February 17, 2022
Original Publish Date: Spring 1989
Source: Altorfer PowerHouse
Hundreds of customers recently helped celebrate the grand opening of Altorfer Machinery Company’s new Truck Engine Service Center in Cedar Rapids.
Located next to the company’s headquarters, the new truck center is the result of a commitment by Altorfer management to better serve not only the growing truck engine market, but the heavy construction customers as well.
“With the new facility, we feel we are more focused on our response to our customers’ needs in both segments of our business,” said Bruce Altorfer, executive vice president of the machinery company. “We looked at several different options for increasing our capacity for truck engine repair, and decided this was the best move for our customers.”
POWERED BY HOWARD
Among guests at the open house were present customers as well as several former Altorfer employees, including Howard Gibson, the first truck mechanic for the company. Many customers will remember the “Powered by Howard” stickers he used to attach to the truck cabs after he finished working on an engine.
“Howard was an excellent mechanic and developed a nationwide reputation,” said Jim Altorfer, president of the company. “That sticker became recognized around the industry and promoted Howard Gibson and Altorfer Machinery as a reliable source for truck engine service. That’s really how we got started in the truck engine repair business.”
SYMBOLIC OF GROWTH
The new building is symbolic of how that business has grown since Altorfer first started servicing Caterpillar engines in the late 1960s. Caterpillar had introduced its first engine model, the D468, in 1935.
“As the truck engine market grew and as the need for service grew, we added servicemen as well,” said Jim Altorfer. “As the 80s developed, business started to turn around, and the introduction of the 3406 engine was a resounding success. I would say for the past 18 months to two years, we have seen a continual increase in the need for truck engine service.”
That need prompted the construction of the new truck center, freeing needed space in the original building for repair work on heavy equipment.
“For our customers who are Caterpillar users but not truck engine users, this new facility effectively increases our service capability for heavy equipment by 40%,” said Bruce Altorfer. “So we have not only increased our truck engine capacity, but we have increased our heavy equipment repair capacity.”
BUILDING WAS DESIGNED FOR USE.
Besides the increased shop area, the new building features improved lighting, management offices, a large library that houses service manuals and reports, a training area for customers and sales representatives and a unique driver’s lounge. The lounge includes a shower, sofa, desk and a large window overlooking the shop area that allows drivers to watch as their equipment is serviced.
“We designed the driver facilities with the driver’s comfort in mind,” said Lyle Musel, parts and service operations manager who oversaw construction of the building.
Eight mechanics work at the truck center that is large enough to service eleven trucks at one time. It features four bays on one side of the shop that are 60 feet long, large enough to contain two truck/tractors in each bay. An exhaust system to vent fumes outdoors through the roof keeps the building free from air pollution while a sweeper automatically scrubs down the work area after the truck is moved out.
“We place strong emphasis on cleanliness in the shop,” said Bruce Altorfer. “Every truck engine is automatically steam-cleaned before work is begun on it.”
DEDICATED TO SERVICE
Loren Neubauer, Altorfer’s parts and service sales manager, is also in charge of overseeing truck engine operation. Gary Lehman is in charge of truck engine sales and Larry Allard is service manager. The staff also consists of a foreman, assistant service manager, parts salesperson and parts and service representative who will be calling on customers.
Those customers come from an area that covers 26 counties in eastern Iowa, 13 counties in northeast Missouri and three counties in Illinois. “But the truck market we serve is really nationwide because of our proximity to Interstate 80,” said Jim Altorfer.
“I think that’s the biggest feature for us and the customer,” he added. “When truckers come in to our service center, they know they’re dealing with a facility and people who are dedicated to Caterpillar truck engine repair.”
“Our customers are the reason for our existence,” said Neubauer. “With the grand opening of our new truck engine center, we’ve demonstrated our commitment to the trucking industry and to our many loyal customers.”