Newberry Tanks & Equipment LLC
Investing in Innovation
Business View Magazine interviews representatives of Newberry Tanks & Equipment LLC, for our focus on the Tank Manufacturing sector
Every company dreams of innovating: shiny new products, new and leaner internal processes, as well as shedding maddening, outmoded business customs within their industry. And yet obtaining that level of innovation, let alone successfully marketing those innovations to busy customers, can seem an insurmountable task. How does one get there?
For answers, we caught up with senior management at Newberry Tanks and Equipment, LLC, a company that has retrofitted itself from renowned industry veteran to cutting edge competitor. In 2020, Newberry’s inspired innovations won five of the top accolades at the American Business Awards, including the gold for Company of the Year in Metals and Mining, Achievement in Management, and New Business Technology Product. Their revolutionary new design for their Slimline Lube Tank also earned the People’s Choice Award for New Industrial Product. The slew of awards assured the company’s role as a Master of Manufacturing innovation, as well as the rightful role of thought leader in the oil and petroleum storage industry for years to come.
Everything Is On The Table
Innovation isn’t a “Eureka” moment of inspiration at Newberry, but a rather a humble, disciplined, weekly process. The company started employing the Entrepreneurial Operating System to ensure accountability: including structured objectives, redefining roles, weekly meetings to assess what has been attained and not, quarterly meetings with the EOS organization and a 2 day planning meeting every December.
“A lot has changed within the organization in the last year”, reports James Fischer, Vice President of Sales. “We’ve recently added Matt Kohnke to the team as President and COO and we’ve also had a change in our CFO role. We’ve added others to the team to improve some of our processes. We’re focused on having the right people in the right seats.”
“It is part of our culture to innovate,” new President Matt Kohnke adds. “Every week we have senior leadership team meetings that are completely open, where we are not just solving small issues but focused on larger scale issues; coming up with plans to implement those changes. Innovation is a core value at Newberry, and it is encouraged throughout the organization.”
Innovation is part of the company history. Founder Jimmy Newberry was a founding member of the Petroleum Equipment Institute (PEI), a trade association with 1,600-plus members in all 50 states and 80 countries. The members manufacture, distribute, and service equipment used in service stations, terminals, bulk plants, fuel, oil and gasoline delivery. After Newberry’s retirement, the company changed hands a couple of times before CEO Chris Long arrived and reinstated innovation as a core value.
Reverse Engineering Innovation
While most companies begin attempting revolutionary change with their internal processes, CEO Chris Long and James Fischer began at the ending: delivery of the product to the customer. The idea came after they commissioned a market research study of their customers and prospects from sales and marketing company Mayfield Consulting. The study revealed their customers and prospects would budge on price if prompt and reliable delivery could be guaranteed. In an industry where long lead times are the frustrating norm, remarkably not one of their competitors was focused on delivery.
Long and Fischer conceived of new delivery options: expedited delivery, turnkey solutions, and a Preferred Customer Program. Fischer explains, “Our Preferred Customer Program enables customers to partner with the Newberry team, configure their annual usage, order, and schedule delivery of their tanks at a competitive rate. That benefits us as well: we can manufacture and produce at a time that is convenient for us while providing the customer with tanks on demand. Their tanks are shipping in 24 to 48 hours instead of waiting four to six weeks. That is something that our competitors are not able to do.”
Fischer subsequently focused on Newberry’s branding, messaging and sales materials around the new delivery options, while Long utilized his extensive experience with lean manufacturing techniques to ensure company operations could deliver on all their new promises: a new ERP, new CRM, new internal processes for the production floor, even engaging Newberry in a FedEx partner program to perfect the company’s delivery process.
New Products, New Technologies
No one person owns creativity at Newberry, customers are invited to share their challenges, too. Fischer elaborates, “Our Slimline Tank, which is our standard lube tank, had a different height, width, and length depending on the capacity one of our larger customers needed. We were tasked with redesigning it to create a modular setup. We standardized width and height, so the only variable is the length to achieve your gallons per tank. With that redesign, they were able to easily go into their customer bay and give them a sleek set up in their lube oil departments underneath these oil change facilities.”
The new Slimline was so logical in design and the new delivery options so alluring other companies soon followed suit by placing orders. “So now companies we work with, like Valvoline and Jiffy Lube, have seen their business grow tremendously and so has Newberry,” Fischer explains. The new Slimline went on to win two American Business Awards. Newberry also redesigned their skid tanks – above-ground storage tanks – for more efficient manufacturing, better material management by strategically adding forklift slots, which improves offloading and onloading simply by using any standard forklift.
Newberry went two steps further with new product innovation, first when they built their award-winning tank calculator app, available through Apple and Android stores. The app gives fuel distributors and petroleum equipment installers the ability to get the measurements, read the liquid levels and accurately refill a tank. They also added an Online Customer Store to their website, so their customers could order tanks as they need them, 24 hours a day. “We’ve made ordering a tank as easy as ordering a pizza. Our larger franchise customers love it,” Fischer adds.
And along with the new technologies and new products, came more innovation this year in Customer Service and Order Administration. Fischer notes, “In our industry, a customer would historically order a tank to be delivered in 12-16 weeks. As they rarely put that order on a calendar, every customer would call multiple times just to check on progress. That’s a lot of unnecessary calls on both ends and a lot of opportunities for miscommunication. So we reorganized Customer Service and Order Administration around 3 calls: one within 24 hours of the order being placed to ensure order accuracy and delivery dates, another call 2 weeks before the tank goes into production to ensure their delivery dates are still accurate. If not, we move the delivery date to a more convenient time for them. The third call happens when the tank is coming out of the finishing department to schedule the delivery. Saves a lot of wasted time for both us and the customer. In today’s world, customers want and deserve insights into the order and production process; we are simply accommodating that desire.”
At the end of the day… has innovation converted into new business? Indeed, Newberry Tanks & Equipment has been growing in double digits year over year. “Innovation has been an intense focus this year, and we feel it is going to be one of the key factors for our growth for the next year or even five to ten years,” says Fischer.
“We believe that we have a significant amount of runway to continue to grow our company at rates much faster than the industry as a whole,” Kohnke concludes. “We are making investments in technology, manufacturing, distribution, as well as tank finishing to increase throughput. Along the way, we are highly focused on the customer and giving them a great experience. Our goal is the “Perfect Order”. We are implementing changes to get there. What we are doing today will lead to long term success for our company, our employees, and our customers.”
AT A GLANCE
Newberry Tanks & Equipment LLC
What: Manufacturer of quality aboveground, underground, and lube tanks for the Oil and Petroleum Markets
Where: West Memphis, Arkansas