Hennessy Industries Inc. wants to keep automotive service customers from having to make those dreaded return trips to a service shop to get something fixed-again.
The equipment manufacturer hopes its tire-changing machines and related accessories solve problems the first time around so customers don't have to return, more annoyed than ever.
The LaVergne, Tenn.-based company unveiled its Coats XR 1800 wheel balancer at a press conference Jan. 14 in Akron. The first machines were sold in November with sales ``exceeding expectations,'' officials said. The tire balancer was introduced along with a new tire changer and two educational programs.
The Coats 9024E tire changer is designed to handle wheels up to 24 inches in diameter, including run-flat and low profile tires and other tough tire changing jobs with minimal threat to expensive rims.
The tire balancer was designed to diagnose each wheel for vibration issues to solve them the first time around, company officials said.
``Our No. 1 goal was to prevent comebacks,'' said Kevin Keefe, group marketing manager for Hennessy.
The tire balancer runs complete diagnostics on each wheel to find runout problems while adding only two to three seconds per job, Mr. Keefe said. Moving wheels to a separate diagnostic tool can add as much as 30 to 35 seconds to an average balancing job, he said.
Diagnostics on each wheel is becoming more important because of changes in vehicles and their tires, the company said.
``Vehicles have become more sensitive to imbalance issues,'' said Mark Cramer, director of commercial marketing for Hennessy.
But while balancing is becoming more difficult, high turnover of technicians is limiting some of the expertise available.
``If all shops would retain all (their) employees a minimum of 10 years...that would be great, but it's not realistic,'' said Ronald Newton, executive vice president of sales and marketing.
At the same time, tire dealers-who face demanding customers every day-are expected to keep on top of rapid changes in automotive service.
Hennessy hopes it has a solution to that problem with the informational tools it's offering with the XR 1800.
The console includes operator prompts that take a technician step by step through the process. The machine beeps when the operator successfully completes a task. Help screens also can guide technicians through balancing, though Mr. Keefe said most workers go solo after about three hours with the machine.
Along this same path, Hennessy also introduced a CD-ROM ``vibration clinic'' aimed at training technicians on proper balancing and mounting techniques.
Improper mounting accounts for about 60 percent of balancing errors, said Don Vanderheyden, product manager for tire service.
A second educational program introduced by Hennessy, dubbed the R.I.D.E. campaign, is geared toward technicians, counter staff and consumers. The acronym stands for rotate tires, inflate tires, diagnose ride control problems early and educate the consumer for economy and safety.
The idea is to underscore safety initiatives by auto makers plus provide a selling tool for additional premium services.
``This project is focused on counter staff to give them the tools they need to talk to consumers,'' Mr. Cramer said.
In addition to tire changers and balancers, Hennessy manufactures brake lathes, lifts, alignment systems, wheel weights and accessories under the brand names Coats, Ammco and Bada.