National Railway Equipment CEO: Adopting new technologies that “the future is bright”

As more companies seek to deploy more environmentally friendly locomotives and railroad equipment to support their sustainability programs, National Railway Equipment’s new CEO, Merritt Becker, embraces technology for its customers and its goal. We look forward to helping you make a seamless transition towards.

Freight Waves recently chatted with Becker, whose first day as NRE CEO was Wednesday. NRE is a supplier based in Mount Vernon, Illinois, servicing North American and international railways in the area of ​​locomotive services, offering new and refurbished locomotives and locomotive leasing. Becker is the successor to Stephen Beer, who died in 2020.

Becker has worked for Cummins for the past 12 years and most recently was President and Chief Executive Officer of Cummins DKSH in Thailand. Prior to Cummins, he worked for diesel engine and truck maker Navistar for over 12 years.

At NRE, Becker will work with OEM and aftermarket customers in the rail and inland waters sectors, including sector moves to deploy new technologies.

This Q & A interview was edited for clarity and length.

FREIGHTWAVES: What made you so attracted to National Railway Equipment?

Becker: “When I think about my career, what I want to do, and the companies I’ve worked for in the past, I’m intrigued by companies that value family values ​​that compete in a global space, especially small companies. .. And before joining NRE, I knew them. I worked indirectly with them through Camins as a customer, and I knew their reputation, and they I was really impressed with the beer family and what they were able to do by taking a small town in the Midwest, bringing industry to it, and utilizing its assets, and a great workforce to grow something pretty spectacular. ..

“And when we put it all together and combined it with our love for the Midwest and the small towns, we saw grandparents set up their own company in a small town in Indiana. [saw] The Importance These Companies Give to the Community — It’s great to be asked to join the NRE.

“And I think the future of the railway and inland waterways industries is bright. [as they manage] A fusion of the complexity of old technology with new technology. And we truly believe that NRE is in a unique position to attract customers and help transform fleets and features. “

FREIGHTWAVES: How can your experience with Cummins help you at NRE?

Becker: “When I first came to Cummins, I was part of an organization called Cummins Crosspoint. They were a 50/50 joint venture with Cummins. It’s the distribution side: sales and service, aftermarket. And when I came from Navistar, I was also on the parts side and the aftermarket side of the business.

“But one of the things that attracted me was not just to sell new products, but to find issues that were difficult to repair or manage and come up with solutions.”

FREIGHTWAVES: What do you think NRE has the opportunity to serve its rail and inland waterway customers?

Becker: “Currently, there are two areas the industry is working on. This year, we’ll set aside all the supply chain challenges and what everyone else feels.

“When we talk about the convergence of this technology, let’s talk about rails. There are locomotives and equipment with old emissions capabilities. [while] Emissions may be zero. That way, you can climb the entire technology curve, down to hydrogen. And if I’m a fleet manager or a company with significant capital assets, that’s a big challenge to overcome. It’s how to convert and how to convert. So one is the technology side.

“And I think NRE can accelerate it for its customers by knowing and innovating past technologies and what they can do with new technologies, so there is a really, really bright future. , It needs people, it requires engineers and a lot of experience and technicians, and it will be a fun challenge to go out and try to help our customers that way.

“Another aspect and a bright future is that NRE has a global footprint as well as a domestic footprint that spans different industrial segments such as rail and waterways. [where] They have some bluewater history. You can also move to the mining industry or oil and gas to some extent just by providing services. And I think it’s an important space not only for our customers, but for all our suppliers and equipment manufacturers. They understand that these markets are declining and circulating, but the industry has a long and long tail and I think they need help. That’s where NRE comes in. “

FREIGHTWAVES: Is the situation the same for inland waterways? What kind of opportunity do you have?

Becker: “This is also periodic, but there is a problem with the same technology. Power, how do you incorporate those new technologies and how do you repower them? How do you use old equipment? With that new technology How do you apply that feature to better serve your customers? Uptime is everything. It’s not cheap, so it’s all about keeping efficiency and the equipment up and running. “

Merritt Becker, new CEO of the National Railway Equipment. (Photo: National railway equipment)

FREIGHTWAVES: Is the technology integration a gradual transition where old and new equipment are used at the same time, or will the integration be more rapid?

Becker: “I think it’s a step-by-step step. When you think about these technologies that the other brand suppliers are coming up with, and the customers there who are struggling to transfer their technologies to their fleet, it’s I think it will only happen gradually.

“Now we have a pocket. They have the resources to do it, so there will be some large customers making investments. But I really do the majority of people do it step by step. I believe we’re going to push it forward, and that’s where you’ll see some players who will survive through those cycles and their longevity. And you’re not some of it. But I think long-term players in the industry are aware that their customers are facing these challenges. We are unique in helping them migrate. We need to come up with a solution and some innovations. ”

FREIGHTWAVES: What do you mean when talking about technology? operation? safety?

Becker: “Mainly I’m talking about power and power generation, and locomotive power … So you think about diesel and all alternative fuels, and with electrification down to hydrogen, we Think about how to manage power, or control, and most importantly, how it integrates into, for example, a new locomotive or a refurbished locomotive. Do you bring things in at once or in stages? And I think that’s what our customers need. “

FREIGHTWAVES: What do you think are the key points from the recent supply chain challenges and the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years?

Becker: “I don’t think there is one answer to the supply chain, so I would like to comment. In fact, I think transparency and communication have helped everyone, both as a supplier and as a customer.

“One of the things I know is that you don’t have enough information to make decisions, especially regarding the production and availability of equipment. That’s bad information or information you don’t like. It’s worse than getting … I need to know what you’re dealing with so I can make operational decisions and so on.

“So I think the supply chain will be solved with all the great players and people, and the hard work done there. But I really think the best way to help is to have a communication line open. I believe it’s about making sure that you’re transparent about what’s going on so that people can make decisions. “

FREIGHTWAVES: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Becker: “NRE’s teammates have died in the last two years (let’s call it three years), plunged into a pandemic, the industry is declining and it’s flowing. The company is in a position to fight to move forward and accelerate. Is noteworthy and unbelievable. And it’s not without a lot of effort, a lot of commitment, and frankly a lot of sacrifices, and I think they should be acknowledged for that. increase.”

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