The railroad industry has seen a sluggish market for the last several years, with sales of new locomotives down and railroad companies tightening their belts. In a low-performing economy, how does a builder and innovator like NRE keep going strong?
According to Mike Zerafa, Assistant Vice President of Business Development at NRE, there are two keys to the company's ongoing success: strong roots and deep diversity.
No matter the market, circumstances can play into an NRE strength. In the current downturn, Zerafa says, railroad companies are looking to keep their current locomotives running with the most minimal downtime. That need for experienced service hits right in NRE's wheelhouse.
“NRE started off as a service business,” said Zerafa. “Then, over time, it really got focused on new locomotives. With the market today as it is, we've gone back to our roots, and we're doing a lot more service, component rebuilds, parts, and locomotive rehab.”
In a tight market, time is money, and NRE's broad shoulders — and ability and willingness to travel — save clients that vital resource.
“Our mobile field service division has done an excellent job in the market,” Zerafa said.
“We're able to go out into the field, as opposed to a customer having to ship their locomotive in to one of our shops and incurring that expense and downtime. We're going out to them. Our field service has really contributed to the type of market that we're seeing, where the desire is to get repairs done quickly to get the equipment up and running.”
Plus, as an industry powerhouse in product development and inventory, NRE has the parts on hand right when they're needed. “We've got key components in our inventory, so we can ship directly from our own inventory to minimize downtime,” Zerafa said.
If a client does need an economical option for new (to them) equipment, NRE still has them covered, with the largest inventory of secondhand locomotives in the market.
“We call them 'qualified locomotives,' since they've proven themselves in the field,” said Zerafa.
Customers purchasing a qualified locomotive from NRE need not worry that they'll be forced to choose something that doesn't fully meet their needs. Even with secondhand locomotives, NRE will work with the customer to provide exactly the equipment needed.
“We customize the locomotive to what they need,” Zerafa said. “If they want it completely overhauled, we overhaul it. If they just want it qualified and painted, we do that. It's a mixture. We're flexible.”
With NRE's quality reputation, they even have managed to secure some big-ticket new sales in the down economy. NRE has just sold a new 1GS7B 700 HP N-ViroMotive Ultra Low Emissions Switcher locomotive to an industrial commodity company in Canada. The locomotive will be the Canadian company's second fleet N-ViroMotive.
Zerafa says industrial commodity operators looking to improve their environmental footprint are one sector that's still simmering, and NRE is their top choice.
“We're seeing a lot of inquiries for locomotives, especially N-ViroMotive, by the industrials,” said Zerafa. “They, of their own accord, are buying green, environmentally friendly machines. They may have other environmental responsibilities within their factories, so having an environmentally sound piece of equipment is one less thing to worry about.”
Zerafa says there's a good reason this customer, as others, has chosen to purchase multiple N-ViroMotive units from NRE.
“Customers come back because the product's been around since 2008. It's not a new development any more; it's a mature design for us,” said Zerafa. “So the reliability of the machines is very good. The service that we provide, the availability of the components, and the support we give the product is all mature and proven. It's reliable. It's not like it's a brand-new machine, new design, new development, and they're left with 'Where do I get the components from? What if something's wrong?' This has been around since 2008.”
With unmatched expertise, innovative development, and industry-leading commitment to customers, NRE's products, and NRE, have been, and will be, in it for the long haul.