Over the hill? Hardly. Celebrating 40 years in business, R&R Engine & Machine feels more relevant than ever. With a positive outlook and a refusal to stand still, the Akron, Ohio-based winner of the Engine Builder Machine Shop of the Year Award proves 40 isn’t the end of the good times it’s the best of times).
From relatively humble beginnings, R&R Engine has grown tremendously over the years and doesn’t show signs of slowing down. According to vice president Bryan Menke, the secret to success isn’t necessarily doing things differently it’s doing the right things and doing them well.
“Our industry is in the midst of a busy time,” says Menke. “Customers continue to repair and update older engines of all sizes and makes, as well as asking for minor and major repairs to newer electronic engines. Within our four departments, we continue to see an annual increase of 5-8 percent in sales, especially in our drive-in and electronic fuel injection departments.”
R&R Engine and Machine was founded with three employees in 1967 as R&R Tool and Machine, and manufactured and machined specialized tooling for the automotive industry in a single 2,000 sq.ft. building. Over the succeeding years, the business outgrew its existing wall space several times. That original 2,000 sq.ft. building has been expanded to over 22,000 sq.ft. and includes a parts department, full machine shop and fuel injection repair shop as well as drive-in service bays and an engine dyno room. Current construction projects are now adding an additional 7,800 sq.ft. to the service bays and another 900 sq.ft. to the parts department.
Today, R&R Engine sells, repairs and rebuilds engines of all kinds, performing all types of head and block machining operations for motors ranging from two-stroke Kohlers to 16-cylinder Caterpillars. The company is an authorized engine dealer for 19 different manufacturers and is an authorized Cummins dealer.
R&R Engine has an eight-bay service garage to diagnose and troubleshoot engine and driveability issues ranging from intermittent electrical problems to engine failure analysis. This department also builds the medium and heavy-duty engines which are then dyno-tested using its 1,000 hp Power Test dynamometer.
Menke says the company once considered eliminating its drive-in repair service but he recognized its potential. The department has grown ten-fold over the past few years and he says the future continues to look bright.
The company’s fuel injection shop consists of four technicians who use the latest tooling and test equipment to test and repair diesel and gasoline fuel injectors, superchargers, blowers, diesel fuel injection pumps and governors, air compressors, accessory drives, cam followers, rocker boxes and turbochargers, says Menke. This department represents nearly all OEM manufacturers and stocks a large inventory of parts and exchange units to minimize customer downtime.
The Keys To Success
Attention to the needs of the customer has been a key to the company’s success, says Menke. At a time when other shops might consider cutting back, Akron’s Machine Shop of the Year continues to grow.
“I think our shop is a cut above average due to two major attributes,” Menke says. “First is the commitment of our employees. Of the 30 employees, the average tenure is 17 years. Many of our employees have been with us 26 years or more. Without their expertise, dedication and commitment to giving each customer the best possible service, our company’s customer base and reputation would be jeopardized.”
Secondly, says Menke, while you might not be able to buy success, you still have to pay for it.
“Our company is constantly replacing or updating machinery and tooling throughout the shop. To become better than the average shop, we feel the company must invest not only in new tooling for the latest engine machining, but also in all computer diagnostic equipment for our drive-in and drive-out service.”
Obviously, since there’s no guarantee of success, keeping a grip of all aspects of his job is crucial. Being flexible is key.
With a degree in industrial management, Menke says his skills are tested almost daily. He told the Akron Beacon Journal “I’ve made some quick decisions (about employees) and later realized if I did something differently sent him for schooling or got him more involved with the company, maybe he would have turned out better.
“Today’s business is very different. Competition is different. Workers are different. Young people you hire are very different than 20 years ago. So management is a constant learning thing for me. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t learn something,” Menke explains.
“The key to ensuring that our shop survives and prospers during the next two to five years will lie within the management of the company,” Menke acknowledges.
“Times are changing and a better grip upon managing all aspects of the business is needed.”
He points to five keys that he feels are critical to survival.
You should have frequent time and profit evaluations of each job function to ensure job efficiency and proper profit is earned.
Be vigilant that salesmen solicit all possible work from present customers and distribute information to future customers about the company and what services we can offer.
Have an aggressive advertising and marketing campaign through magazine or newspaper ads, including monthly promotional flyers.
Take advantage of all engine and industry-related schools and seminars in order to have the latest information, training and service bulletins.
Treat your employees and customers the way you would want to be treated to ensure many years of working together in the future.
“Customers continue to want their original work machined and repaired,” Menke says. “Custom machining, balancing and assembling continues to grow for engines in the truck and tractor pullers, drag and stock car racers, small and heavy duty diesels and import race engines.
The future of the custom rebuilding service remains bright as long as you stay focused on being the best you can be with up-to-date technology, training and customer service.”