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When you’re bigger than the rest, you can do more things better. Which in turn allows you to get even bigger.
Case in point: Morgan Truck Body. What started out as a small truck repair shop 66 years ago has grown into the largest North American manufacturer of Class 3 to Class 7 truck and van bodies. Morgan produces truck bodies to accommodate everything from parcel delivery to furniture movers and heavy-equipment hauling, insulated and refrigerated units, bottled gas transport, and flatbed/stake and platform bodies. In recent years, Morgan has also launched various truck bodies geared towards the landscape and contractor industries.
With 12 facilities (11 of which are manufacturing plants) strategically located throughout the United States and Canada, Morgan recently announced a new plant opening in Plainfield, CT., scheduled to be operational later this year, and is already eyeing additional expansion to meet increasing demand.
“We have the most manufacturing plants of anyone in our industry,” explains Paul Jarossy, director of marketing and business development. “Our nearest competitor has only five, and many other have only one?”
With strategic manufacturing locations in Arizona, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Oregon, California, Texas, Florida and Georgia, as well Ontario, Canada, Jarossy points out that, “Being close to the customer significantly reduces delivery charges. If our competition’s nearest plant is across the country, they have to tack on greater shipping costs. Having multiple manufacturing locations makes it convenient for Morgan customers to visit and tour the plants where their truck bodies are being built.” An additional five Morgan-owned Parts and Service locations, plus over 200 Authorized Morgan Repair Partners throughout the US and Canada, ensure that any service issue is addressed conveniently and quickly.
The picture gets even bigger when you add the fact that Morgan is part of the J.P. Poindexter & Company ( JBPCO) group of related transportation businesses. These include bread and package delivery truck maker Morgan Olson, Reading Truck Body, the Truck Accessories Group and Masterack commercial- grade interiors and cargo systems. “As part of a suite of companies that provide a range of service to the transportation industry, we offer greater quality control and economies of scale. For example, it allows us to outfit a Morgan truck body with Masterack interiors and storage systems.” Morgan Truck Body can package a solution by partnering with a sister company that shares the same commitment to manufacturing excellence.
Meeting Big Demand
With the forthcoming 175,000 square feet Connecticut plant, Morgan grows even bigger. “It provides additional capacity to serve our New England customers,” Jarossy notes. The new plant is an hour east of Hartford and is expected to support production of a combination of 3,000 dry freight and reefer truck bodies annually. Expected to open by Q4 2018, the facility will employ approximately 140 team members.
“We’re also planning further expansion in the Midwest,” Jarossy adds. Several locations between Chicago and Pittsburgh are under consideration. We’re always looking for opportunities to get closer to our customers.”
Increased demand is a combination of an improving economy, cyclical replacement, and Morgan’s commitment to innovation and building the best trucks bodies in the industry. “I joined Morgan in 2012 and that was a record year, largely because of the release of pent-up demand from customers that were holding off on making purchases during the recession, but also due in part to Morgan’s ability to meet that demand,” Jarossy says. With customer confidence lifted by the economy and the new tax law, we expect 2018 to be a successful year as well.”
Sales Mix and Match
Morgan sales channels are a mix of direct and distributor sales. Customers are also a hybrid of large corporate procurements and individual purchases. “We do sell to large fleet owners, Jarossy explains. “but we also have a retail sales group that deals with medium-size as well as one-off truck orders. These orders could be for a major national leasing company or they could also be for a small company like a Joe’s Florist that needs a new delivery vehicle.”
In the Northeast, sales are primarily through a network of experienced distributors. “That was the model the company started many years ago and we want to maintain those strong relationships we’ve developed over the years with our distributors,” Jarossy says. “In the Midwest, it’s also primarily distributors, though we do have some direct sales. But in the South and West, it’s almost all direct sales.” Needless to say, managing the diversity of customers and sales channels presents a bit of a challenge, but one Morgan has successfully met.
Morgan employs over 2,000 salaried and production team members. Building truck bodies requires skilled labor, and Morgan, like most manufacturers, is working to address filling those jobs during the current labor shortage. “Whenever the unemployment rate drops below five percent, as it is now, the manufacturing industry finds itself working hard to fill jobs, especially the highly skilled ones like welding,” Jarossy says. “One way to address that is to work with local schools and offer apprenticeships and internships. Our internship program has been particularly successful; in fact, we just hired one of our marketing interns for a sales position. It gives students the opportunity to see if they like this kind of work and, if we eventually hire them, they come into the job with some experience and training.”
To staff the new Connecticut plant, Morgan is currently training people for supervisor roles, some of whom have transferred from other Morgan locations. A number of local job fairs are underway to recruit additional new hires. “We look for good people and then we aim to retain them with good working conditions, good pay and satisfying careers,” Jarossy says.
Go the Final Mile
While Morgan is primarily known for medium- duty truck bodies, during the last five years it has also developed lighter duty Class 3 and 4 truck bodies. “We now offer products that satisfy a wider range of market needs” Another growing opportunity is for multi-temperature grocery delivery vehicles.
“There’s a lot of talk in the industry about “Final Mile” to the point where it’s almost a cliché, but a cliché that is very real,” Jarossy says. “Whether you are a brick and mortar store or an e-commerce business, the question everyone is grappling with is how do you efficiently deliver goods to the customer’s front door? This is particularly pertinent to the grocery industry.”
Which is why Morgan has introduced its NexGen delivery vehicle that is lighter and smaller— currently 12 to 16 feet. The NexGen is available in dry freight, fully refrigerated, mid-temp, and multi-temp configurations. Key features include non-corrosive materials, up to 20% lighter in overall weight, and smooth walls for better graphics.
“With the home grocery unit, you can have separate zones for frozen, fresh, and ambient temperature goods,” Jarossy says. “So now you have a way to deliver a mix of orders that maintains freshness and quality in a vehicle that is economical to run.”
He adds, “The industry is still struggling with figuring out the logistics of Final Mile delivery, but the potential for us in this market is huge. We believe our grocery delivery truck body represents a big part in figuring out this puzzle.”
Morgan is getting bigger all the time. “We’re in growth mode. We’re adding plants and we’re not stopping.”
Big really is beautiful.