If you have not visited Southeast Diesel Inc. in Chattanooga, TN, in a while, it may be hard to recognize.
The Sandvik Mining and Construction dealer for Tennessee has made a number of improvements in the past year and plans on adding more soon. Early in 2006, Southeast Diesel will complete the construction of an additional facility located next to its main building that will provide the extra room necessary to improve its service and support capability for Sandvik Mining and Construction’s large surface drill line. Southeast Diesel’s other product lines include Ford Power Strokes, Chevrolet Duramax Diesels and most other diesel pickup trucks and automotive repair services.
In addition to the new building, Southeast Diesel has made many other changes to its working area. It is currently remodeling the main, 15-service bay building in which it does most of its work.
“We are re-arranging the inside of the building to provide our team members a more productive and pleasant working area and allow them to get closer and be more available to customers,” said Southeast Diesel owner Ed Holtzhower. The additional building next to Southeast Diesel’s main building gives the company road-front property which helps the business be more visible.
“Now we are more exposed and potential customers can see us without having to know where we are, which puts our name in front of a lot more people daily that may have never known about us without the road frontage visibility,” Holtzhower said.
In the past, less than 2 percent of vehicles sold in the market area ran on diesel fuel. With the upgrades in the industry and the popularity of the diesel pickups and cars of today, that number is expected to jump to nearly 10 percent within the next seven years. This means more business for the company and many more service opportunities.
Computers Drive Change in Technique
Southeast Diesel was started in 1984 as a fuel injection shop. In 1997, Holtzhower joined the company as a minor stockholder and then completed the purchase in 2005. He has been making changes, trying to stay in front and meet the needs of the diesel industry. He has 34 years of experience in the engine and fuel system industries and realized that the fuel injection industry was moving from completely mechanical to computer automated. He decided to change his products and services to fit this new market. Southeast Diesel now does troubleshooting and repair for all fuel injection systems and diesel engines, including newer equipment that is computer-driven. It sells all component parts for fuel injection systems and diesel engines, and sells fuel injection diagnostic computers.
The company currently has 20 employees, including three in parts, three in service operation and one in the office; the rest are service technicians. Holtzhower handles most of the administrative and outside sales work. He quotes drills, makes initial contacts and builds working relationships with customers, travels to drill sites for further education and does most of the company’s promotional work. Most of its product and service business is in an 80-mile radius around Chattanooga, but it also sells Sandvik products throughout the state of Tennessee and northern Alabama and Georgia.
Southeast Diesel Adds Sandvik Drill Line
In 2004, Southeast Diesel added Sandvik’s Tamrock surface drill line, carrying 16 different models, including Pantera and Ranger Top Hammer drills, the Titon 500 down-the-hole (DTH) drill, Axera DO7 RP underground drills for limestone mines as well as Sandvik Top Hammer and DTH drilling tools. Most of the surface drills are used in rock quarries and for utility construction. The Nashville area is a good market for this product because the population growth in that area requires additional road and utility construction. Holtzhower said the Tamrock drills are unsurpassed in overall quality, dependability and productivity.
In this, his second year representing Sandvik, Holtzhower sees a lot of growth potential in drill sales, as well as the parts and service business.
“We have a good working relationship with Sandvik and broke out of the box because we can service their drills after we sell them,” he said. “This also helps strengthen our service business because we have an experienced staff and are willing to travel to the drills when they require maintenance.”
Generally, when a drill needs service, Southeast Diesel is out to the site and has the unit fixed within the day or early the next morning, so downtime for the customer is minimized.
Sandvik is pleased with the addition of Southeast Diesel to its extensive dealer network, said Mike Paolin, Sandvik’s dealer manager for the eastern United States.
“They are doing an excellent job so far, and have stirred up some activity in Tennessee where we did not have much before,” Paolin said. “To sell drills, you have to be able to support the equipment with service and get out in a timely manner to fix it. We are very proud to have Southeast Diesel in the southeastern network and look forward to working with them in the future.”
Southeast Diesel is steadily increasing its track drills sales and is looking forward to continued growth in 2006.
“We would like to be among the larger Sandvik dealers in the United States,” said Holtzhower. “We see this having the potential to be our largest product line because of our ability to service and support the Sandvik products we sell.”
Service Is The Key To Success
While many companies rely heavily on advertising to promote their business, Southeast Diesel uses a little different approach. It does some advertising in trade journals, local radio appearances and mailers, but most of its promotion is by word-of-mouth.
“We offer a good turnaround of equipment, a fair price, we give customers un-biased advice on what they should do to keep their diesel engine running the best and have extremely knowledgeable team members who are up-to-date on all computer systems,” said Holtzhower. “Our customers not only keep coming back to us, but they tell other people about their positive experiences at Southeast Diesel.”
Because the fuel injection business has become almost completely computer-driven, training and experience are the keys to surviving in the industry. Holtzhower, having a service background, understands the need for continuous training and takes every opportunity to provide himself and his employees with the most current education on how to service the products it sells. Some manufacturers require training on new products, while others only offer educational seminars.
“We participate in as many training sessions as possible because there are a lot of different things to know and you have to know which direction to go in a mechanical mindset. The more knowledge we have, the better we can service our customers,” said Holtzhower.
Sandvik offers hands-on, product specific, on-site training programs at its Atlanta facility.
“We have attended product specific classes on many of the track drills, plus have had several in-field workshops with Bill Burge, the senior technical trainer for Sandvik,” said Holtzhower.
Southeast Diesel carries a diverse product group and is proud to be a “one-stop shop” in most cases. In order to do this, the company is staffed with highly trained and experienced employees in each of the product areas that it sells and services.
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita brought a new twist to business. After those disasters, and an increase in fuel prices, customers started realizing that Southeast Diesel could help them save money by repairing their fuel systems and engines. Business has picked up because customers are seeing the value of having a fuel-efficient vehicle that can save a lot of money with today’s fuel prices.
Southeast Diesel’s employees strive on a daily basis to be the best they can be.
“We are the biggest critic of ourselves and our work,” said Holtzhower. “We encourage everyone to be the best they can be on every job, and to treat each job like it’s their own vehicle or piece of equipment. We aren’t perfect, but we try to be 1 percent better every day, and in the end as a team we are satisfying our customers’ needs in an efficient, cost-effective and timely way.”
For more information, call 423/622-1006.
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