Peterson Manufacturing says innovation — from concept to market — sets them apart

Grandview, Mo.—In 2010, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration launched the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program, which included the Safety Measurement System (SMS), a system designed to monitor and analyze all safety-based violations committed by heavy-duty commercial fleet vehicles and their drivers.


“The CSA is keeping records of the over-the-road trucks and fleets to determine on-road performance in order to identify unsafe vehicles,” said Mark Assenmacher, marketing director for Peterson Manufacturing Co., an innovator in the production of vehicle safety lighting, reflectors, electrical harnesses and related heavy-duty products. “They are reviewing and scoring the fleets and drivers’ operational metrics. Fleet and maintenance directors are trying to protect their ratings and drivers in a number of ways, and one of which is maintaining operational lighting.”


Vehicle safety lights are one of the few observable violations that a highway patrolman can immediately see and cite. Many fleets are making changes to their lighting systems in order to avoid those citations, while enhancing the overall effectiveness of vehicle safety lighting on heavy-duty/fleet trucks, said Steve Meagher, vice president of sales for Peterson Manufacturing.


One major push, he said, has been the implementation of LED lights, which Peterson designs, manufactures, and markets under its Piranha brand.


“LED lights are a superior product and last six to 10 times longer than traditional bulb assemblies,” Meagher said. “As a result of the regulations and the price point on LEDs getting closer to the incandescent lights, we are seeing more and more trucks and trailers outfitted with LEDs.”


And while LEDs have extended the life expectancy of the lights, the light is only as good as the wiring harness that connects to the assembly, which can often become corroded, leading to major component failures, he said.


The corrosion occurs, Assenmacher said, as a result of a mixture of road chemicals that develops on the undercarriage of trailers as trucks drive through different weather patterns.


“We call it the chemical cocktail,” he said, “and it is causing corrosion, which is the No. 1 issue for producing ineffective equipment — something fleets want to avoid.”


Five years ago, in response to the corrosion issue that so many fleets were facing, Meagher said Peterson Manufacturing began R & D on a modular harness/lighting system, resistant to corrosion. One year later, the Peterson Defender System was manufactured and sold to replace traditional electrical harness systems.


“For 25-30 years, the R & D on traditional harness systems had been limited,” Meagher said. “We designed significant improvements and took it a step further with the corrosion issue, so we made the investment and created a single- source solution that is now in its fourth year of production.”


Assenmacher added that the Defender System comes with a 10-year warranty, specifically covering corrosion, and is currently installed on a number of major over-the-road fleets, and with more than three billion miles on the road, there has been little to no warranty issues.


Turning a new product such as the Defender System around in just one year, from concept to market, while maintaining strict quality control, is a testament to Peterson Manufacturing Company’s vertical integration, which allows Peterson to keep everything in house, Meagher said.


“We have 10 different divisions of Peterson Manufacturing,” said Meagher, adding that the company’s 670,000-square-foot campus, with 450 employees, houses management, sales, engineering, research and development, manufacturing and assembly, quality control, purchasing, shipping, receiving, and warehouse departments.


“All our core items are made right here on the campus,” he added. “We design our own tools, cut our own tools, and mold our own parts. Being a USA manufacturer really differentiates us from others in the industry, and right now, we are seeing more companies than ever basing their purchase decisions on ‘Made in the USA.’”


One of the major benefits to vertical integration is avoiding the hold-up problem that often occurs when relying on others in the supply chain, Meagher said.


“We can go to the customers, talk to them, find out what they need or have issues with, and start engineering solutions for them,” he said. “The overseas importers and suppliers don’t have the ongoing product development, and that’s what differentiates us from them — we offer a total electrical solution for our customers.”


Peterson Manufacturing will soon be celebrating its 70th year in business, and while much has changed in the company that got its start in the tire pump and horn business, before finding its niche in lighting, one thing has remained the same, and that is the focus on the customer, Meagher said.


“Business is so complicated today. You have to look at the whole program — price, quality, service, innovation, new products, lead times, and customer service — you call into Peterson, you are going to get a live person. Guaranteed.”


Assenmacher added that Peterson Manufacturing is reaching out to its customers through a number of social media avenues as well.


“We have a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, a YouTube channel, and a LinkedIn page,” said Assenmacher, adding that Peterson is also releasing a new corporate video that we will be available throughout the 2013 tradeshow season. For more information on Peterson Manufacturing or to request the 2013 corporate video or master catalog, contact Assenmacher at

Parts & People

Parts & People is published monthly by Automotive Counseling and Publishing Company, Inc., a Colorado corporation, P.O. Box 18731 Denver, CO 80203, 303-765-4664. President-Lance Buchner. Founded by Lance Buchner and Dave Lucia.

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