Podcast Interviews

Transforming a Business to Meet Customer Needs

Listen to the story of an entrepreneurial couple who transformed their business from a transmission repair business to an aftertreatment product and service business to better serve the changing needs of their customers.

Episode 97: Imagine that you have nearly 20-years of experience with transmissions, and you’ve built a successful transmission repair business. Then your customers start to ask you for help with a completely different part of the commercial truck.

What do you do?

In this episode, you will hear the story of DPFRegeneration.com. A business that started as a transmission repair business, but once Hattie-Jane and Wayne Rollins teamed up, transitioned to cleaning DPFs and supplying aftertreatment products and services.

Watch the Video

The History of DPFRegeneration.com

Wayne Rollins started out rebuilding transmissions for commercial fleets. But after being in the business for nearly 20-years something changed. First, he had a new partner, her name was Hattie-Jane, they had been dating and eventually they got married. Hattie-Jane saw that fleets had a real need for someone to help them with their diesel emissions systems. This was the beginning of a completely new chapter in Wayne’s career and a new business was launched with Hattie-Jane leading the way.

“That was a really tough decision for me. I had been doing transmission parts since 1985, and this is 2004 and my customers want me to change… But it seemed to me that it was a real problem for my customers, so I decided to take on the challenge, to take on the problem for them,” recounted Wayne Rollins.

A Multi-Year Transition

Making that kind of transition and abandoning one business model for another is not a decision that is made quickly. At that point the aftertreatment systems were not understood very well by anyone. “That was 5-years of internet searching, because back then nobody knew too much about it,” explained Hattie-Jane Rollins.

In the beginning, manufacturers were free with their information, but that quickly changed, and it made it harder to find information. This didn’t deter Hattie-Jane and Wayne, who became even more determined to understand what it was going to take to provide a great DPF cleaning service to fleets who really needed a lot of help with their aftertreatment systems.

Hartridge DPF and DOC Cleaning System

They quickly learned that every filter is different and unique. Wayne started to ask a lot more questions before starting the DPF cleaning process to better understand what was causing the filter problems. Hattie-Jane started recording every single filter that came through their facility and now they have detailed records of over 100,000 filters.

Advantages of a Women Owned Business

Women Owned Business

“Being a woman owned entity allows me to be certified as a minority/women owned business,” stated Hattie-Jane. This has provided their customers with some distinct advantages. For example, when going for municipal, state, or federal bids, customers of DPFRegeneration.com can qualify because they are partnered with a certified minority owned and operated business.

Wayne also admitted freely that his expertise has always been more related to the technical aspects of their business whereas Hattie-Jane is more focused on leadership and customer service. “When our phone rings, by the second ring you’re talking to one of my office personnel, not an answering machine,” explained Hattie-Jane.

As with most couples who operate a business together there are challenges but because they have learned to use their complimentary skills in a way that benefits the customer their business has been very successful.

More Than Just DPF Cleaning

When servicing a commercial trucking fleet or industrial and marine equipment with diesel engines you are going to encounter aftertreatment issues. The Diesel Particulate Filter is often the part that fails first and is either cleaned or replaced. But that doesn’t address the reason for the filter failure and the problem will continue which leads to more cleanings or replacement of parts.

“Unless you take the DPF off, you really do not know what’s going on with that filter. It’s so important not to just look at the filter, but rather look at the whole system, and use the filter as an indicator of what’s going on in the system,” explained Wayne.

By looking at the entire diesel emissions system and diagnosing the upstream causes of DPF failure, DPFRegeneration.com can provide their customers with a valuable service which helps them with uptime and lowering total cost of operation.

They have also expanded the categories of different products they sell to include more than just DPF cleaning. They also sell DOCs, SCRs, One Box Units, EGR Coolers, Air Charge Coolers, Gaskets and Clamps, Turbochargers, Injectors, Starters and Alternators, and they will be adding Cooling Systems very soon.

DPFRegeneration.com products they sell.

DPFRegeneration.com was started to service fleets with diesel emissions systems who were having aftertreatment issues and they have never strayed from their mission to provide excellent customer service and high-quality parts that solve real problems.

Complete Transcript of Episode:

Jamie Irvine:

You’re listening to the Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvin and this is the show where you get expert advice about the heavy-duty parts you buy and sell, and keep you informed about what’s happening in the industry. This episode is sponsored by DPFXFIT a manufacturer of DPFs and DOCs that offer OEM durability and performance with aftermarket affordability. To learn more, go to dpfxfit.com.

