Shifting to high gear
KIM DAMEIngenuity comes from many sources. But a creative mind, fearless execution, and a dream bigger than his parent's could imagine, are the building blocks behind Monster Transmission & Performance.
Published: December 12, 2012
Published: December 12, 2012
Achilles Thomas is the mastermind behind the nationally recognized transmission remanufacturing company that he owns and operates with his parents, Kurt and Emily.
"This was his creation," Kurt Thomson said.
Kurt had owned several typical transmission shops. But his son's idea broke from the traditional mold, using internet marketing to develop a concept of online ordering for remanufactured transmissions.
When his son first pitched the idea, Kurt, who had been in the transmission business for years, was skeptical. "I told him the internet thing wasn't going to work. I've been eating humble pie ever since."
The concept took off, selling seven remanufactured transmission in its first month. "Our goal was to sell one transmission that month to cover expenses," Achilles said.
"This is a different swing on it," Kurt added, "where we rebuild it, ship it to the customer, and they put it in."
Ten years later, the business has grown into its largest and most productive location, off Broad St. in Brooksville. They started as three family members and have expanded into a staff of 25.
But Monster Transmission has broken from the mold by reinventing how used transmissions are recycled and reused. The term is "re-manufacturing" because every replaceable part is new again and the steel indestructible parts are evaluated and cleaned up to "like-brand new" condition.
Transmissions that are purchased through Monster are completely redone with brand new parts. They are second only to a brand new transmission.
The process from the moment the used transmission is pulled from the shelf to the point where it is packed and shipped involves a series of steps that transition smoothly. Nothing is left to chance when quality control is the absolute achieved outcome.
In fact, a visit to Monster and a tour of the facility is more like a theme park field trip. The atmosphere is cheerful, indicating a very friendly workplace. "We really are like a family here," Achilles said.
The facility is immaculate and far removed from what one would expect from a transmission shop. And it is a bit deceiving from the front, where a greeting area hides the production work that has made Monster Transmission nationally and internationally recognized.
Inside a comfortable room that Achilles identified as "Grand Central," several team members were addressing customer issues, from sales to support.
"We are fielding emails and calls from people all over the world," Achilles said.
Behind the offices and conference room, however, is the center of Monster Transmission & Performance. Rows of shelves holding different transmissions for every make and model, specializing in domestic vehicles, are the exact point where the remanufacturing begins.
"This is our core department," Achilles said. "These are all dirty and broken. And we turn them into something much nicer."
Monster has a network of core suppliers across the country that hunts around salvage yards and finds the cores. Thousands sit on the shelves, awaiting a customer in need of that specific one.
The core then goes to the "Tear Down" department where it is stripped, cleaned and painted. Parts made of steel, which don't wear out, are kept. Everything else is replaced with brand new parts.
The transmission is then reassembled in the Build Department by team leaders like Tony Vargas, the head builder, with 28 years of experience.
Vargas gets an organized collection of parts, somewhere near 1,000, that he then puts back together. Each transmission takes about four hours on average to reassemble.
"I get the satisfaction out of doing it right," Vargas said. "I have worked in other shops and not all shops do it right. This one is the best I've ever worked in."
Next step is the Testing Department where the remanufactured transmission is put into a vehicle and run through several checkpoints. Monster has even launched a state of the art Mustang Dynamometer that runs the transmission through fast speeds without leaving the warehouse.
The final step prepares the remanufactured transmission for shipping which is yet another carefully crafted process. Finished transmissions that make it to this point are custom packed into secured casings and sealed with the Monster Transmission & Performance guarantee.
"If a customer calls us from California and they have a '96 Chevy Pickup with a V8, 2-wheel drive, all those specifics, we come to the core area and select the appropriate transmission," Achilles explained. And the process, from start to finish, takes only a day or so.
The customer doesn't have to remove their nonworking transmission and ship it to Monster. "We have it ready to go," Achilles explained. "It really speeds up the process and cuts the time in half. They need their transmission right away."
Monster provides transmissions for everything from local county fleet vehicles to larger contracts nationwide. They also work with television stations like Spike TV and Speed Channel. "We provide some of the transmissions for cars on those car shows."
The company is also a huge contributor to community outreach projects, including a monthly "Cruise-In," which is a collaboration with Chick-fil-A. Each month they sponsor a different charity. At the end of the year, a huge celebration follows which includes each charity for the annual Toys for Tots toy drive.
"We have an array of projects we get into," Achilles said.
Nancy Holly, Monster Transmission's Community Outreach Coordinator, described the experience as "monster-izing."
The company, she said, has defied odds. They were recently awarded the 2012 Florida Company To Watch award, presented by the Florida Economic Gardening Institute.
"We are the first to receive this award," Holly said. "There were 400 candidates and they narrowed it down to 50. And we were in the top."
Now that's performance…
Name: Monster Transmission & Performance
Location: 19370 Oliver St.; Brooksville, FL 34601
Kim Dame is a correspondent for Hernando Today. She can be reached at Damewrites@yahoo.com.