I wrote and designed a monthly newsletter for Douglas Battery Manufacturing Company and prepared a video script for a company and product orientation program for jobbers and dealers. I also wrote news releases to publicize the company in local media and trade publications.
Sample Newsletter Articles
The right place at the right time: Central Distribution Center meets the challenge
Getting the thousands of batteries coming off Douglas assembly lines each day delivered to the right place at the right time is a monumental task, but for Production Distribution Manager Doug Brackney and the 17 warehouse workers he supervises, it’s all in a day’s work.
“Every product Douglas manufactures passes through the Douglas Central Distribution Center on its way to the customer,” says Brackney, who oversees product allocation and distribution to each of 16 warehouse locations in the Douglas Warehouse Network. “The warehouse workers handle virtually every battery we sell.”
At monthly meetings with manufacturing and sales staff members, Brackney discusses product allocations for each warehouse. For established high-volume batteries, Brackney says it’s easy to set allocations based on sales history.
“For slower-moving batteries, we deliberately over-build to create buffer stocks in our warehouses,” Brackney adds. “Our policy has always been to stock a complete line, so even if we do end up stocking too many of a particular low-volume type, the benefit of having complete coverage outweighs the cost.
New products, like the Omni, are allocated based on projections made by the sales staff. “The projections are based on market studies,” says Brackney.
“Since we’re dealing with a limited resource, we allocate the product to make sure everybody gets a piece of the pie.”
To distribute the allocated products to the warehouses, the Douglas fleet includes nine tractor-trailer trucks whose drivers each complete two trips per week. Common carriers make additional deliveries from the CDC to Douglas warehouses. According to Brackney, Douglas sends out about 40 tractor-trailer loads a week during the busy season.
“Because transportation costs are so significant, we always try to send the trucks out with full loads,” Brackney says.
The CDC also serves as a warehouse for 10 of the 49 Douglas Route Salesmen who deliver batteries to their customers using beverage body vehicles. Each 18-wheel route truck can hold about 1,000 batteries.
Douglas Route Salesmen check in at their assigned warehouses on Thursday evenings. After unloading any batteries remaining on the truck from the previous week, warehouse workers reload the Route Salesman’s truck for the upcoming week’s route, using a forklift for handling pallets and adding small-count batteries by hand.
Although the actual unloading and loading takes only about two hours, the warehouse worker spends approximately eight hours spread over three or four days loading pallets for their assigned salesmen’s trucks.
“The Route Salesman uses a diagram on the load sheet to tell the warehouse worker exactly how he wants his customers’ orders loaded into each bay of his truck,” explains Brackney. “The worker builds the loads on the warehouse floor all during the week, preparing one pallet for each of the route truck’s 18 bays according to the configuration the driver has indicated on the load sheet.”
Once he’s finished building the load on the warehouse floor, the warehouse worker checks it and signs off on the sheet. Another warehouse worker then double-checks the load and signs off on the load sheet. Two final counts are made on each truck before it leaves the gate on Monday morning.
“Each Route Salesman is unique in how he wants his load built,” Brackney adds, “so we assign the same warehouse worker to the salesman every week so the worker can get to know exactly how the salesman wants things done. After all, those route trucks are really the salesman’s offices, and we think it’s important to do our best to follow the salesman’s instructions to the letter.”
Ten-wheel extra-load trucks, supplemented as needed by independent less-than-load freight carriers, deliver batteries to Route Salesmen and their customers throughout the week.
“If a Route Salesman needs more batteries than expected, he calls the shipping supervisor and asks him to send out an extra-load truck,” says Brackney. “The extra-load truck either delivers directly to the customer or re-supplies the Route Salesman’s truck.
“The Route Salesman might end up meeting the extra-load driver in a parking lot somewhere at 11 or 12 at night to load the extra batteries into the route truck,” Brackney adds. “We’ll run quite a few extra-load trucks out this time of year—maybe eight to ten of our own extra-load trucks plus countless LTL shipments.
“The guys in the warehouse work on deadline after deadline, around the clock, building loads for all the long hauls, extra-load and route trucks,” notes Brackney. “It’s a fast-paced, high-pressure job, but we’re fortunate to have a number of experienced veterans who take a great deal of pride in their work. And that pride’s important—especially when you consider that every Douglas battery made passes through their hands.”
Understanding CCA and RC ratings: Explaining what they mean to your customers
Some buyers choose a replacement battery based on the amount of money in their wallets. Others make their selections strictly by warranty months.
But according to Randall Vernon, Quality Control Manager at Douglas, the most satisfied customers are those who choose their batteries based on two standard measures of battery performance: cold cranking and reserve capacity ratings.
And it’s up to you and your countermen to translate ratings into benefits the buyer finds meaningful.