Welcome to the Heavy-Duty Parts Report. My name is Jamie Irvine. When we talk to fleets and owner-operators one of the common complaints we hear is kind of the pain associated with diesel emission systems. This isn’t a secret. We’ve talked about it on the show many times, and today I’m excited to have a company that has really been focused on providing their customers with solutions to the point that they changed their entire business model, just to focus on providing their customers with a solution to this problem. So I’d like to introduce Hattie Jane Rollins to the Heavy-Duty Parts Report. She is the owner of DPFRegeneration.com. Hattie, welcome to the Heavy-Duty Parts Report.

Hattie Jane Rollins:

Hi Jamie, thank you for having me here. It’ll be a pleasure to explain to all of your viewers about our business and how we got to this point.

Jamie Irvine:

Awesome. And Wayne Rollins. You are the other half of this dynamic duo Wayne. Thanks for being on the Heavy-Duty Parts Report.

Wayne Rollins:

Thanks for, let me partake in what you’re doing. I’m happy and ready to go.

Jamie Irvine:

All right. Well, let’s get started. Let’s give the audience a little bit of history about your company. Hattie Jane, how did things get started? What was the business originally? Let’s talk about that before we talk about the transition.

Hattie Jane Rollins:

My husband now, at the time we were dating, he had a business of rebuilding Allison transmission, the hard parts that would all go into the transmissions. We did that for a number of different fleets and different transit agencies. So back in that time, which was quite a while ago, some of our customers started asking us to change over and work on different parts for them. And back at that time, your main thing is to keep your customer happy and do what they ask and what they need. So we started transitioning from and studying, basically we did five years of study before we even did our first filter, trying to find out everything we could about the filters. So with all kinds of data and searching out everything, and Wayne actually doing reverse engineering on the filters to find out what they’re made of and everything and how to properly clean them. We started switching over from doing transmission parts to actually cleaning diesel particulate filters, DOC catalysts. And then from there, we the business just kept going and more customers were asking for the demand of it. And we took off that way.

Jamie Irvine:

So thanks for giving us an overview of how that all went. Wayne, I’d love to know here you are, you’ve started a business, you’re focused on transmissions, and then all of a sudden, somewhere along the line, the idea is presented that maybe it’s time to make this big change. I can’t imagine that that was an easy decision for.

Wayne Rollins:

No you know, that was a really tough decision for me. I had been doing transmission parts since 1985, and this is year 2004, and my customers want me to change. And I was reluctant at first, but when they explained to me the problems that they were having, getting these filters cleaned, that it took too long, that a lot of them failed and they had to buy new ones. It just seemed to me that it was a real problem for them. I decided to take on the challenge of straightening out the problem for them.

I thought it would be good for me. I thought it would be good for them. One company had sent me to school for three days on their, on their money to get me to get up to speed with their filter manufacturer. So I spent three days down to Philadelphia learning about the filter and learning how to clean it, what to do, what not to do and perfect of what we were doing.

Jamie Irvine:

So you start off by taking this three-day course now Hattie Jane, you mentioned that there was five years of research and development that went into kind of fully transitioning the company. Can you tell us a little bit about that process and what did you go through? What did you learn in those five years? I’d love to hear more.

Hattie Jane Rollins:

That was five years of internet searching because back then nobody shared, nobody really knew too much about it. It was new technology out there. The only ones that really knew about it was transit. The average person didn’t know anything. So there wasn’t much information out there. And so I was constantly searching the internet on DPF filters. What are they, how to clean them? What are they made of from one supplier to the next, Cummins, Detroit Diesel, Isuzu, International’s, Paccar, just going through all of their websites, trying to find every little bit of information going through blogs to see who would have information out there on these.

Wayne Rollins:

In the beginning, the manufacturers were free with the information to clean the filters, but then all of a sudden, one day that all got wiped off the internet. You couldn’t get information. So we did a lot of testing. We took filters to people who clean filters and see how they did them, seeing how they came out.

Jamie Irvine:

And you have a wide range of customers. You’re dealing with a class 8 trucks, transit, different vocations like construction or utility and even marine. So not only was it just that there was the lack of information and you had to educate yourself and transition your business, but you also had all of these different industries to grow into overtime. I’m sure that presented a whole other set of challenges as well.

Wayne Rollins:

And those filters have their own character. What you apply to this filter doesn’t work on any other filter and what you use on that filter won’t work on this one. So through experience and experimenting, we found out how to clean this filter the best, how to clean that filter the best, they’re all different. You just can’t apply one process to all of the filters and expect that it’s going to come out. Even before I clean a filter, I’ll ask the customer, well, why are you giving me that? It’s obvious I’m giving it to you because it’s dirty. But I want to know why. Did you have a terrible failure? Did you have an EGR failure? Is it 180,000 miles and it’s just full of soot. Is there white smoke coming out the back? Is there a black smoke coming out the back? And I had to learn all of that so that when a customer told me what he was experiencing with the filter, I knew what that filter needed to be cleaned before I even walked out the door.

