Take it to the limit: Hyundai Translead

Headquartered in California, with manufacturing plants in Mexico, Hyundai Translead is humble in its approach to providing the road transport fleets of North America with durable, efficient trailing equipment. It also stands out in the market for its industry-leading achievements in customer experience and innovation.
Hyundai Translead.

Just prior to the beginning of the global Covid-19 pandemic, January 2020, Sean Kenney joined Hyundai Translead as the OEM’s Chief Sales Officer.

Over the past three years he has been busy organising and leading the company’s sales organisation across all product lines while consistently involving himself in all the other functions as needed. Being an engineer by background, Sean also participates specifically in product development where Hyundai Translead engineers are focused on their next innovation.

“I work with, our business strategy team to formulate longer term strategies for both commercial and product,” he said. “However, my role also has that flexibility where I can get involved in any area of the business needed including finance, operations, and supply chain.”

Inter-departmental cooperation is encouraged at Hyundai Translead, for the benefit of the end user, and so Kenney also works closely with Brian Jung, the Director of Business Strategy, to ensure alignment in their activities.

“Over the past three years, we’ve put a number of systems in place that enhance the customer experience. Interestingly, a number of those system elements were extended to internally facing aspects of the business providing other reporting and system elements for us in separate areas of the business such as the manufacturing operation.”

The challenges of Covid-19 prompted Hyundai Translead to adapt its customer experience strategy.

“When I first started, the company already planned to implement a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to improve relationships with customers, increase documentation, traceability, and capture the 360-degree view of the customer,” said Kenney.

“That quickly morphed into a broader customer experience (CX) architecture. Candidly speaking, as we went into the Covid situation in the pandemic, I was actually anticipating that we would hit pause on all of it. I was actually rather surprised, and quite excited, that the message from our CEO was, ‘Can you go faster?’ I think this represented acknowledgement and agreement that our commercial systems needed great investment if we were going to continue to grow in how we serve our customer. Our leadership saw the opportunity to accelerate it. And that’s what came out of it. So, ultimately, instead of pivoting, we doubled down on the strategy and accelerated from there.”

The response from customers, according to Kenney, has been fantastic.

“We basically started with the premise that our customer’s business life should mimic more of their personal life as a consumer.” he said. “As consumers we experience great convenience; information such as order, schedule, and delivery confirmation flows with speed – most of the time in a push fashion so that it fits into today’s pace of life. But when it comes to our business life, the business systems just haven’t kept up with those in the consumer space in terms of speed and flow. The feedback from it has been fantastic. We have very strong adoption across our entire customer base. Not only with our dealers, but with our direct customers as well. The feedback has been very consistent, ‘We like this. Go further, go faster.’”

Kenney’s collaboration with Jung and his team has been advantageous when looking at strategy development in a holistic sense. Looking at CX, for instance, it was Jung and his team who took the baseline commercial strategy focus and grew it even further focusing the effort to the entire customer journey. Out of that came the concept for HT360 – a tool that empowers the customer. It examines the business from every angle of the customer’s journey from acquisition to the repurchase position and includes such aspects as acquisition, financing, customer care, aftermarket parts, service provisions, and, of course, repurchase.

“HT360 looks at specific metrics and measures in things like customer care which is notoriously difficult to measure,” said Kenney. “Aspects that include aftermarket parts availability, pricing, and logistics fulfilment; those types of metrics have made it into this whole HT360 ecosystem and have been extremely well received not only by the customers, but it’s been well received inside Hyundai Translead. The business begins to say, ‘I see what we’re about; I see what the mission is here and I see where I plug in’. Brian Jung and his team have done a great job not only marketing HT360 externally, but internally as well.”

The CX software that Hyundai Translead uses allows customers and dealers to access information as efficiently and quickly as possible through a centralised portal.

“For example, if you placed an order with us, you should have your specification and the schedule for when it’s going to be built,” said Kenney.

“You should have information on how many trailers are completed and how many units are yet to be built. When will those remaining trailers be built? What line are they building on? That is what the system seeks to do – to get that flow of information out to the customer so they can make very informed decisions; it’s a move in extreme transparency.

“Initially, you might think with the operating environment over the last 18 months, customers might complain as they saw their production schedule moving around however instead, we were met with complete empathy from the customer base; an understanding and an appreciation for that transparency because they were fully informed in real-time – this allowed them to make informed equipment decisions.

“In terms of putting the power back into the customers’ hands, Hyundai Translead is doing a superb job and has more developments to follow.

