Tucked away in our Kansas City headquarters is the American Crane & Tractor Parts Rebuild Shop. Our shop's reputation in the heavy equipment industry is held strong by the 35 year veteran to ACTP, Jerry Duxbury. We decided to ask him a few questions about how he got into the industry and all about the American Crane & Tractor Parts Rebuild Shop.
How did you get your start in the industry?
"It all started back in 1973. I was 13 years old and I had started working at my dad's company, Construction Industrial Service. I guess you could say my job title was a belly boy or a mud dog, as in 'Get that belly pan off, boy.' They used boy so often I wasn't entirely sure that wasn't my name. After doing my time as a belly boy I eventually worked my way up to rebuilding engines, transmissions, and final drives. I even earned myself a new nickname, Chicken Scratch.
Everyone called me Chicken Scratch because I would put a white mark on every single bolt that I torqued; when I was done with a component you always knew it was my work. Nothing good can last forever though, and bad news came to Construction Industrial Service when the city decided they wanted to put in a new water treatment plant right where my dad's shop was. So, in early 1980 my dad sold out and retired from the industry. I was given one of the company's service trucks and started out on my own. Once out on my own I decided it was time to make my longtime dream of learning to fly a reality. With the money I was making off the service truck I put myself through flight school and received my pilot license. It didn't take long for me to start second guessing making a career out of flying. Landing and takeoff were exciting, but after being up in the air for 2-3 hours I was bored. I found myself missing the satisfaction of completing something like an engine and starting it up for the first time. I know it sounds a little corny, but it was true for me. Not to mention that running a service truck was not that exciting for me. Fixing leaks, changing hoses, doing equipment maintenance, and measuring undercarriage was definitely getting old. About this time a friend of my dad owned a company, Bill Molder Inc., which rebuilt Caterpillar® equipment and Bucyrus-Erie Cranes from the frame up. They did complete restorations and 75% of it was sold in Mexico. Bill was looking for a guy to help rebuild and manage the equipment, plus travel to Mexico to reassemble the equipment after it was trucked into the country, so, that's what I did for the next 5 years or so. While working for Bill Molder Inc. I met Blaine Pennington who was working for Bill as an equipment salesman. Blaine was looking to start a rebuilt and used parts company and with the market slowing down in Mexico, Bill joined forces with Blaine and American Crane & Tractor Parts was born. The rest is history."
What are some of the things you have learned over the years in the industry?
"I would say knowing what parts need to be replaced every time you build a transmission, even if everything looks good. All parts have a stress limit over time. For example, a Lycoming aircraft engine has a mandatory parts replacement, which tells you what parts need to be changed and when to overhaul your Lycoming engine. Heavy equipment doesn't have that same stipulation. Maybe because lives aren't at stake if heavy equipment were to fail, but it would sure make things a lot easier if our industry had those same requirements. Over the years, through trial and error, I have found which parts have high stressed limits. I know which parts need to be replaced and which parts do not. You know when customers are calling into the shop to ask your opinion on what they should and should not use you've learned a thing or two over the years."
What do you think makes a successful rebuild shop?
"Number one thing that defines a successful rebuild shop is trust. Employing good, solid employees is a close second though. It is crucial for a rebuild shop to maintain a reputation built on trust, however, I have also never seen a shop with a high turnover make it. It's important to set a standard or check list of how the product should look every time. Also, smart to remember that no matter how successful your shop is there is always room for improvement. You have to stay up to date on training so you can keep up with newer models. It is also beneficial to purchase the latest equipment so you can improve the quality and/or speed of your work."
Describe your ideal day in the ACTP Rebuild Shop
"I would say when a customer calls in with a problem on his machine and I am able to pin point the problem. The typical answer when a customer calls a shop in today's world is, "You'll just have to bring it in." No one is willing to be patient enough to listen to the issue and try to resolve it. Being able to talk through an issue with the customer and being able to solve their problem, that's a good day in the ACTP Rebuild Shop."
What sets the American Crane Rebuild Shop apart from the competition?
"I would say attention to detail. I tell every single one of my mechanics to make sure the outside of the rebuilt component looks just as good as the inside does. First impressions are everything and we know that if we don't take the time to make the outside look nice our customers will question what kind of work has been done on the inside. The details matter. We also pride ourselves on having extremely skilled mechanics with over 65 years of combined experience. Our mechanics will go above and beyond to deliver a quality product. If they are not comfortable using a part for a rebuild we don't use, no matter what the cost is. All of our rebuilt transmissions are Dyno tested and calibrated to Caterpillar® specifications. We have over 125 rebuilt components on the shelf ready for same day shipping, which will help cut your down time in half. We also have the best component core return policy in the industry. We can save you more money and ease your worries about getting charged for a bad core, which some of our competitors tend to do."
What has been one of your biggest learning experiences while working in the industry?
"I would say just learning to not bow to price, price, price, and price. I have been in the industry long enough to know what the average cost will be on a rebuilt transmission and this is how we price our rebuilds. I don't raise our prices when I see our competitors raising their prices and I don't lower ours when I see our competitors doing so. When I see this constant back and forth on our competitor's pricing I know that the customer is either getting gouged on the price or short changed on the quality. In our rebuild shop I like to remain consistent on the price, but more importantly consistent on the quality. And like I always say, I don't mind you making money off of me... I just don't want you to be able to retire off of me."
Have a question of your own for Jerry? Head on over to any of our social media pages and use the tag, #AskJerry! Or, send it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will be sure to get you a thorough answer! For more information and rebuild specials be sure to check out our Facebook page below.