Cat Marine Solutions

TJ Nelson

Thompson Tractor Company Product Support and Sales Rep

“I support all Cat® products regarding sales and service, as well as working with pleasure craft customers and commercial marine customers. I call on customers even if they don't call on me and see if they need anything, or just have coffee with them and stay in contact with as many customers as possible throughout the week.”


What do you like most about your position?

Really getting to meet the customer face-to-face and being able to give them some kind of satisfaction when they need something. As a product support rep, the freedom of not being stuck behind a desk is nice, too. <laughs>

You had a recent business win that had a lot to do with Cat's Marine Bundled Repair Solutions and the Extended Service Coverage (ESC). Could you tell us about that?

Yes, the Bundled Repair Solutions program gave me the tools to accommodate a new customer. In this situation, the customer was very pleased.

On commercial fishing vessel fleets, we compete with a local third-party company that uses mostly aftermarket parts. This company is owned by a local guy who was born and raised in the community. The fishing vessel people know him well, and he’s a good technician. Previously, we were not able to compete with the aftermarket pricing or his labor rates. So in the past we lost many jobs to him. The only jobs we would tend to get were the occasional repairs when he was too busy to do them.

Recently, one of his regular customers was looking for an overhaul for his 3412 engine in a shrimp boat, and, for whatever reason, he contacted me to see what we could offer him. And the day he contacted me I was like an 8-year-old kid at Christmas because I had just familiarized myself with a lot of Cat’s newest programs. I had spent a lot of time applying these new solutions into my work orders, quotes and proposals.

So I was excited to give him a quote using the Bundled Repair Solutions with an ESC as the kicker. I worked on the deal with Tamara Luft, who is an aftermarket solutions rep with the Caterpillar Global Aftermarket Solutions Division. I gave this prospect a quote with the ESC option and I actually won the deal! And he continues to be loyal to this dealership and Caterpillar. The Bundled Repair Solutions program is just outstanding and I can't say enough about it. I’ve made it part of my standard quoting practice and it’s winning deals for me, especially with fishing vessel fleets.

So the Bundled Repair Solutions and the ESC played a big role in helping secure this business?

Yes, the competitive price helped. And by using the Bundled Repair Solutions, the financing options, and most of all, the ESC. That's what really sealed the deal. In past situations there was no way our dealership prices could compete with aftermarket parts.

What do the Bundled Repair kits offer your customers? Is it about giving them a proactive solution so they have what they need in case something goes down?

Yes, the Bundled Repair Solutions kit gives the customer a lot of options to choose from. They can repair or overhaul their engines. And the parts are easy for them to order even if we're not doing the work ourselves. They can order them over the counter, which brings efficiency for overhaul. These guys aren't searching through hundreds of pieces of parts trying to overhaul an engine. This is the value to them because basically time is money. I know we've used that old saying for years but it's true. Time is very important to the customer, especially a commercial fleet. When they can order multiple parts with one part number and they're all packaged together, it saves them time. And besides all that, it gives the customers genuine Cat parts at a price that meets or beats aftermarket parts.

What types of situations do the Bundled Repair Solutions kits help your customer avoid? Is it really just keeping the downtime to a minimum?

Our competition can't match, much less beat the kind of coverage that Cat can offer a commercial fleet through our Bundled Repair Solutions and ESC. They simply do not offer this option. Basically they'll offer six months coverage and that's it. This adds tremendous value and gives the customer peace of mind. Throughout the coverage, the customer knows he's not going to have a major expense, which is very valuable. Especially with a commercial fishing vessel fleet or any kind of commercial boat that depends on uptime for their business.

Allowing you to control costs and forecast them accurately?

That's correct.

What about reman engines? What do they offer customers?

With reman engines, it's a quick repair with less downtime than waiting on an air engine to be overhauled. Essentially when you order a reman, you pull the old one out, drop the new engine in and you're ready to go. Again, it's all about time.

Why is reman such a strong value for customers?

With reman, I think the value is cost coupled with time. The cost of the reman is significantly less than a new engine. And in most cases you can't just take a new engine and drop it in, connect it and be on your way. There's a lot to think about especially with, for example, a 3126 or 3116 engine. When they buy a new engine, it's not what they already have in their vessels. So they have to think about their engine footprint, the control stations, and so on. In a lot of cases with a new engine, all this has to be modified and that adds another cost, along with more downtime. Essentially, a reman engine can be dropped in and hooked up easily. It’s ready-to-go solution.

What role does the aftermarket solutions team play with your work? How do they work with your team?

They're definitely very important to me. They offer assistance when I need solutions to win the deal. They're very responsive to the dealership and to all of our customers’ needs. When the customer has questions or needs that I can't really answer right away, they're only a phone call or email away.

Recently, Tamara came down and visited with me and some of my major customers. In speaking with them afterward, they conveyed that Caterpillar really cares about providing solutions for their problems. They're not just this huge company. These are the people working behind the scenes at Caterpillar. I know that the aftermarket solutions team is going to help my customers find the right solution. And the 0% interest financing is a really strong option for my customers while their businesses are challenged. My customers already trust in me and in the quality of the Cat brand name. This visit demonstrated to them just how much support Cat puts behind its products.

What are today's marine customers looking for in maintenance and overhaul support?

Basically we have two things going on in our region with our economy. The offshore oil and gas industry is down and we had two major coal mines close down. That put my customers in a tight spot. They want repairs at a price they can afford that's not going to break the bank so they can continue to work. And they also want to know that we're going to be there even after the check is written to complete the repairs. They want a partner who is going to continue to keep their vessels running so their business continues and flourishes through these challenging times.

They want someone they actually know that they can rely on.

That's correct, even after the major work is done, six months from now if the boat is 50 miles up the river and has an issue. If they can't run, they're losing money. They want somebody they can trust and come meet the boat, make the repair and get them back on their way.

Where is the marine industry in your region heading in the coming years?

It's hard to predict. The offshore oil and gas industry is down. They have boats that are tied up not running. They've had a lot of layoffs. They're doing bare minimum maintenance just to stay afloat. The inland towing has had to make some adjustments due to coal mines being down and had to venture out and look for other commodities to haul. Which they're doing, but it's still a slow road back to where they were when things were booming. The offshore oil and gas industry really affects the entire economy. It trickles down to all the other parts of the marine industry. The biggest issue is the economy is suffering and everything is up in the air. There's no way to predict the next five years. It's trying to just get through the next year and see what happens after that.

How do you assure your customers that they can count on you?

I think the best way is meeting them in person. Sometimes I take them to lunch, or just show up with breakfast biscuits. I’m not always there to sell. I don't always present myself as a salesman. A lot of times, it’s great just to have a conversation. I love to get to know them, to show them who I am personally.

How will Caterpillar support its customers going forward?

I think we need to continue with the way we react to our customers. As long as we have help from the aftermarket solutions team, we’ll be able to support customers very well and better than the competition.

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