That’s why we make products powerful enough and reliable enough, to meet the most demanding performance requirements. It’s also why our team always goes above and beyond to meet our customers’ most demanding requests. We recently sat down with Jim Johnson, Illinois Blower President, to hear how he rose to meet a particularly demanding challenge.
The Idea: Let’s Take the Truck!
It was Easter weekend, a time when many people like to sit back, relax and celebrate with family. Sometimes, however, weekends don’t follow best-laid plans. Late that Friday, Jim received a call from one of Illinois Blower’s biggest customers, a power generation company desperately needing two new motors for their industrial fans. The biggest problem—they needed them Monday morning. The issue wasn’t manufacturing the motors, as Illinois Blower already had two in their factory, ready to go. No, the challenge was logistics—how do you get two motors weighing 3,000 pounds from the Illinois Blower factory outside Chicago to New Mexico over a holiday weekend, which made using a standard shipping company exorbitantly expensive, if not impossible.
Well, Jim rose to that challenge by doing something that many people would think was absurd, but Jim felt that it was merely providing the quality service his customers deserved: he would drive the motors himself, in his pickup truck, across the country, over the holiday weekend.
The Drive: 1,300 Nail-Biting Miles
Jim loaded the motors into the back of his Ford pickup, and Saturday morning, his coworker Dan sitting in the cab beside him set out for the 21-hour, 1,300-mile drive. Driving that far can be challenging anytime, but Mother Nature was particularly uncooperative that weekend. First were torrential rainstorms, which seemed to empty over St. Louis, so dense that roads became flooded and visibility vanished. Jim would later describe it as “like someone was spraying a hose on the windshield.” Reluctantly, Jim and Dan gave up the drive after less than six hours, staying at an old, rundown motel to catch a few winks before heading back out on the road the next day.
Overnight, the weather shifted from rain to snow. But that next morning, Jim and Dan headed out on the slippery, icy highway. At mid-day, they hit Branson, MO, which had been hit by a tornado only hours earlier, leaving an eerie darkness and a trail of broken homes. “It was like driving through a disaster movie,” remembered Jim, describing the surreal and chilling drive. Then again, maybe they were lucky—if they hadn’t been forced to stop at that fleabag motel the night before, Jim and Dan might have found themselves driving through those life-threatening conditions. Jim couldn’t help but ask himself, “Am I nuts for doing this?” It wasn’t the first time he asked himself that question on this trip, and it wouldn’t be the last.
Jim and Dave drove all day and all night, stopping only for routine food and bathroom breaks. The two heavy motors weighed down the back of their truck, nearly tipping it over backward as they drove up steep inclines, something that became more consistent and more concerning as the highway wiggled through ever-rising mountains and up steep, hilly roads.
Still, Jim and Dan drove on.
The Ending: Happily Safe and Sound
Finally, Monday morning, Jim and Dan pulled up to the New Mexico factory, exhausted but safe, where the grateful workforce waited to unload their truck. When they were done, Jim gave a wave and turned the truck around for the long drive back home … although not before he and Dan stopped off for some congratulatory tacos at a nearby restaurant.
Illinois Blower has worked with that New Mexico power generation company for 30 years. That long might sound like an impressively long relationship, but it’s typical for Illinois Blower, and it’s a testament to their clients’ loyalty. It’s also a reflection on how Illinois Blower prioritizes great service. Of course, not every client needs a motor driven across the country over a holiday weekend, but every one of its clients appreciates how Illinois Blower always goes that extra mile for them.