North American Bus Industries Inc.'s (NABI) CEO/President Jim Marcotuli has more than 24 years of experience in manufacturing management with companies both domestic and international. He has previously been associated with several firms with the responsibility for company performance, strategic projects and process improvements, where he has served in position from president to VP of manufacturing and plant operations to global procurement.
METRO Magazine's Managing Editor Alex Roman recently spoke with "Marco," as he is known, about the company, including the three-phase move of its manufacturing processes from Hungary to Anniston, Ala., and restyling of its low-floor product line.
METRO: How does your sensitivity to process play a part in running NABI?
Jim Marcotuli: I started here in January 2009, and from that point forward, we focused on process improvement and have implemented what I consider a continuous improvement model, which causes us to continually look at process improvements. Naturally, we can't work on everything, so we prioritize the processes that are the most critical or beneficial.
How has the nation's economic situation impacted NABI since you have been there?
Since 2009, we have seen vast economic challenges in the U.S. The problem with state and local budget shortfalls, triggered by high unemployment levels, has posed many challenges for the transit operators to overcome. Many customers have reassessed their route structures, reduced service and some have delayed purchases because they were having financial difficulty operating the buses already in their fleets.
Have orders for new buses slowed in recent months due to funding issues?
Over a larger time frame, bus procurement activity has been down, relative to two or three years ago. But just recently, it is up because of a couple large solicitations, meaning large properties seeking proposals for large quantities of buses.
Did you see a pickup with ARRA funding and are you seeing a slowdown outside of these larger solicitations?
The truth is it was difficult to really decipher whether agencies that used ARRA money wouldn't have otherwise bought buses. We know some of the solicitations were funded from stimulus money and some weren't. Whether they would have done it anyhow is a question we can't answer. So, to summarize, it's hard to determine the macro-impact it had.
I understand NABI is starting to manufacture some of its bus structures in the U.S.
We have a plant that we call Plant-6, and back two-and-a-half years ago when I started at NABI, we were starting up that plant, which builds welded structures for one of our major customers and one of our product lines. The balance of our structures comes from Hungary, and we are in the process of transitioning work share from Hungary on what's not yet produced in the U.S., so that we can eventually produce and assemble much more here in Anniston, Ala. We are in that transition period now. We have built a time-phased three-step plan. We are in 'phase-two' of that plan today, where we are receiving large structural assemblies, such as walls, roof, underbody, front and rear caps, and we are welding these together here in Anniston.
We have produced six buses already in phase-two. Phase-three is out on the horizon. We haven't put a hard timetable to it yet only because we want to make sure we have fine-tuned where we are in phase-two first.