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Podcast

The Future of Fan Clutches

Learn about how Kit Masters continue to release innovative fan clutches.

Episode 197: We are in Orlando, Florida at HDA Truck Pride’s Annual Meeting. We had the opportunity to talk to Kit Masters about their legacy as a top-tier manufacturer of fan clutches and how they continue to innovate.  

My guest today is Kate Diecks a Regional Sales Manager at Kit Masters.  

Kate Diecks headshot, and Kit Masters logo. In this episode, learn about how Kit Masters continue to release innovative fan clutches.

Kate is currently a Regional Sales Manager for Kit Master, Inc who specializes in remanufactured fan clutches, rebuild kits and accessories.  Over the years Kate has developed a passion for developing sales processes and building relationships with her sales team and their customers. 

This is Kate’s first time on the show but not the first time we had Kit Masters on the show, Brian Swanson was our guest back in episode 17

Guest Website: Kit-Masters.com

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Transcript of Episode:

Jamie Irvine:

You’re listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And this is the show where you get expert advice about heavy-duty parts that keeps trucks and trailers on the road longer while lowering cost-per -mile.

We’re in Orlando, Florida at HDA Truck Pride’s Annual Meeting, and I’m at the Kit Masters booth. I’m really excited to have this conversation. I have a relationship with Kit Master that goes back many, many years because of my remanufacturing days. My guest today is Kate Diecks, Regional Sales Manager at Kit Master. Kate is currently in that position and she specializes in remanufactured clutches. And of course all the parts that go along with that. This is Kate’s first time on the show, but it’s not the first time Kit Master has been on the show. We had Brian way back in Episode 17, he was one of our early supporters. So Kate, nice to meet you. Welcome to the podcast.

Kate Diecks:

Absolutely. Thanks for having me.

Jamie Irvine:

So I’m excited. So you’re here talking to your customers that make up the HDA Truck Pride group. These are independent parts and service companies. What kinds of products have you been talking about?

Kate Diecks:

So we are an aftermarket fan clutch supplier, and we supply fan clutches, belt tensioners, fans to the industry. And the show has been a really great show for us. It always is. It’s great to get back in person and see everybody again. But yeah, we’re highlighting our fan clutches here today at the show.

Jamie Irvine:

You know, you talk about new fan clutches, you talk about all of the components. I remember when I was a Sales Account Manager and I was selling the kits, I was selling the gold tops, but I see also on the table here, you have some of the viscous products, right. For those that’s really where the industry has gone. I always use the expression fan clutch, but now it’s fan drive because things have changed.

Kate Diecks:

Absolutely, absolutely.

Jamie Irvine:

Right. So tell us a little bit about that.

Kate Diecks:

This is the two-speed fan clutch. And so this is where, you know, they kind of launched this in 2009, 2010 and what this is, it’s free second speed cooling if you will. So you’re getting that, it’s trying to simulate that Ram air for over the road truck drivers. But it’s more on vocational, on your local garbage truck or some trucks that stop and go a lot. And so it’s simulating Ram air without robbing any horsepower. So without it being engaged and that is, you’re correct, that is where the fan clutch market is going. So there, and then electric, we just launched our electromagnetic. So we launched the electromagnetic and what that is, is again, it’s less horse power saves on fuel economy. Everybody wants to save on fuel economy. And I think it’s getting more and more into the electrical for the electrical trucks and vehicles, that’s where it’s kind of headed. So, that makes sense. So we launched that this year as well.

Jamie Irvine:

So when you talk vocation, I live now in Northern Canada. I’m in Alberta where there’s a lot of oil and gas. I know there’s a lot of trucks in certain vocations where they don’t necessarily necessarily do a lot of miles, but they’re stationary because they’re work trucks. Right? And that generates a lot of heat. Absolutely. So talk to us a little bit about how your products will help them to mitigate that. And then how does that impact their cost of operation?

Kate Diecks:

So we have, which is, I’m super happy you asked that question. What we do at Kit Masters is we look for the common causes of failure and we engineer solutions around that. And how we do that is we tear down fan clutches all day long and we figure out what is the number one failure? And then we solve that problem. And then we go down the list and say, okay, what’s the number two failure and solve that problem. And so that’s what we’ve done. And that’s how we go to market. That’s how we’ve grown. That’s our market share and really why we have such a good product is we’re able to figure out what those problems are and we engineer around them and our fan clutches last longer. Yeah. And the reason, so what we do for those trucks that don’t run a lot of miles. So sometimes they have an override switch that’ll turn on and generate the fan clutch constantly, right. Or with the two speed it’s constantly running. So it’s constantly keeping that engine cool without it having to engage as much and as often.

Jamie Irvine:

Right. If I remember correctly too, like that, that hard engagement that on and off, it’s wear but it’s also fuel consumption. Right?

Kate Diecks:

Absolutely. Because every time that engages, it robs horsepower, which in turn…

Jamie Irvine:

Burns fuel.

Kate Diecks:

Burns fuel. Absolutely. So another thing that we do and another huge, huge selling point to our fan clutches is what we call auto lock. And what that is, is if that cement truck is making a delivery and is sitting idle and something happens to their fan clutch, the friction glazes over, the friction tears apart, they’re gonna overheat. And then they’re gonna be stuck with a truck full of cement. With ours, we have auto lock. So there’s a seal on the top of that. When that friction material gets to 10 to 15% of its life, it’ll lock on in place, letting that driver know it’s at the end of its life, but it will constantly run. They’ll be able to offload that cement and get back to their home base to change that out.

