NASHVILLE—With its fledgling retread program now spreading its wings across the nation, Michelin North America is preparing its next move to enhance the relationship between its commercial dealers and their fleet customers. Using its ``Millennium Suite'' business management software package as a cornerstone, Michelin is launching a program designed to ease a trucking company's transition to complete outsourcing of its tire supply and servicing needs.
Dubbed ``Tire Electronic Asset Management'' (TEAM), the program has been in testing for about two years but only now is being rolled out in its complete configuration, Randy Clark, director of marketing for Michelin Americas Truck Tires, said. The first group of Michelin TEAM dealerships is still coming up to speed, and therefore Michelin declined to identify any of them for now.
In promotional literature, Michelin tells the prospective TEAM dealer he and Michelin will be partners in ``supplying, maintaining and managing'' all the tires the dealer's fleet customers will need, and promises the new teamwork will ``elevate your dealership far above would-be competitors who simply sell tires and routine service.''
The ultimate goal of TEAM is to provide a way for dealers to calculate cost control and eventually pass along cost savings to customers. To do so, the dealer, Michelin and the fleet form an alliance and agree to make decisions as a team and to meet regularly to discuss progress on their basic agreement and to identify other areas where savings could be realized.
One of the more pronounced changes Michelin proposes under the TEAM agreement is that the dealer, Michelin and the customer calculate the customer's current tire cost-per-mile—based on the trucking company's tire costs of the previous three years—and establish new targets using input from all three parties.
At this point, an annual budget for tires and tire-related service is agreed to, and a monthly payment schedule established at the beginning of the year. The budget is subject to review during the year, pending extraordinary changes, allowing the dealer to ``enjoy guaranteed business,'' while the fleet has ``reduced operational hassles, uncertainties and costs,'' Michelin literature says.
Michelin is pitching its supply program to both tire dealers and trucking fleets via the tire and trucking trade press. Ads are similar in appearance but the messages are slightly different, tailored for each audience.
For instance, Michelin pitches the fleet customer on reduced day-to-day operating responsibilities—changes that will allow the fleet owner more mobility and profitability.
Being a Michelin Retread Technologies retreader or affiliated with one helps complete the package, but is not an essential element of becoming a TEAM dealer, Mr. Clark said.
``Above all else,'' Mr. Clark explained, ``TEAM is designed to be flexible,...to allow for customized solutions.
``TEAM is not for everybody,'' he said. ``A number of fleets still want to do their own maintenance. Still others will want to outsource some....''
For example, Mr. Clark said, some fleets want to find outside partners for their wheel servicing, opening up possibilities for tire dealers to add this to the range of services they offer.
``The larger fleets must deal with their unions as well,'' Mr. Clark added. ``Tire procurement and maintenance is a clearly defined job at some trucking companies, and outsourcing this may not be a straightforward decision.''
In its promotional material, Michelin promises that TEAM will deliver: longer original tread life; longer casing life; improved retreadability; reduced tire-related downtime; reduced tire-related personnel and liability costs; and life cycle tire data to support ongoing improvements in tire specifying, maintenance and retreading protocols.
In terms of flexibility, Michelin points to the modular nature of its Millennium Suite package, and its use of product services information, or PSI, which allows dealers to use a variety of information processing systems and interact with both Michelin and the customer.
Among promotional material Michelin is generating to support its commercial fleet business is a quarterly publication called Solutions. It debuted earlier this year to coincide with The Maintenance Council's annual meeting and expo, and features articles on fleet maintentance, Michelin products and technology, and news about the trucking industry.
Solutions joins similar publications from Goodyear and Bridgestone/Firestone Inc.