An important component of that effort is IC Bus’ dealer and customer advisory board, which the company turns to for valuable insight.
One recent significant outcome from the advisory board was an upgrade to the electrical systems on the company’s school buses.
“We used to assemble the electrical harnesses ourselves at the Tulsa [Okla.] plant — they looked like a spaghetti ball,” Seegebrecht explains. Based on customer input, “now we have the harnesses made externally. They’re braided, and they provide easier accessibility.”
That change went into full production in April.
Another new change to the school buses ties in with the company’s desire to strengthen the public’s association of Navistar with IC Bus and its other brands.
“We want to make sure that they are correlated,” Seegebrecht says. “Then IC Bus gets credit for being part of a bigger manufacturing company, and Navistar gets credit for building buses.”
On the side of the bus, the bottom line of the IC Bus wing badge will now say “Navistar.” And on the bumper, the IC Bus badge will be replaced with a Navistar badge.
The new signage is slated to go into production at the end of June.
Other production changes are afoot at the IC Bus plant in Tulsa.
Plant Manager Greg Hutchison, an auto industry veteran who came to the facility in September, has launched initiatives to increase quality and volume.
“What we’ve tried to do is stabilize and simplify the manufacturing process,” Hutchison says. “We’re making sure that we have a consistent focus on quality and safety — that we’re making a high-quality product without injuring any of our employees.”
This fall, the Tulsa plant will begin building IC Bus’ new AE series, the fully integrated Type A school bus that was previewed at the 2010 conference of the National Association for Pupil Transportation.
Another landmark was expected in early June: production of the 100,000th school bus at the Tulsa facility. IC Bus began manufacturing at the plant — which was built in 1941 to manufacture B-24 bombers for World War II — in 2001.
Hutchison notes that to make sure the Tulsa facility is as successful as possible, he needs to maintain regular communication with the other members of the IC Bus leadership team. For example, he works closely with Cutter to adjust the production schedule to influxes of orders.
“He knows what my timing is to change the schedule at the plant,” Hutchison says. “As soon as he knows what that trigger point is on the forecasting of sales, he gets on the phone and gives me a heads up. It’s allowed us to react much faster to customer demand.”
For all of their fresh insights and energy in their new roles, Huffmon, Seegebrecht, Cutter and Hutchison also draw inspiration from their leader, IC Bus President John McKinney.
“John exudes positive reinforcement,” Hutchison says. “This group is feeding off of that.”