Application Kam And Groove

How OPW helps tank truck carriers combat pandemic-induced constraints

May 2, 2022
Q&A with Fluid Handling Solutions VP on advancing digital transformation, customer communication, and overcoming supply-chain challenges

Bulk Transporter recently corresponded with Srivas Prasad, vice president and general manager of OPW’s Fluid Transfer Solutions (FTS) business unit, to learn more about what the Hamilton, Ohio-based Dover Company is doing to advance the “digital revolution” in the tank truck industry, bolster pandemic-impacted communications with customers, and overcome persistent supply-chain challenges.

Questions and answers are edited for length and clarity.

Bulk Transporter: Tell us a little about yourself. When did you join OPW? What’s your role? Work history?

Srivas Prasad: I joined OPW at the end of August 2021 as vice president and general manager of the OPW Fluid Transfer Solutions business unit. I had worked with many diversified industrial manufacturing companies throughout my career before OPW, during which I learned that I enjoy building and leading teams toward growth and profitability. What ultimately drew me to OPW FTS was the complexity of the business, its global nature, market-leading brands like Civacon, OPW Engineered Systems and Midland, and the ability to come into a century-old business and lead it through its next phase of growth and profitability. I’m excited that we are developing new products and systems to lead transformation in the industry, while setting the foundation for the next stage of OPW’s growth.

BT: Now that you’ve been in your role for a while, what excites you most about the tank truck industry?

SP: The tank truck industry is rooted in older analog technology, but I’m pleased to see a general openness to the adoption of newer technologies, especially among tank truck builders. Civacon has the capability to make this new technology available to operators and fleet managers as a way to improve their operations and safety. That excites me. This is where Civacon’s CivaCommand and CivaConnect products can bring tremendous value to our tank truck customers. When they utilize these systems, they have ready, real-time access to operational data that they can use to drive efficiency. For OPW to be at the forefront of this digitalization makes it meaningful and exciting.

BT: Why is now the right time for a digital “revolution” in tank-monitoring and delivery technology, i.e., a move away from old analog technology?

SP: When you look at key dynamics in the industry, you see this: A new generation of drivers and technicians are coming into the industry who are much more familiar with and open to the use of smart technologies, such a smartphone apps. So, when we introduce this new type of digital technology like CivaCommand, the end user is much more comfortable with it, they know it won’t hurt them, it won’t go wrong for them, and they can acclimate themselves quicker. The other part of this equation is that fuel, chemical and bulk-product delivery companies are becoming much more competitive. The expectations of shareholders to realize returns are becoming much more critical. They expect a good return, and when you think of that, fleet operators and managers have to manage their capital much more effectively. When they are introduced to any new digital technology, they are forced to think deeper about it and hopefully adopt it. The COVID-19 pandemic also put a different spin on people’s thinking regarding remote work and business monitoring, specifically the new practice of accessing available data from remote locations. When you think of CivaCommand and CivaConnect, they are enablers for decision-making from a remote location. Our digital tank-monitoring product lines, which were the first such technologies in the industry, will, in the long run, provide significant value through new easy-to-use and intuitive solutions that can be monitored from anywhere in the world.

BT: With the pandemic still a factor, in what new ways are OPW’s product brands communicating with their customers?

SP: The pandemic understandably resulted in upheaval in all industries worldwide and the repercussions will continue to be felt for many years. Closest to us, the pandemic caused trade shows to be canceled or scaled down pretty dramatically, and many companies did not send employees to even the smaller trade shows in order to keep them safe and not expose them to highly populated venues. A knock-on effect of this was cost savings in a tight economic environment, which was beneficial. But at OPW we still felt it was important to maintain those interpersonal relationships with our customers, so in response to COVID-19 we tried to continue to drive our exposure to customers and give them a handle on our products by doing a couple of different things: One, a lot on social media via YouTube and LinkedIn videos so customers could continue learning about our products and, two, we created a new way to take products and demonstrations to customer sites and be much more pointed in our presentations via our “Road Show on Wheels” concept. It was a great success, and we plan to continue to use it as we move forward in a post-pandemic world. In the long term, the Road Show on Wheels enables our customers to optimize their own time, optimize their travel dollars, and stay in their own work environments, while we can bring the capabilities of our products right to their doorstep.

BT: How are ongoing supply chain issues affecting OPW’s ability to satisfy established delivery and lead times?

SP: The global supply chain constraints have impacted the overall economy and our industry at large, and OPW has not been immune. We’ve seen cases of products held up on ships waiting to berth. When ships are able to berth, there are labor constraints that are preventing their unloading. This situation has challenged our ability to meet demanding lead times, though most customers are aware of it and provide a little relief.

BT: What is OPW doing to combat supply chain issues?

SP: To combat the ongoing supply chain challenges, we have developed several new strategies:

  1. We are upgrading our machining capability at our headquarters facility in Hamilton, Ohio, through the creation of a new Center of Excellence (COE) for machining operations. The COE will help us improve overall product quality and first-time throughput rates, which will help reduce lead times.
  2. We have identified all critical components that we must have and created a dual-sourcing program, whether offshore, near-shore or in-country, that gives us multiple sources to secure critical components. There is a little give and take in this strategy because when you onshore these products, suppliers in North America are faced with similar labor and supply shortages, so we have to take a balanced approach to see how much of our supply can be acquired from our off-shore partners.
  3. We can leverage open manufacturing capacity at the various OPW sites and all the OPW leadership teams are committed to finding ways to leverage any open capacity. For example, with our recent acquisition of RegO and Acme, there is synergy with certain product lines that RegO and Acme produce that can be produced at our Midland facility. They are also looking at product lines where they can support us.

I believe the supply chain issues will continue to be with us for some time, so it is important for us to continue to look at and evaluate different supply options and our execution in these critical areas will be vitally important as we continue to support our customers.

About the Author

Jason McDaniel

Jason McDaniel, based in the Houston TX area, has more than 20 years of experience as an award-winning journalist. He spent 15 writing and editing for daily newspapers, including the Houston Chronicle, and began covering the commercial vehicle industry in 2018. He was named editor of Bulk Transporter and Refrigerated Transporter magazines in July 2020.