Jamie Irvine:

Right, so that avoids unscheduled downtime, helps them avoid a tow and all the associated costs with that. We’re gonna take a quick break. We’ll be right back. Don’t have a heavy-duty part number and need to look up a part? Go to parts.diesellaptops.com or download the app on Apple or Android to create your free account. Looking for high-quality fuel injection for heavy-duty applications? Having one supplier for fuel injection allows you to better serve customers by providing them with a complete line, which increases your sales and profitability. Learn more at ambacinternational.com/aftermarket. We’re back from our break. And before the break, Kate was telling us about some of the products they’ve been talking about here at HDA Truck Pride’s Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida. Kate, it’s been a difficult couple years for everyone. The independent service channel, and Kit Master is being an innovative, independent company. It’s so important that we support that part of the trucking industry. I know you believe that. How have you stepped up to help the independence over the last couple years?

Kate Diecks:

Yeah, so we did a couple things when the pandemic first started, aside offering doing what we could do inside selling training and doing all that stuff. We looked and we said, okay, what is gonna be the most helpful to be contactless? And we did a free drop drop to any one of the customers, any customer throughout the United States. So it just, it’s one level less of person handling the product.

Jamie Irvine:

Right. It reduced the contact. So you said, hey, we’ve got a distributor in this area, but we’ll ship directly to your customer. That’s just one less person. That’s really smart. Not without added costs though. So, I mean, this was something that you were investing in your customer base.

Kate Diecks:

Right, right. So we absorb that cost to do our part, to try to figure out what we were going to. We wanted to figure out how we can do our part, even if it costs us a little money, at least we’re trying to do something to help. So we started with that, but in the bigger picture of Kit Masters, all of our product is if it’s not manufactured in our CNC shop, in Minnesota, we source within the U.S. So we had not had any supply chain issues. I’m happy to say that, I love saying that.

Jamie Irvine:

You’re like the first person that’s actually said that.

Kate Diecks:

So we have awesome planners, first of all. But also we’re able to manufacture within the U.S., source within the U.S., if not manufacturing in-house. So we have run into a little bit of hiccups, but it’s, you know….

Jamie Irvine:

Been minor compared to some of the other pain.

Kate Diecks:

Very minor. And the industry doesn’t know, that’s all the in-house people, the in-house guys that handle that. So, so we source within the U.S., and that’s helped our economy, it’s near and dear even before the pandemic to our owners.

Jamie Irvine:

I’ve always been working in the independent side of the business. And when I look forward, I gotta be honest, there’s some companies I worry about because things are changing. Technology is changing the industry. I’m not really worried about your company because you’ve been innovative, it’s in the blood of your company. So no matter what technology changes on a truck, I’m sure that your company’s gonna find a way to solve a problem.

Kate Diecks:

We’re constantly looking for new ways to do things.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah. You’re looking for problems, but with a solution oriented mindset. So when you look towards the future though what do you see as challenges that the independent service channel is gonna face?

Kate Diecks:

People. So I think people is, not only for this industry, everywhere is finding people, qualified people, training them. I think that is going to be the hardest part and we’re facing it now, but in the future is trying to solve that piece.

Jamie Irvine:

You and I are on the same wavelength. I have a presentation later today where I’m gonna talk at length about demographic inversion and what that’s all about, but we’ll share with that a little bit later, so, okay. So we’ve got this problem. What do you see as some of the solutions? How are we gonna overcome it? Because as the independent service channel, we have a long standing reputation of being entrepreneurial-minded and solution focused. So what are the solutions that we can bring to help overcome that problem?

Kate Diecks:

Yeah. I’m glad you asked that question. I think about this and I talk about this a lot because I am passionate about this industry as, and I didn’t grow up in this industry. I didn’t, my husband’s in this industry, but that’s how I got in it. And I think everybody I asked, some relative was in the industry and that’s how they knew about the industry. And that’s how they got involved in the industry. If I didn’t meet my husband and he didn’t bring me into this, I would have no idea the industry existed because no one told me about it. And so I think, you know, we do a really good job at going to the tech schools. We do a really good job going to Northwood University. But I think it’s important to get into the high schools to talk to high schools, to have those independent distributors partner with their local high school and some type of program that maybe they can put together with them, um, or at least, um, get their information out there that there’s a whole industry that exists out there that has all different types of careers.

I know a lot of times when you ask someone and it’s fun when I ask a young person, what do you think about the trucking industry or what is your perception of it? And they think it’s mechanic or truck drivers. Super important. Those, I mean, we all know that we need to get those people as well.

Jamie Irvine:

There’s no industry without ’em.

Kate Diecks:

Exactly. But there’s so much more to it too. So I think that knowledge is power and we need to get the word out at a younger, the younger generation. So somehow get involved in the high schools.

Jamie Irvine:

To your point though. I mean, if your family has not been exposed to the industry, it’s virtually invisible. All you see is some semi trucks on the highway. You don’t really understand, first of all, the scope of it, second of all the vocations and the niches and third, just how amazing the industry is.

Kate Diecks:

It’s awesome. Yes.

Jamie Irvine:

Well, I think if we had more time, you and I could talk for a very long time about this, we’ll have you back on the show to continue the conversation.

Kate Diecks:

I really enjoyed myself. Thank you so much.

Jamie Irvine:

You’ve been listening to The Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And we’ve been speaking with Kate from Kit Masters. Now, if you’d like to learn more about Kit Masters, head over to kit-masters.com. Links are in the show notes. Kate, thank you for being on The Heavy-Duty Parts Report.

Kate Diecks:

Thank you so much.

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