NFI Parts: The path ahead

New Flyer Industries’ (NFI Group) acquisition of Motor Coach Industries (MCI) in 2015 represented a sea change in the bus industry for multiple reasons, not the least of which centered on an expansion of the MCI’s parts and service offerings. In October, all of the parts sales and support for MCI and New Flyer OEM products combined under a single brand – NFI Parts. This new brand represents important activities associated with supporting the OEM products (buses and coaches), including part sales and support activities, technical publications, and training.

In this wide-ranging interview with BUSRide, Scott Robertson, director of customer service at NFI Parts, and formerly director of product lifecycle management at MCI Service Parts, shares some information on the road ahead for MCI and its many maintenance initiatives.

Focusing on the brands

Even though both companies’ parts businesses are being combined, the most important key to success is understanding what customers expect from MCI, that serves a great majority of private sector operators and New Flyer, which serves mostly public transit operators. “At MCI, we’ve spent significant time building our system, training our teams and improving our stock to deliver the best performance for our customers,” said Robertson. “We intend to continue this focus, building on what we have already begun for both MCI and New Flyer customers. The experience from our customer perspective should be familiar, and even better.”

NFI Parts consolidation

Robertson says that 2018 will complete the transition into NFI Parts, the new brand which is a consolidation of New Flyer and MCI parts businesses under Brian Dewsnup. The NFI Parts management team is in place, so the majority of 2018’s efforts will focus on bringing MCI’s offerings up to date with those of New Flyer.

“We’ll be upgrading MCI’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, which should allow us to better service our customers, as well as have better web store functionality” Robertson says. “We’ll be implementing this new system with minimal customer disruption, as the ultimate goal is superior customer satisfaction in support and service.”

Online Parts Store

MCI’s online parts store, revamped and reintroduced last year, will see continued improvements and expansion in 2018. The store currently offers comprehensive inventory searches, on-point suggestions, striking visuals and high-quality photography, expedited shipping options and estimates, automated order tracking and more from a desktop, tablet or smartphone.

“We’re getting ready to do a VIN-searchable parts catalog directly on the web store, which we’re very excited about,” Robertson says. “Customers will be able to log into the store, enter a VIN, and then see parts applicable only to that VIN. Increased searchability is our primary effort.”

This past year has also seen a virtual conversion of all the MCI service centers into actual parts distribution centers. To the customer, Robertson says the difference is subtle but important.

“Previously, our inventory would sit in MCI service centers and would not be visible online, or accessible to every customer,” he says. “By converting our service facilities to distribution centers, we’re able to showcase our inventory online, map customers to their local warehouse, and give them the most local availability of product before they’re routed back to the hub in Louisville or to an alternate warehouse.”

San Francisco Bay Area facility

MCI’s new San Francisco Bay Area Sales and Service Center, the largest OEM facility in Northern California, opened in November. NFI Group invested almost $3 million into this two-story, 34,000-square-foot building, which serves as a model for how MCI’s other service centers will be renovated nationwide in the coming years.

“It’s representative of MCI putting our money where our mouth is,” Robertson says. “Our goal is to improve parts availability and optimize the customer experience.”

2018 J4500 and D45 CRT LE

MCI put a lot of effort in 2017 to prepare for the release of the brand-new 2018 J4500 and D45 CRT LE vehicles – ensuring that maintenance manuals and parts support are just just as impressive as the remodeled coach. With the J4500’s optimized space improvements and enhanced interior accoutrements, and the enhanced low-floor and Bus Rapid Transit capabilities of the D45 CRT LE, it’s crucial that customers know they’re supported.

“We’ve got the best manuals we can possibly have,” Robertson says, “and parts on the shelf at regional facilities to a degree that we’ve never had before. We’ve revamped our whole interface with the factory and design teams, and exponentially increased our parts readiness for these new buses.”

The path ahead

“NFI Parts recognizes that parts support is what sells buses, and our customers – above all else – need to keep their buses running and in service,” Robertson concludes. “So we’ve made a conscious effort, and spent a lot of time and resources, to make sure we can take care of our products from the first day they hit the streets. More than ever, that is the NFI Parts mission.”