Proheat finds success in creating client/partner relationships
Partnering with others, when done right, makes everything easier. Partnering saves time and money and uncovers opportunities for growth. Mike Lowrie, product designer at Proheat, a division of Seastar Solutions, shares some insights for how building relationships with other divisions in the organization and how forging a partnership-style relationship with customers, has helped Proheat make great products even better.
Q: What makes Proheat successful so far and what will drive your success in the future?
“I think one of our biggest successes is our ability to partner with OEM customers and end users,” says Lowrie. Proheat have a number of competitors, such as Webasto and Spheros, and it is their partnership approach to customer service that sets them apart. Lowrie adds, “We will even fly down to the customer to work out a problem with a member of their staff. It can be a customer service person, or it can be an engineer such as myself. For instance, a customer in Chicago had a problem with the product and so I went down and verified that it was not performing as specified.” Lowrie explained that there was something wrong with the product, but it turned out it was a problem with the customer’s system causing excessive transients (a very high voltage spike) that was causing the problem. Even though the issue came from the customer’s end, Proheat developed a solution, an add-on kit. “The customer was really impressed with how we delivered beyond the product as specified. The end user was a transit bus company, and when an issue takes place that affects daily commuters, they know we will be there to deliver,” says Lowrie.
Q: Idle reduction for diesel powered vehicles and equipment: Why should this interest EP&T’s readership?
“Ever sat on a cold bus?” asks Lowrie. “Our products are put into vehicles that allow you to preheat or produce supplemental heat to a unit. For instance, for transit customers, we have a high BTU coolant heater that allows fleet managers to heat buses without using bus engines. Using our technology, the diesel-powered heater preheats the engine to ensure quick and reliable starts while reducing engine wear.” For Proheat’s customers, it saves money, time and the environment, and it has been trusted in the transit industry for over 15 years.
Q: That is fantastic, and for most of our readership in the East, they can certainly appreciate how important a warm bus is to a commuter. What should we look forward to in the future for Proheat?
“We are developing more compact systems, more feature enhancements and additional user interaction capabilities. For instance, we want to produce more BTUs in a smaller package, which will expand our capabilities as well as extend our market penetration.” Says Lowrie. Lowrie couldn’t comment on additional user interaction that they have in store, however, he did mention that by taking advantage of mobile devices one could show the user how well the product is performing. This product performance data could help the user determine how efficiently it is running, how much money they have saved, and more quickly gather diagnostic information so that maintenance can be provided at a more effective interval.
Q: You also used to work on the larger, marine division at Seastar Solutions, formerly Teleflex Marine. What can you share about Seastar Solutions and how much do you guys collaborate between Seastar Solutions and Proheat.
“I actually started as a student at Teleflex Marine in 2003, and in 2009 I moved into the Proheat side. Seastar Solutions is a leading designer and manufacturer of equipment for the recreational boating industry. They do a lot of great stuff, such as the Optimus 360 which was launched earlier this year which is a steer by wire with additional joystick control system allowing 360 degree movement of your boat.” Says Lowrie. This means you can literally joystick the movement of a boat to move in any direction, including moving laterally and rotationally at a standstill. That’s pretty slick. Lowrie adds, “As for collaboration, we collaborate on a daily basis. We do peer reviews on our design, and we discuss design concepts with each other. There is a lot of interaction between the two groups on the electronics side.”
How does this give Proheat an edge against its competition?
“We have staff on the marine side who have been involved in the automotive industry as well. To be able to tap into both the marine and automotive side allows us gain excellent insights into how to create long lasting products in extreme environments,” explains Lowrie. Proheat can create great products, but by having the Seastar Solutions team on hand to review and critique their designs can sometimes result in even greater results.
Q: Do you have any advice for a budding entrepreneur?
“Use as many resources as you can to gain knowledge. Partner both with your customers and with your peers. Even if you have a team member who works in another division, find ways to interact and gather feedback from them. Be there for your customers when problems arise, even if it is not related to your product, because by doing this, your end product will flourish.” Proheat is a growing Richmond, BC based division of Seastar Solutions.