Jamie Irvine:

And I know myself, one of my mentors, he told me, he says, “Jamie, how do you get 20 years of experience?” I said, “I don’t know.” I was just a kid. He says, “come see me in 20 years.” So, you know, there’s no shortcut to gaining that experience. You just had to go through the process, husband and wife teams. I love working in that kind of environment. My wife and I we’ve, we’ve run a couple of businesses now in our adult life together. And it certainly presents some challenges, but, um, it’s also really wonderful to have a husband and wife working together at a business. Now, your business is structured in such a way that Hattie Jane, you really are leading the way with your business, and that has some unique advantages for your customers. I’d like to hear about the advantages of having a woman-led business.

Hattie Jane Rollins:

Being a woman-owned entity allows me to be certified as minority business woman owned business/ disadvantaged business. In turn, what that does for my customers is when they’re going for bids with federal government, county, state, local, any kind of bids that most of the majority of them nowadays have a percentage that have to use woman-owned businesses, disadvantaged or minority businesses being as I am certified with the federal government, my customers there they’ll meet their goals for that Connecticut Port Authority, New York and New Jersey. It’s helpful to my customers because it allows them to expand their businesses also that they can go into these other types of bids that they wouldn’t have the ability do before, because they did not have a minority business certified to be able to use that person to meet the goals. And if you can’t meet the goals, they won’t accept your bids. So it helps my customers in allowing them to expand their own business, as well as helps me to keep my business going and expanding

Wayne Rollins:

Well also to make what’s going on more accurate. She has a way of working with the computer, keeping our customers up to date on stuff that they need to know. They need to know when is that filter going to be done? What was wrong with it? How does it compare to other filters that I’ve given you? She’s just very accurate at that where I would pass that over. That’s just not a mechanical thing that I would watch for. So when she comes up with these ideas of how to handle the customer’s needs this way or that way, I stand behind it.

Hattie Jane Rollins:

I also have a database from every filter that’s come through my shop since January 11, 2008 when I opened my business. My database has over a hundred thousand filters in it. And within that database, I always ask my customer, what truck number is this going into? So a customer can call me and ask me, seven years ago, I sent you this filter, what were my flow rates on it? What did it weigh when you got it? What did it weigh halfway through the cleaning process and what was the final weight and what was the serial number on it? I have all that information I keep in my database. So my customer can always call me anytime and get tracking on whatever we’ve done for them.

Jamie Irvine:

It’s so important in any leadership group, regardless of it’s a corporation, or if it’s a independently owned business like yours, to make sure you leverage the strengths of each person in the leadership group. And it sounds like you as a team have been able to do that very well. We’re going to take a quick break to hear from our sponsor. We’ll be right back. This episode is sponsored by DPFXFIT a manufacturer of DPFs and DOCs that offer OEM durability and performance with aftermarket affordability. To learn more, go to dpfxfit.com. So before the break, we were talking about the history of DPFRegeneration.com. We got to get to know both of you, Hattie Jane and Wayne. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I’d like to now get to really 2021 where we are today and how your company is focused on solutions. So Hattie Jane let’s talk about the solution you offer, and I’d like you to walk me through the process that you’re using today to give your customers such great service.

Hattie Jane Rollins:

Great service is that our phones ring when a customer calls, by that second ring, that phone is picked up. It does not go to an answering machine. They don’t have to push buttons to get to talk to someone. By the second ring you’re answered. And you’re talking to one of my office personnel. Main thing is if a customer has questions, a lot of them do not understand what even a DPF filter is. I have customers that have Volkswagens Mercedes, Ford trucks, Chevy’s, Duramax, as well as my fleet’s, construction and everything else. But the average person that has a diesel vehicle, they don’t know what a DPF filter is. They just know that all of a sudden their car doesn’t run. They go to the dealer. The dealer says three, $4,000, you know, so they start searching out. I mean, myself, I don’t have three, $4,000 sitting around, you know, to put on my car. Nobody does nowadays. So basically what I do is I explain to them, I take the time, explain to them what the DPF filter is. It’s a garbage can. What the DOC is, that does the regeneration process takes the soot from the engine, puts it through that DOC turns it into an ash and throws it into your filter. So yes, that filter has to come off eventually and be clean. Otherwise it’s just like a charcoal grill in your backyard. You keep filling it up with briquettes and you don’t empty it, eventually it’s full of ash and that’s going to cause a back pressure on your car. Yes, it’s not going to run, your check engine light is going to be on. You have to take it off and have it removed. So rather than go to the dealer and pay $4,000, we charge approximately $400 to clean these filters for people at that point, they’re like a sigh of relief.  There is some hope for them. If the filter is no good, I will show them what is wrong with their filter, why it is failed. Usually from too much mileage, that they waited too long to get it cleaned and it melted internally. But at that point there, what we do is we offer them aftermarket. And at that point there, we try to search out the best price we can. I have a very good aftermarket company that I use and their product is top-notch. They come with clamps and gaskets. So my customer does not also have to spend extra on getting clamps and gaskets to put their unit back together and into the vehicle. So as far as my customers are concerned, it’s from the heart of what I do. A lot of my customers have actually turned into friends and they’re repeat customers and we do their vehicles, then their kids’ vehicles or their friend’s vehicles. And I think it’s all because of how we feel about people. And that’s the best way I could describe it as we feel for people and we know what they’re going through and we just try to help them.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah. And that really comes through Hattie Jane, and just the attention to detail, the focus on good customer service. Like you said, even that human touch point of answering the phone and not putting them through an automated process, educating the customer every step of the way, showing them if something has failed and you can’t recover it, all of those things, they add up to provide a total solution that is far beyond just the purchase price. And on top of that, you’re already able to save them quite a bit from going through the dealer. Wayne, I’d like to know from you on the technical side, as these filters come through your shop, you know, you talked about when you were doing the transition and how it took a lot of research and it took time for you to actually set up the tooling. How have things changed? Where are we at today in 2021? And how does your part of the solution benefit the customer?

Wayne Rollins:

It benefits the customer by the way that we clean it. I don’t really like when they have a force regeneration done to the systems. Force regeneration, if the guy is stuck and you want to get him going so he can get to his regular tech. Yeah, fine. But they showed a light on the dashboard and say, “Oh my God I got trouble with my emission system” and you go to the dealer and he’ll do a force regeneration on it, but that doesn’t really tell you if there’s a problem with the vehicle. That if you take the system off and you look at it, you want to see a dark soot. Most of the time, that’s what I get. But there’s, there’s different types of dark soot. You can have a fluffy dark soot, which is showing me the system is running okay but maybe you got a bad injector. You can have a pink soot, which tells me that your EGR cooler is leaking. You can have a white ash which tells me system from working great. Unless you take it off you really don’t know what’s going on with that filter. And you could do just a force regeneration and put the truck back on the road and be going 3000 feet in the Rocky mountains and your truck’s going to quit. Yeah, you got 150 – 200,000 miles on the truck, you’re better off taking it off, look at it, find out what’s going on with it and proceed from there. And it’s a lot cheaper. You know, I find problems with the filters that when they do it that way, the cost is minor. When I keep letting it run, you got to the point where it’s a $2,000 new filter you need. And I try to stop that. The newer systems, where the DOC, the DPF, the mixing chamber for the SCR and the SCR are all in one package. They seem to be working a lot better. I don’t have as much difficulty with them. We have some odd things that goes on like when the doser valve goes bad and it fills the system up with the DEF load and I got nothing but white frosting in there but we can get that out.

Jamie Irvine:

Wayne, one thing I really appreciated about what you just said was that it’s so important that we don’t just look at the symptom, the part that needs to be changed which is often the filter, right. But we look at the whole system and make sure that you’re, as you said, reverse engineering, like what’s going on with the system. And what does the condition of this filter indicate about the total system? That’s going to save customers a lot of money in the long run. And to your point, the worst thing that can happen right, is to have that unscheduled downtime, and then being broken down on the side of the road, a tow bill, maybe a hotel, the large repair bill that’s unscheduled and unplanned, and then the loss of revenue, if you’re towing a commercial load. So very, very important aspect of the service. I really appreciated that.

Wayne Rollins:

I got customers that drive their prize bulls around, and before they take it to the event, they actually take the filter off of their pickup. And they’ll have it clean, because when you’re going up in the mountains, out in Colorado, you don’t watch your bull sitting in the back of a truck somewhere, stuck on the side of the road. And you know, I get it. Or your prize horse, you don’t want that happen. And you know, those are animals. You can’t just leave them there. So they have their own things that they do to the vehicles themselves.

Jamie Irvine:

Livestock, medical supplies, the list goes on and on of all the precious cargo that’s being moved by trucks. So it’s absolutely critical to stay on top of these things. Hattie Jane you offer more than just DPF cleaning. What are some of the other diesel emission system parts that you offer your customers?

