Adrian Steel invested $4.7 million in a new Kansas City facility to support upfitting for the Ford Transit and F-150. Photo courtesy of Adrian Steel.

Adrian Steel invested $4.7 million in a new Kansas City facility to support upfitting for the Ford Transit and F-150. Photo courtesy of Adrian Steel.

Adrian Steel’s new Kansas City, Mo., facility was built from the ground up to take care of small fleets up to the largest fleets. The 11-acre site encompasses a 32,000-square-foot plant to support installing cargo management solutions for the Ford full-size Transit van and F-150 pickup truck.

“We are very proud of our ongoing relationship with Ford Motor Company and look forward to contributing to the future of the Ford Transit,” said Bob Browns, director of Installer Operations at Adrian Steel.

As an authorized Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifier (QVM), Adrian installs trade packages, shelving, partitions, ladder racks, and other cargo management solutions for the new Ford Transit commercial van.

“The installation facility is a key component in the process, but not the only investment Adrian Steel makes in the customer,” said Dave Ritz, North American fleet manager for Adrian Steel. “The way Adrian Steel defines cargo management is different than other upfitters. We see offering cargo management solutions as a journey, not a destination. The process starts with engaging the customer on the front-end to design, develop, test, and validate the right products for each fleet and ensure that it performs up to their expectations. We manage the entire ordering fulfillment process and continue with after-delivery services. We continue to invest in our client by reviewing completed vehicles in service. We know one thing is true: The cargo the customer is carrying today will change in the near future, so the solution must change with it.”

Browns summed it up: “Our strategy is to take care of our customers not only when working on the design of what their cargo management is going to be, but also all the way to after-delivery.”

Built From the Ground Up

The facility, which began operations in April 2014, is located just four miles south of Ford KCAP, in what has been termed as “automotive alley.” While many auto companies in the area operate underground in the Hunt Midwest Subtropolis, Adrian’s state-of-the-art plant was built above ground and features 4,000 square feet of office space and a massive 28,000-square-foot installation space, as well as an adjacent eight-acre parking lot.

“Our new Kansas City building was designed from the ground up with our specific business in mind,” Browns explained. “Our facilities and parking are all close together, which gives our customers added convenience.”

While the cost to do business underground would have been less expensive for Adrian, the company felt the investment would put them in a better position to take care of its fleet customers. Browns took all of Adrian Steel’s experience and expertise from upfitting Ford Econoline models at the Ohio Assembly plant and worked directly with Hunt Midwest to lay out the new plant strictly for Transit vans.

All Fleet Sizes Welcome

According to Jeff Warnecke, VP of sales at Adrian Steel, there is no volume too small or too big for the new facility to handle. The building was designed so the company could run three assembly lines full time. It is also important for Adrian Steel to meet, if not exceed, its customers’ expectations when it comes to delivery times.

“We can handle the smallest fleet up to the largest,” Warnecke said. “So, we can ramp up or ramp down production based on our customers’ needs.”

New Quality Initiatives Reduce Risk

Adrian Steel strives to ensure the highest quality in all of its cargo-based solutions. To continue building on its reputation of providing only the best products for customers, the company recently began focusing on managing risk for both the customer and itself.

“As we looked at our ship-thru facilities such as Kansas City, one of the things that Bob [Browns] and I worked on was how we continuously improve our first-time quality on the floor,” stated Dick Rose, VP of Engineering and Quality for Adrian Steel. “And, out of that focus is a quality initiative that now focuses on standardized work that is very visual. We provide our technicians with a little text and a lot of pictures on how to install each one of the products correctly.”

Another recent quality initiative that underscores Adrian’s dedication to its fleet customers includes an install and sequencing process tested before production begins.

The process involves the team taking one vehicle and installing every product in the order that the ship-thru facility, such as Kansas City, wants to build.

New quality initiatives were rolled out January 1, at Adrian’s Kansas City and Baltimore locations, and the company expects to conduct a year-to-year measurement and compare each of its facilities from a performance standpoint.

New Facility’s Alt-Fuel Conversions

The new Kansas City facility also provides fleets with a one-stop shop for alt-fuel conversions, including compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) — also known as propane autogas — and hybrid systems, made possible through a strategic partnership with National Fleet Services. And, even though the market for alt fuels has changed over the past year, many fleets still need support in this area.

Adrian Steel's new facility will support the installation of cargo management solutions for the full-size Ford Transit van. Photo courtesy of Adrian Steel.

Adrian Steel's new facility will support the installation of cargo management solutions for the full-size Ford Transit van. Photo courtesy of Adrian Steel.

“From a sustainability standpoint, we have clients that are interested and we can now support alt-fuel vehicles with in-house installation,” said Dave Ritz, North American fleet manager for Adrian.

Adrian’s partnership with National Fleet Services created an in-house, QVM-certified alt-fuel installer with Ford. National Fleet uses Adrian’s labor pool to install the alt-fuel systems.

“This flexibility gives us the opportunity to take care of client needs from both an alt-fuel perspective and a cargo management solution perspective, so we can do it all for them,” Ritz explained.

This unique partnership allows Adrian customers to take advantage of multiple alt-fuel manufacturers, including those that produce bi-fuel applications.

Moving forward, Adrian will continue investing in its fleet customers by remaining proactive, ensuring quality, and providing the best ship-thru solutions possible.

“We have an overall commitment to our clients and Ford to take care of their needs and offer them the right solutions,” Browns said.

Originally posted on Automotive Fleet

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Cheryl Knight

Cheryl Knight


Cheryl Knight has more than 20 years of editing and writing experience on topics ranging from advanced technology, to automotive fleet management, to business management.

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