Sunday, December 21, 2014

Major employer refines vision for Ottawa plant

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 3/10/2014

It’s been more than 20 years since the terminal tractor from Kalmar Ottawa saw such substantial changes, Alan Wilson said.

The first terminal tractor was envisioned, developed and produced in Ottawa more than 50 years ago, Wilson, director of operations at Kalmar Ottawa, 415 E. Dundee St., Ottawa, said. The tractor is still produced in Ottawa, as well as in Poland and China, and ships globally, he said.

It’s been more than 20 years since the terminal tractor from Kalmar Ottawa saw such substantial changes, Alan Wilson said.

The first terminal tractor was envisioned, developed and produced in Ottawa more than 50 years ago, Wilson, director of operations at Kalmar Ottawa, 415 E. Dundee St., Ottawa, said. The tractor is still produced in Ottawa, as well as in Poland and China, and ships globally, he said.

The current incarnation, the T2, is the product of more than two years of in-depth research, creative thinking and rigorous testing devoted to making the best tractor in the business — even better and more suited to the needs of users in the next 10 to 15 years, a press release from Kalmar said.

“This is a true milestone in the company’s nearly 60-year history of making terminal tractors, carrying on Kalmar Ottawa’s tradition of durability and reliability with innovative design and performance features,” David Wood, vice president, sales and marketing, Terminal Tractors Americas Region, said in the release. “Nearly two years ago, we began the process of creating the T2 by consulting with the real terminal tractor experts — our dealers and their customers. We took their advice and our engineers applied advanced design processes to build a truck that offers superior ergonomics inside the cab for improved driver productivity, easier serviceability and overall better performance.”

The company started getting feedback from customers about the tractor’s redesign and new features more than two years ago, Wilson said, making sure the changes being made were well received from the people who use the tractors every day.

Some of Kalmar Ottawa’s local customers include Walmart Logistics and American Eagle, Wilson said, but even places like the new Burlington Northern Santa Fe Intermodal use terminal tractors.

“Terminal Tractors are primarily used in the distribution, port and rail industries,” Wilson said. “To put it in simple terms, anywhere there’s trailers or containers to move, there’s a potential use for a terminal tractor.”

Five things to know about Kalmar’s new T2 model

1. The origins

The new Kalmar Ottawa T2 Terminal Tractor debuted Feb. 24 at the Kalmar Ottawa annual dealer meeting in Litchfield Park, Ariz. The last major change to the T2 was about 21 years ago, Alan Wilson, director of operations, said. The first terminal tractor was envisioned and developed in Ottawa in 1958, Wilson said. “The premise of it was that there was a need in the market that wasn’t being fulfilled,” he said. “The terminal tractor concept was designed in a barn, and then it developed from there.”

2. Local customers

Many businesses that use tractors to move and lift containers or trailers use the T2, Wilson said. Locally, such operations as Walmart Logistics and American Eagle use the tractor. “Terminal Tractors are primarily used in the distribution, port and rail industries,” Wilson said. “To put it in simple terms, anywhere there’s trailers or containers to move, there’s a potential use for a terminal tractor.”

3. Why change now?

To better understand the necessary updates to the tractors’ durability and reliability, the company went directly to the people who use the vehicles every day. “We did a lot of customer feedback sessions,” Wilson said. “We brought in several key customers, reviewed what the changes were and discussed the issues they were having in the field along with what they would like to see in the product. The sessions allowed us to get closer to our customers so that we could better understand their needs and apply their suggestions into the T2.”

4. What’s different?

The new cab design offers a larger, more comfortable interior and better visibility, the company said. “The T2 brings superior ergonomics into play, the result of careful consideration of feedback from dealers and their customers,” David Wood, vice president, sales and marketing, Terminal Tractors Americas Region, said. “The entire layout of cab components and environmental systems, such as HVAC, has been enhanced to make it easier and less stressful to operate. And that’s as big a contributor to profits and productivity as the functionality and performance of a terminal tractor’s hard parts.”

5. Market leader

Kalmar Ottawa found its niche early on with the terminal tractor, and continues to maintain the core features that defined the tractor, the company said. New, advanced designs, however, allow Kalmar to stay ahead of the game and its competitors, Wilson said. “For us, it is about what we expect of ourselves and what our customers expect of us as the market leader,” Wilson said. “The terminal tractor was developed here in Ottawa to meet our customers’ needs. There’s a strong sense of pride in this, and we hold ourselves to a high standard. In addition, as the market leader, there is an expectation from the customer base to be innovative to help solve their needs for the future. With the T2, we have revolutionized the standard of the terminal tractor to meet those needs.”

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