Made in PA

A Century of Progress: Mack Trucks Continues to Thrive in the Lehigh Valley

Winter 2015/16 Catalyst

How do you keep a 116-year-old brand fresh and exciting? Ask the people at Mack Trucks.

In 2014, Mack invigorated its iconic American brand with a new look — including an updated logo, website and messaging — and brought renewed energy and drive to the company. The branding campaign honored Mack's storied past while also looking to the future of heavy-duty commercial trucking. And it reinforced Mack's long-held principle: never lose focus on the customer.

"Mack has remained a leader in the trucking industry because the company has lived by that principle since it was founded," said Stephen Roy, president, Mack Trucks North America. "We're extremely proud of the Mack legacy, and now we want to build on our reputation as the American truck you can count on."

Mack Trucks has been a fixture in Pennsylvania's Lehigh Valley since 1905, when brothers Jack, Gus and William Mack moved their five-year-old company to Allentown from Brooklyn, New York. Mack Trucks grew to become one of the largest manufacturers of Class 8 trucks, engines and transmissions in North America, and it remains so today. The company designs and builds trucks for highway and regional transportation as well as refuse, construction and heavy-haul applications. While most of its customers are in the U.S. and Canada, Mack sells and services trucks in more than 45 countries.

Six years ago, Mack moved its headquarters from Allentown to Greensboro, North Carolina. However, the company continues to build all of its trucks for the North American market at a one million square-foot plant in Lower Macungie Township. Formerly known as Macungie Cab and Vehicle Assembly, the plant was renamed Mack Lehigh Valley Operations in November 2015 as part of its 40th anniversary commemoration. About 1,800 employees work at the plant, making Mack Trucks the largest employer in the township.

Less than 10 miles away in Allentown, another 250 people work at the Mack Customer Center. Open since 2010, the center is home to the Mack Trucks Museum, a product showroom with some of the latest Mack trucks on display and a theater where visitors can learn about the Mack brand. An average of 8,500 people from around the world visit the Mack Customer Center each year, ranging from Mack customers, dealers and suppliers to business leaders, students and loyal fans of the Mack brand. To get the full Mack experience, visitors also can tour Mack Lehigh Valley Operations and the company's plant in Hagerstown, Maryland, where Mack engines, transmissions and axles are built.

The past two years have been some of the best years in the Mack Trucks' history, as the company was able to take advantage of the stronger market and build on its reputation for delivering tough, high-quality and durable trucks to customers.

Mack is also becoming known as an innovation leader, as new technologies available on today's Mack trucks change how customers see the brand.

Mack's automated manual transmission, which is standard on all Mack Pinnacle highway trucks, is a good example. Using sophisticated software, the Mack mDRIVE continuously monitors truck operations and automatically selects the best gear for driving conditions.

"Customers are finding that trucks equipped with mDRIVE use less fuel and have better overall performance," Roy said. "And drivers love it because it makes the truck easier to handle and their workday more productive. It's been a real game changer for Mack."

So has Mack's on-board telematics system, GuardDog Connect, which links to a network of support staff and repair centers that help drivers get back on the road quickly after a service stop. Customer service teams monitor vehicle fault codes remotely, and experienced technicians evaluate the situation —often before the driver is even aware of a problem.

Another key component of Mack's success is its strong dealer network. Mack has 24 dealer locations in Pennsylvania and more than 420 in North America, and they are the company's face to the customer for both sales and service. Since 2010, Mack dealers have invested $400 million in their facilities and staff, including adding 35 percent more service bays to help reduce customers' wait time for repairs, and more than doubling the number of master technicians specially trained to service Mack trucks.

As Mack's products and services evolved and adapted to today's heavy truck market, Mack Lehigh Valley Operations has been undergoing its own transformation.

In 2014, Mack invested $26 million to improve production efficiency and deliver even higher quality trucks to customers. The plant reconfigured sub-assembly and material handling processes to improve the workflow for its main vehicle assembly lines and installed new equipment for post-production testing and inspection.

Mack Lehigh Valley Operations has also had remarkable success reducing energy use — down 42 percent from 2002 to 2012. Now 1,600 skylights provide much of the interior lighting, and light motion sensors have been installed throughout the facility. The HVAC system was upgraded, and large ceiling fans have replaced dozens of smaller fans to circulate air. The U.S. Department of Energy awarded the plant its Superior Energy Performance certification two years ago — the highest level of recognition for factories with a long-term energy reduction plan.

"Our work will never be done when it comes to improving efficiency in terms of both production and facility management," said Wade Watson, who joined Mack Lehigh Valley Operations in May 2015 as vice president and general manager.

Watson is spearheading the plant's focus on lean manufacturing, which emphasizes eliminating waste in manufacturing processes to maximize customer value. The effort includes the addition of an onsite training center with six full-time trainers experienced in the methodology. More building improvements are also planned, including renovations to the building façade and entrance and more parking for employees and visitors. The office area will also be reconfigured to include collaborative work areas and small offices employees can use when they need a private space for concentration.

"Of course our main focus is to meet production schedules and deliver quality trucks to our customers," Watson said. "Then we want to make sure we have a good long-term strategy that ensures we have a sustainable future for years to come."

With success comes responsibility, and Mack Trucks is known for giving generously to support local communities and broader societal needs. For the past 14 years Mack has sponsored the American Trucking Associations' "Share The Road" highway safety program, which reaches thousands of people with tips on how to drive safely alongside heavy-duty trucks.

The company provides two scholarships annually to students studying diesel mechanics at WyoTech and sponsors robotics competitions for Lehigh Valley students. Mack is also one of the founders of Allentown's America on Wheels transportation museum, and a founding sponsor of the SteelStacks music and entertainment venue in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Watson has only been in the Lehigh Valley a few months, but he's fully committed to supporting his new community with these and other initiatives.

"We have the ability and obligation to be a socially responsible corporation, and we have to stand up to that responsibility," he said.

Watson has also encouraged leaders at the Mack factory to get more involved in local organizations as board members and volunteers.

"Our participation can sometimes be more valuable than writing a check, because it forges a stronger connection between Mack and the community," he said

After 115 years in business, Mack Trucks remains an American success story. For Mack's leaders, it's never been more important to honor and protect the brand that British solders dubbed the "Bulldog" almost a century ago on the battlefields of World War I.

"While we may have a new look, we're still Mack — as much today as at any time in our history," Roy said.

Founded in 1916, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry is the state's largest broad-based business association, with its membership comprising businesses of all sizes and across all industry sectors. The PA Chamber is The Statewide Voice of BusinessTM.