ST. LOUIS — Beau Brauer, Hunter Engineering's president, talks about how the family-owned company has become one of the dominant suppliers of shop equipment for new-vehicle dealerships' service departments and independent shops.
Hunter Engineering Co.'s lineup of tire-changing, tire-balancing and wheel-alignment equipment shares DNA that has been part of the company's products for more than 70 years: They are designed to help shops make money by increasing technicians' speed, accuracy, efficiency and consistency.
Beau Brauer, Hunter's president, talks about how the family-owned company has become one of the dominant suppliers of shop equipment for new-vehicle dealerships' service departments and independent shops.
Mr. Brauer sat down recently with Automotive News Reporter RIchard Truett for this quick look at the company's operations:
On making most of Hunter's products — including components — in-house instead of outsourcing
Shops and technicians run their precision equipment to the limit. Downtime is not accepted. We build our products in our facilities because Hunter quality and Hunter accuracy, customer happiness and overall up time, are essential. Not only are we manufacturing our own equipment, we are manufacturing to our own design. Having the engineers who design our equipment close by helps us make sure we are hitting the mark.
Our customers tell us it's cheaper to purchase American-made, high-quality Hunter equipment once than it is to buy lower-quality equipment twice or more.
On Hunter's legacy of developing shop equipment, such as the Revolution tire changer, that reduces technician labor
Reducing labor times drives productivity and profitability for our customers. But it only works well if the least experienced technician can complete the job correctly and safely, the first time, every time. We are focused on guided procedures and just-in-time training for everyone.
On preparing for a future that may include autonomous vehicles
Hunter has the largest R&D team in our history and our industry. Self-driving cars will need special tools. There is a step-by-step progression to get to a Level 5 autonomous vehicle. We are already seeing that these vehicles, working through that progression, require lots of unique procedures and attention.
On innovations such as the cameras on Hunter's new Quick Check Drive alignment checker, and how Hunter develops new equipment and features for existing products
It's a combination of outward-looking and market-focused customer conversations. We try to understand the challenges from the customer's point of view. We definitely get inspiration from Hunter's field organization. Everyone from our co-ops to our chairman is obsessed with innovation and helping our customers. We meet customers every week, and we have no shortage of good ideas.
We have engineers who develop patentable ideas. We have teams of product managers who are responsible for their categories. They look to the market to see what's happening, and then we try different ideas to see if they are valuable. Once we agree on a concept, it is turned over to engineering to design and perfect.
The high-definition cameras on Quick Check Drive were designed to read license plates of vehicles as they entered the service lane.
We were looking through early image runs, and boom! We had a good idea of what we could use the extra images for. We know that some vehicle owners, unfortunately, take advantage of dealerships and their generous reputations [to claim falsely that the dealership damaged their vehicles during service].
We are always on the side of the dealer. In this case, we are proud to offer this money-saving feature.
On testing new equipment at dealerships before it launches
It is disrespectful to ask our customers to test our products for us. We have a dedicated and independent quality group at Hunter that rigorously tests everything before it is ready for beta testing.
We tested Quick Check Drive with over 100 employee cars in over 100 unique drive-through tests in all weather conditions at our campus before it was installed at a [dealership]. We knew it would meet or exceed all our standards and meet with the dealer's approval.
On expanding from wheel services to other areas
Hunter has grown step by step for over 70 years by consistently investing in R&D We don't grow by acquisition. The tire and brake service business is increasingly competitive. We want Hunter customers to have a strong and noticeable advantage. That's our strategy.