olson’s parcel delivery vans (PDVs) are built on cutaway chassis. “The reason it’s called ‘cutaway’ is because it looks like a van body, but the back of the cab is cut away. It’s open in back and we build a body right up over that,” explains Grecu. These vans use GMC or Ford cutaway units.
“Parcel delivery vans continue to be a rapid growth business for us,” says Grecu. PDVs are sold to the Government Services Administration, the U.S. Air Force, truck rental companies, furniture stores, home grocery delivery companies and office-supply retailers such as Staples.
Grumman Olson is all abuzz about its recent acquisition of Complete Refrigerated Truck Bodies, Inc., of Alvaton, Ga. “We wanted to expand the offerings we could make to our current customers while broadening our product base to attract new customers,” says Grecu. “We want to offer one-stop shopping for Grumman Olson customers.”
Complete Refrigerated had been a regional company, with a presence in the Southeast. The acquisition will have a two-fold effect. It will help give the refrigerated truck body segment a national presence, while it helps Grumman Olson gain a presence in the Southeast it did not enjoy prior to the acquisition. “These advantages are working well for our company,” says Grecu.
Grumman Olson is launching this line of refrigerated trucks under the FreshGuard(tm) brand name. “We are excited about launching this product nationally,” says Grecu. The FreshGuard(tm) line will be manufactured in all Grumman Olson facilities, including the Complete Refrigerated facility in Georgia, and is perfect for the delivery of flowers, frozen food, seafood, ice and other products requiring precise temperature management. Grecu says, “The FreshGuard(tm) line will be an integral link in our customers’ cold chain.”
“We believe Grumman Olson will be an important industry player in recognizing what the changes in the market are, and in designing products that will meet those new requirements. We will continue to offer solutions to the changing needs of our customers,” say Grecu. As an example, the U.S. Postal Service is a good customer of Grumman Olson. However, with first-class mail volumes dropping as e-mail volume is rising, the Postal Service is becoming a bigger customer in the parcel delivery business.
Grumman Olson increased its revenues by 15 percent this year. “We expect to see double-digit growth over the next several years. And we attribute this growth to the 100 percent defect-free quality of the products we manufacture. Additionally, we deliver our truck bodies on time, which is critical to the customers we serve,” concludes Grecu.