“If we give only the technical definition of CCA and RC ratings to the average battery buyer, the buyer will probably miss the point of what the ratings mean,” says Randall, whose staff conducts the tests used to rate Douglas Batteries.
“But if we explain the ratings in terms of benefits, the buyer can make an intelligent choice—and end up better satisfied with the purchase.”
Technically, a battery’s cold performance (or cold cranking rating) is a measure of the amperage the battery can deliver at zero degrees Fahrenheit for 30 seconds while maintaining at least 7.2 volts, for a 12-volt battery. This number is the battery’s CCA—cold cranking amps.
A battery with more, thinner plates generally has a higher CCA rating than one with fewer, thicker plates. So will a battery with through-the-partition instead of up-and-over cell connections.
A battery’s reserve capacity—or RC—rating is the number of minutes a 12-volt battery—at 80 F—can deliver 25 amps while maintaining at least 10.5 volts.
Setting the ratings
Like virtually all major battery manufacturers, Douglas rates its batteries using testing procedures outlined by Battery Council International. By strictly following BCI guidelines, Douglas insures that its product ratings can be meaningfully compared to those of other manufacturers who follow the same guidelines.
Douglas uses the industry-accepted standard of 90 percent compliance. This means at least 90 percent of Douglas Batteries meet or exceed the ratings published for their type.
The BCI test sequence
To explain the BCI standard test sequence, Randall described a day-by-day outline of steps in the procedure. He’s quick to point out that although the tests can be done in less than two weeks, Douglas Quality Control always allows three weeks to complete the test sequence on any one battery.
“With all the activities QC’s involved in, it’s almost impossible to do something to every battery every day,” Randall explains. “That’s why we allow the extra time for standard testing.”
The test sequence is as follows:
Monday: Technicians assign a testing number to the battery to be rated and connect it to a charger.
Tuesday: They test the battery’s reserve capacity, record the results and then re-connect it to the charger.
Wednesday: The battery goes into a zero-degree Fahrenheit freezer where it stays for at least 18 hours.
Thursday: After the battery undergoes its first cold cranking test and the results are recorded, it’s recharged overnight.
Friday: Technicians perform and record results for another reserve capacity test before recharging the battery.
Monday: The battery goes back into the freezer.
Tuesday: After its second cold cranking test, the battery is again recharged.
Wednesday: Technicians conduct the battery’s third and final reserve capacity test.
After the final standard test, the battery may undergo further performance evaluation including gassing rate, charge rate acceptance, overcharge life, vibration and hot and cold cycle tests. Ultimately, it may be taken apart to determine how its components withstood the tests. All test results are entered into a computer for easy access and analysis.
On any given day, 15 to 20 batteries are at some stage of standard testing in the Quality Control area. Last year, Douglas standard tested 600 batteries, including at least 30 units manufactured by competitors.
“In the battery business, everybody looks at what everybody else is doing,” explains Randall. “Most of the time we buy the particular competitor’s product we’re interested in looking at. But one time, I actually loaded several Douglas batteries onto a truck and traded them to a competitor for their comparable products.”
What CCA and RC ratings mean to buyers
Faced with an uninformed battery buyer, how can you and your countermen make CCA and RC ratings meaningful?
The best approach is to explain the ratings in terms of benefits to the buyer. You know, for example, that the CCA rating is a measure of the battery’s ability to perform at low temperatures. To the buyer, that means a battery with a higher CCA rating will be more likely to start the car on a winter morning—a particularly valuable benefit in colder climates.
And with the relatively high compression, high engine temperatures and optional equipment on many of today’s cars, the battery’s CCA rating has become more important than ever. That’s why, even in warmer climates, you should stress the importance of buying a battery with at least the minimum CCA rating listed in the vehicle’s application manual or the BCI Data Book.
The reserve capacity rating tells the buyer how many minutes the battery will operate the lights, ignition, windshield wipers, defroster and heater in the event of an electrical failure. If the vehicle’s electrical system fails, a battery with an RC rating of 120, for example, will keep the engine and auxiliary equipment working for two hours.
The benefit to the buyer is the peace of mind that comes with knowing there will be plenty of time to drive for help if a fan belt breaks or the alternator goes on the blink—even on a stormy winter night.
If the vehicle is equipped with clocks and fans and computers, the reserve capacity is even more important because these accessories use power even when the car isn’t running.
“The only time most people think about batteries is when they don’t work,” notes Randall. “They don’t care about CCA and RC numbers. They care about whether they can count on the car to start in the morning or whether they—or someone they love—will have enough time to drive for help in an emergency.
“If our customers can explain CCA and RC ratings to their customers in those terms, they can be sure those customers understand and appreciate the value of what they’re paying for. And that means customer satisfaction.”