From the bustling industrial area of New Jersey, I made my way through rapidly changing autumn leaves in the heart of Pennsylvania and headed towards Service Tire Truck Centers’ (STTC) Michelin retread plant in York, PA.
STTC was founded in 1955 by Walt Dealtrey, Sr. as an independent Goodyear car tire dealer named “Bethlehem Tire & Battery”. The company later expanded into the commercial tire business in 1967 operating in a 3,000 sqft warehouse where retread production was six tires per day. Over the past sixty years, Service Tire has grown to over 40 locations in eight states in the northeast, including three retread plants which produce more than 1,200 retreads per day.
“Service Is Our Signature” is the philosophy that underlies everything STTC does and that approach has led to their successful growth through the years. You see that slogan prominently placed throughout the plant but you also see it reflected in their road service guarantee to have most any vehicle up and running within 2 hours of the call. They focus on being business partners with their customers and providing them information that allows the customers to confidently make business decisions on how to increase vehicle uptime, increase vehicle utilization, and increase tire durability. You can also see the direct impact this focus on service and quality has on their retread products as STTC’s warranty claims average .42%, a figure in which the company takes great pride.
The 150,000 sq. ft. plant in York has 43 employees in the plant and they run 3 shifts a day over 5 days while producing around 500 retreads a day. The first thing I noticed as we started our tour were two very bright initial inspection stations. The lights were so bright, it was hard to get a decent picture of the station (seen here).
STTC is doing some testing at these stations with LED lights and the differences side-by-side with fluorescent-lit stations was significant.
Another unique approach STTC takes in the plant is completing their shearography inspection after buffing the tires. STTC found that they were seeing some false rejections when inspecting some tires as small air pockets were showing up as potential separations. STTC also pulls ten tires from every shift and runs them through the shearography machine again after completion for a continual check on quality. Greyhound bus lines are a big customer of STTC and every single tire they do for them goes through shearography at the beginning of the process and then once again after the tire is finished.
As we wrapped up our tour, I asked the Branch Manager, Allen Kershner, about the biggest challenges they face in the business. He thought for a minute and then said that STTC sets such a high standard with their focus on service for their customers that managing all the logistics to meet and exceed those customer expectations can be challenging at times. He also mentioned the continual challenge of finding, training and keeping staff that can meet the demands of working in the retread industry.
Before I left, Allen took me up in a people lifter so I could get a birds eye view of the plant and get some great pictures of the entire floor, which you can see below. And in one last nod to their focus on service, on my way out the door I ran into TIA’s film production team. They were there to film a mobile STTC technician as part of TIA’s video series that focuses on safety.
The next stop on the TRIB tour is in Charleroi, Pennsylvania. More from there soon.