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Business Aviation Is a Perfect Fit For MacNeil Automotive Products, Ltd.
Spend some time with David MacNeil, and it quickly becomes clear that he puts a premium on quality and attention to detail. The company bearing his namesake, MacNeil Automotive Products, Ltd., produces custom-designed precision-fit floor liners, floor mats, cargo compartment liners, mud flaps, side window deflectors and other protective products that are carefully crafted for a specific make and model of car, truck or SUV.
On a tour of his production facility in Downers Grove, IL, a visitor can tell that MacNeil has first-hand knowledge of the highly specialized equipment and procedures involved in making sure each of his products fits the vehicle perfectly.
MacNeil explained his philosophy this way: "The customer wants a custom-fit part for their vehicle, so I tell my designers and engineers that 'close' isn't good enough, 'it will work' isn't good enough, 'it's saleable' isn't good enough and 'they won't notice the difference' isn't good enough. It has got to be perfect before we release any product for sale to our customers. Given the passion, quality, engineering, fit, finish, durability and functionality that goes into the design and development of our products, they will fulfill our customers' high expectations and are actually the best value for the money."
The focus on detail and quality that is intrinsic to MacNeil's products can be found throughout the company and extends to its commitment to customer service excellence. Little wonder then that the company relies on its two business aircraft – a Beech Bonanza G36 and a Cessna Citation CJ2+ to ensure attention to detail in the transport of MacNeil's people and products to its customers.
Reliable Transport for Real-Time Business Needs
MacNeil uses sophisticated tools to capture data and reverse-engineer complex vehicle geometry – such as floors, cargo areas, window openings and fenders – to ensure that his auto accessories meet the highest standards for fit, finish and functionality. "To have that custom fit, we have to measure every vehicle that is built," he said.
The sensitive measuring equipment will not fit in the overhead bin of an airliner, and it might be damaged if checked as baggage on a commercial flight or sent to a destination via an overnight shipper, so MacNeil prefers to carry it aboard the company's airplanes.
"Because we have our own airplanes, we don't have to worry about what the airline schedule is and transporting our very expensive technical equipment on a commercial flight. We just get in the plane, put the gear into the cargo hold and we're on our way there."
“ Our planes get us in front of our customers, eye-to-eye. That hands-on approach has been a significant factor in the growth of our company.. ”
A typical trip involves a visit to a car manufacturer to measure a new vehicle. "We find out 48 hours in advance that a new vehicle model will be available for us to measure," continued MacNeil.
MacNeil's aircraft also are used for product demonstrations and training sessions with new and existing clients. The Bonanza carries company representatives on up to 500-mile-long trips for face-toface meetings with customers. "We very often fly the Bonanza on these types of shorter trips, especially to Detroit," said MacNeil. "We'll send technical people and salespeople to meet with customers and personally discuss our products with them."
Although the G36 Bonanza is capable and economical to operate, many of MacNeil's missions require the longer-range, all-weather capabilities of his Citation CJ2+ jet. About half the time, MacNeil flies the CJ2+ single pilot, but on demanding trips he flies "crew" with another type-rated ATP.
Saving Time and Building the Business
Many of the company trips could not be made efficiently by commercial carrier. Recently, a team flew from Aurora, IL to Enterprise, AL, conducted a morning training session with a customer, had lunch, then continued on to Tupelo, MS, where they held another training session before traveling to Nashville – all in the same day. MacNeil officials met with a customer in Nashville the next morning and were back in Illinois working by midday.
"It's also quite possible to leave one morning from Chicago/Aurora Municipal Airport, go to California, have a business meeting and measure vehicles, get back in the airplane and still be back in my own bed the same night," MacNeil said. "And we can be back at work the next day being productive."
MacNeil's Citation CJ2+ even has been used for international missions. Company engineers recently flew aboard the aircraft to Caracas, Venezuela, to measure vehicles, making one stop for fuel in Miami. They left South America with a half-million-dollar order in hand.
MacNeil is planning more overseas flights. Working with the Department of Commerce, he recently set up business prospecting trips to Moscow, Kiev, Prague and Frankfurt. The Citation will make it possible for company representatives to travel with Commerce Department officials to these markets, where they can explore opportunities to export American-made products produced by highly skilled American workers.
Regardless of the destination, a key reason why MacNeil trips are so efficient is because they start at uncongested Aurora Airport, which is located outside of Chicago's busy airspace, yet is only about a 30-minute drive from the company's headquarters. Even if MacNeil people could fly from O'Hare or Midway, they wouldn't. "Why would I want to put up with delays? Time is too valuable," declared MacNeil.
MacNeil adds that saving time is a priority for all of his employees, and efficient use of the company's airplanes helps preserve the quality of life for staff with extensive travel demands. "We have people trying to raise children in a fast-paced environment," said MacNeil. "Before you know it, they are grown and gone. The Citation makes the difference between sleeping in a hotel and being at your son's Little League game."
Although travel time saved is a primary reason why the company uses business aviation, the ability to see more customers is just as important. David MacNeil believes that marketing is a key to success. "If you have a great product and no one knows about it, what good does it do you?" he says.
In the final analysis, however, business aviation is just another extension of MacNeil's attention-to-detail approach to doing business. "The bottom line is that people do business with people," MacNeil said. "Our planes get us in front of our customers, eye-to-eye. That hands-on approach has been a significant factor in the growth of our company." It's growth that would be much harder to achieve without the ability to visit customers regularly and easily using business aircraft.