Continuous Improvement For 41 Years
Scelzi Enterprises has entered their 41st year as a premier upfitter for FORD trucks. While they insist on maintaining an old-school commitment to quality and craftsmanship, the drive to continuously improve is equally strong. This includes key techniques, core processes, as well as materials of construction.
The Scelzi love affair with steel and the skill and expertise to cut, bend, and weld it into a variety of unique shapes is a key factor in their success. For more than four decades they have consistently used heavier gauge steel than most other upfitters. In 2019 they went one step further and upgraded their standard materials of construction from black iron to the higher quality A60 Galvanneal steel on many parts. In 2020 this includes headboards, beds, and over 90% of the painted steel components.
Galvanneal (or Galvannealed) steel is produced by hot dipping a sheet of steel into a zinc bath and passing the sheet through a series of draining and heating processes so that a specified amount of zinc affixes or anneals to the steel, along with a small percentage of aluminum. The process gives a very fine greyish matte finish to the material. There are several degrees of quality for Galvanneal. A25 is the lowest, and the cheapest, while A40 is slightly higher quality. Most truck body upfitters do not use Galvanneal much at all, but Scelzi now uses A60 exclusively –the highest quality with the highest zinc content.
Galvanneal sheets offer good paintability, weldability, corrosion resistance and formability. With Scelzi’s purchasing power with their USA steel suppliers – their ONLY source of steel for their truck bodies – the company has managed to upgrade these materials without a noticeable increase in cost. It is just another example of how Scelzi continuously seeks to improve their products.
Process Improvements and Custom Computer System
Although commitment to established, time tested production processes is deeply ingrained in every member on the Scelzi truck building team, there is always room for improvement. In late 2019 and early 2020, Scelzi formed several quality teams to focus on key production processes on various production lines, and made them better. Two such areas are flatbed side racks and truck bed flooring. By tightening up some processes and streamlining welding templates – called “fixtures” – they have reduced production time while tightening tolerances. The result is consistently higher quality in less time.
Aiding them in tracking and measuring these production and operational improvements is a completely new, custom-programmed Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.
Having used the previous system for more than a decade, flowcharts and project scope planning for the new system began in 2018. In 2019 certain components of the “old system” were turned off module by module, while the new system took over day to day control. In early 2020 Scelzi is operating almost completely on the new system, built from the ground up to manage the well-established Scelzi processes, including some process improvements along the way.
The new system can track work orders from initial quote to final destination delivery much better than the previous system, and provides detailed reports of operational efficiency at each step in the process. “We had outgrown our previous systems,” states President Mike Scelzi, “and had two choices: follow someone else’s ‘canned’ system or create a new, custom system for ourselves.” Scelzi chose the custom route. Staff reaction to the new system has been very positive but implementation has led to a long list of ideas for even more improvements and efficiency ideas that the company is now sorting through. “When you write all the code yourself it can be changed much faster to reflect new ideas”, states Scelzi, “and so we now realize the system will never be finished because we will never stop improving how we do things here.”
Team Leader Training Program
In addition to upgrades in raw materials, processes, and in computer systems, Scelzi has also been focused on upgrading their people, too. That is, empowering and encouraging their team to manage their people to higher and higher levels of performance. “The key is better training,” states co-owner Gary Scelzi, “and preparing leads, supervisors, and managers to solve more problems before they ever get to the President’s office.” “This is harder for us than most companies since we have always been a close knit family business, and for decades we liked to keep a tight grip on our protocols. But as you get bigger – and we have been averaging 20% annual growth for a decade – you have to turn more decisions over to your team or you will find you may actually be slowing them down.”
Scelzi began a new, more formal training program in 2019 that focuses on more accountability from their shop supervision. This includes setting clearer expectations and then following up and measuring performance against those expectations. Combined with the new computer system that pushes more tactical information to the shop floor, many employees at Scelzi are making more decisions than ever before.
No Slowing Down In Year 41
As this article goes to the presses, Scelzi was poised to have another 20% sales growth year in 2020. It appeared that only a huge, uncontrollable event like a pandemic was likely to derail it. How quickly the work truck business and the entire world bounces back from the health-driven events of the past few months is yet to be seen, but the team at Scelzi hopes and prays for the safety, good health, and success of everyone in our industry. We will all get through this, though we will lose some good people along the way. Scelzi Enterprises is looking forward to a return to “normal” where they felt much better prepared for the future than they were in years past. A future that looks very bright as they head into their 5th decade.