“As much as we talk about the flow of information and flow of ideas and everything else, it’s about matching up to the speed of our customers’ business so that we can meet them where they’re at and keep pace with them.”

On the trailer production front, the OEM is working on some new products which are due to roll out later this year.

“These trailer innovations will apply to specific segments of fleets in some cases and other cases they’re quite broad in scope,” said Kenney.

“Last year at TMC, in 2022, we unveiled HT LinkVue which is the industry’s first surround view camera, integrated at the OEM level, and we’ll be bringing that to market this year to enhance our dry and refrigerated vans. We’ve got customers who are eager to add this to their equipment as soon as it is available. We’ve had some trials with a few customers so far and have received some great feedback – they can’t wait to get it on their equipment and use it.

“In terms of other goals, aside from our CX goal commercially, one of the biggest goals that we have is really investing in people. Anywhere from sales to productivity to business skills. We continue to improve across the business in how we are leveraging some of the new tools that we’ve developed. We are also investing in enhancing our customer management proficiency along with improving how we work with our indirect channel. In terms of productivity, we are improving how we utilise the functionality of the various software applications that we use every day. It’s a tremendous focus for us.”

Hyundai Translead, which is headquartered in California, manages a network of 22 dealers and has five regional office locations. It also has two manufacturing plants across the border in Mexico, Tijuana and Rosarito, and employs a total of about 8,000 personnel.

The OEM has strong offerings in its dry and refrigerated van trailers as well as their intermodal and flatbed products.

“Hyundai was the first to go with hot dip galvanised as a standard offering in the industry way back now – about a decade or so ago – and it forever changed the industry,” said Kenney.

“The other manufacturers were forced to go with it as customers continued to pursue a solution to the corrosive operating environment the equipment found itself in. Combine that with the ongoing development of revised panels that are stronger, lighter, constantly taking weight out and looking at corrosion, and it addresses they key issues that fleets consider.

“That being said, based on customer feedback, we’ve been more focused on delivering products that are durable, more resistant to corrosion and easier to maintain than simply cutting weight.”

Regarding current and future trends, Kenney said everything is getting intelligent now.

“Fleets have a great interest in that,” he said. “But there’s a couple of challenges to it. Number one: The technology is moving quickly. There’s a little bit of fear, uncertainty, and doubt about technology passing them by after investing and not being updated. So, if a fleet made a move to adopt a certain system and they have an asset that they intend to keep for 10 years, they have concerns about the eventual need to update that technology on their equipment.”

Another challenge Kenney points to is making the best use of data from smart, intelligent road transport equipment.

“Ultimately, if you can’t make your interpretations of a dataset actionable, then how do you determine a return on the investment? That is the general directional drive in the industry – to move towards smarter technology. The industry will get there slowly over time as the technology proves itself by impacting the customer’s operational metrics whether in maintenance, efficiency, or safety.”

On a related note, smart technology generally has its own ecosystem, which means the interoperability just isn’t necessarily there according to Kenney.

HT LinkVue is also said to be compatible with the company’s HT LinkSense offering unveiled in 2021 which seeks to create a gateway agnostic ecosystem for fleets allowing them to add smart sensing products to their equipment while sending the data through their existing telematics gateway they have already adopted.

With HT LinkVue, though, Hyundai Translead expects to see some positive benefits following the uptake of this innovation as about 45 per cent of its customers confirm trailer or heavy vehicle damage from backing up. The use of a surround view camera system should help to improve the safety of truck operators, other road users and the community as well as prevent damage to heavy vehicles and infrastructure.

The OEM is also putting the finishing touches on a brand-new iLab which is reported to represent an investment of $20 million USD. Hyundai Translead’s Innovation Lab (iLab) was built to empower greater innovation and quality of products and features to meet customer needs.

“This R&D and test centre at the Rosarito plant will include a complete state of the art road simulator inside the building. There will also be massive hydraulic systems to fully test vehicles as well as automated testing for floor ratings and more.”

Fast Fact
North American OEM, Hyundai Translead, supplies industry with dry and refrigerated trailers that feature a lightweight polymer core composite panel in the box build.

Fast Fact
The HT LinkVue trailer camera system offers drivers a surround view of the trailer. Cameras pointed in every direction provide increased awareness by reducing blind spots.

Fast Fact
Through HT360, Hyundai Translead supports the entire customer journey for fleet operators from purchasing and financing to maintenance. Going beyond producing high quality trailers, Hyundai Translead is focused on increasing the value of every product and investing in customer support.

Hyundai Translead Rosarito plant.
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