Hattie Jane Rollins:

As well as the DPF filters, we do DOC catalysts. We do the SCRs. We do one box units, which are in the bigger, over the road trucks too, that are mounted under the passenger side steps. We do EGR coolers. Now we’re doing air charge coolers. We supply gaskets and clamps. We also are now breaking into turbochargers, injectors, starters also, and I’m going to start approaching a few radiator companies that I’ve recently heard about. And seeing maybe on this coast here, the East coast, where I’m located, if I can help to sell somebody else’s product and be able to supply radiators and so forth to my customers and kind of set it up where they could do all their shopping in one place. And it helps me to support other people that are in smaller States or other States further away, you know, whatever we can sell to help our customers and help other small businesses right now is our goal.

Jamie Irvine:

Yeah and right from the beginning, your willingness to transition the entire business from one model where you’re focused on transmissions over to this, just to service your customers, you can really see that these decisions are being driven by your desire to take care of your customers. Wayne, how do you feel about having to retool and set up your shop again?

Wayne Rollins:

I’m ready. A lot of my customers, I consider them friends. I like going into talk to them. They like when I come in, sometimes the boss don’t like it, because I’m chit-chatting too long and I’ll get a wink it’s time to get going. But yeah, I consider my customers friends that if I was helping out my brother, that’s how I feel about it.

Jamie Irvine:

Well, Wayne, I have a feeling if you and I were able to get together when maybe COVID is over, we’ll probably be able to chat a long time because my wife and I have had the same dynamic. And I guess, you know, that being a podcast host, I guess I found the perfect job for me. ‘Cause I do love to talk. So Hattie Jane, when it comes to kind of ending our conversation today, I always like to give people an opportunity to just make that one thing that you want the audience to remember. So what is your best advice that you can give fleets about keeping their diesel emission systems repair costs as low as possible? What’s the one thing you want them to remember?

Hattie Jane Rollins:

Preventative maintenance on their vehicles, do preventative maintenance program. Come up with the program. With my database I can even help them out. If they’re willing to use my company, I would set up, you know, a preventative maintenance program for a fleet or individuals, whatever they need so that they would know when that vehicle hits so many hundred thousands of miles. Okay, here’s an email, it’s time for you to pull that vehicle in, get it done before you have to buy a new one, if possible.

Wayne Rollins:

Yeah, you really can’t go by the manufacturer’s specifications of going to get these things service. I had one manufacturer say that it’s 6,000 hours. Well, the customers complained to me that the last guy to clean this filters is no good because every time he takes a unit apart, the filter was no good. Well that’s of course it’s in there too long. And I said, why are you not going to go down to 4,000 hours? Oh no, no, I can’t do that. Well, he went down to 5,000 and instead of every unit being no good, they started to turn out better. So then he went down to 4,000 hours, right now we’re down to 3000 hours and I can clean each and every one.

Hattie Jane Rollins:

In a 24 hour turnaround and here you go out the door and it’s out there lasting. So it’s a preventative maintenance, basically is the main thing for these fleets and people to watch with their vehicles. Even an individual owner, the pickup trucks, basically they say between 80 and 120,000, get the first cleaning done on these filters. I get them in here around 150 is when they’re starting to have problems with them. So yeah, follow that 80 to 120 and that filter, you can have it clean ed 10 times and the cost of cleaning it 10 times is still less than having to buy a new one. So preventative maintenance is the main thing for everybody. And if you don’t have your own program, I would be willing to work with people to set up a program for them.

Jamie Irvine:

You’ve been listening to the Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And we’ve been speaking with Hattie Jane and Wayne Rollins owners of DPFRegeneration.com to learn more, go to dpfregeneration.com. Hattie Jane, thank you so much for being on the Heavy-Duty Parts Report.

Hattie Jane Rollins:

Thank you Jamie, for having me here. We really appreciate it.

Jamie Irvine:

And Wayne, really appreciate your contribution as well to our conversation today.

Wayne Rollins:

Thank you – it was great. I hope I helped some people out there.

Hattie Jane Rollins:

And meet up some time for a coffee.

Jamie Irvine:

There we go – all the audience of the Heavy-Duty Parts Report, you can stop in at DPFRegeneration.com and get yourself a coffee and meet Hattie Jane, and Wayne. So thank you so much. We’ll talk again. Thank you so much for tuning into this week’s episode of the Heavy-Duty Parts Report. I’m your host, Jamie Irvine. And I’d just like to remind everyone to focus on cost per mile and let’s keep those trucks and trailers rolling.

Disclaimer: This content and description may contain affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, The Heavy-Duty Parts Report may receive a small commission. 


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