Certified Transmission: Quality Assurance, Integrity, and Unmatched Service

“If you have a problem, it’s our problem. If it quits a few thousand miles out of warranty, we’ll fix it.”  This is probably one of the reasons Certified Transmission was again sel­ected by the Better Business Bureau as an Integrity Award Winner in 2010.

“That’s the way we are,” Fink says.  Furthermore, the firm guarantees that if a customer comes in once a year for transmission service, they may never have to replace their transmission. It can make this guarantee, Fink says, because of his confidence in the operation’s quality, employees’ skills and product reliability.

Of course, it’s not just Fink who has faith in his company’s products and service. About 30 years ago, Certified Transmission opened in an abandoned two-bay gas station, and since then it has expanded to three manufacturing plants, 15 retail locations and 20 distributors who deliver the company’s products to customers in 14 states. In fact, there is a waiting list of distributors who want to provide Certified Transmission’s goods.

However, Fink has made it clear that he will not add distributors until the company has the infrastructure in place to support additional business. Fink says his hesitancy about fast growth stems from his desire to maintain a consistent level of quality, a focus on treating customers well and a promise to promote good business ethics.

Manufacturing Today: What have you done to improve your facilities and products recently?

Peter Fink: We are training our em­ployees on the principles of lean and continuous improvements.  We have completed several kanban events with improvements in productivity and quality.  We are also limiting the number of times that we touch a product and balancing the flow to ensure the parts are available when our builders need them. For example, in the past we would batch-push the core transmissions into the line twice a day.  Now we load them as needed to balance and smooth the flow.

In 2010, we implemented a software scheduling program (APS) to schedule what we build at both plants. We started implementation in February 2010, and it took us several months to get it streamlined into the well-functioning piece it is today. With all our variables involved, our project was fairly unique and complex. Bill Dunbar, our plant manager in Omaha, gave a presentation on our project at (software provider) Demand Solutions’ annual user’s conference in September 2010. In Nov­ember, Gary Kopp from Demand Sol­utions called to ask if he could nominate our project for the 2010 Managing Automation Progressive Manufac­tur­ing Awards.

The PM100 Award honors 100 manufacturing companies from around the world that have transformed themselves through the use of information technology. The program recognizes innovative projects that deliver competitive advantages and demonstrate a manufacturing company’s mastery of at least one of eight core disciplines that are believed to be critical for manufacturing success. An independent blue-ribbon panel, including leading manufacturing researchers and analysts, academics and manufacturing executives, including past PM100 winners, evaluated and judged all nominations.

On Feb. 4, 2011, the winners were announced, and our project was among the winners. Certified is very proud of this award, and many in our organization were involved in making this project a success. Input from builders, shipping and receiving, dynamometer, production coordinators, and many others in both Omaha and Fort Dodge made this project a success.

MT: What do you attribute the success of the distribution business to?

PF: Our quality – we have very high standards. We aren’t the lowest priced, but we provide the highest quality at a fair price. Our customers get a job done right at the right price.