In my role as Vice President of Operations, I spend quite a lot of time on the road at each of the shop locations, so my day to day is a mixed bag of being responsible for making sure everyone is aligned on quality assurance and safety, and providing a good platform for communication at every level.
The rail industry is cyclical with ups and downs, so we aim to play the long game. We’re never going to be one of the “big guys” in the railcar maintenance space, so we specialize in what we do best and our values as an organization make us one that people want to do business with.
Our values, our people
From my days in the service, “troop welfare” is the most important to me. We aim to recruit and hire people who already live our values, so that it’s something they bring organically to their roles. Skills and knowledge can be learned, but core values are built in and ingrained in us. We do a lot of team building and have transparent conversations around adhering to our values in everything we do. If we don’t have the hearts and minds of our people, then we won’t get the best out of them, and that can directly affect the experience our customers have.
What sets us apart
We tend to be specialists and we’re very good at what we do – we don’t do it all – and we want our customers to enjoy working with us. So if they are looking for a certain service that we don’t offer, we try to help by giving a referral or recommendation on who they should work with to get the best results. We hope they remember that we helped them in some way and come back for some of the specialized services we do offer.
The beauty of being a part of Sasser is that we’re a small, family-owned company, so there’s not a lot of red tape. This allows us to be flexible, responsive, and agile compared to a lot of other bigger players. It enables us to have a unique philosophy in this old industry, which frankly is used to the “my way or the highway” type of rigid mentality. We aren’t the cheapest, but we can sure blow people away with our approach and the level of service we deliver. Sasser also gives us the latitude and resources to be innovative and to reimagine the future of this industry.
One of the biggest success enablers for us is the fact that we invest heavily in our systems and our Keystone Operating Model. There is nothing like it out there and that excites me – the possibilities are unknown and endless! These are tools that help everyone do their job better. When everyone at the shop level is set up for success, everybody wins. No other railcar repair company is able to provide the data and insights that are available to our customers. The information we can share with customers about turn times, history, performance – it might be more than some want right now, but we do have some customers who need weekly reporting.
Always learning, always improving
One of my biggest initiatives in my role is continuous improvement. At the shop level, there are hundreds of things that we are making better at any given time – we never stop. There is always room to do better and be better, even if it’s just a small percentage of incremental improvement.
Zero Today is our company’s vision around quality, safety, and environment. It’s our day-by-day, task-by-task approach to everything we do when it comes to safety, the quality of our repairs, and our environment. All of these things tie together and if you’re not quite up to speed in any of them, it’ll show in the final product. We always aim higher by investigating “near misses,” improving our processes or tools, and performing job safety analysis on every job.
There is always more to do with EHS and improving operations – there is never an end point when we say we are all done.