How Thermo King turned around an operational crisis in 3 weeks.

About Thermo King:

Thermo King, a brand of Ingersoll Rand, leads the world in manufacturing and innovating transport temperature control systems. With nine plants in six countries, Thermo King supports a parts and distribution system that can deliver 20,000 parts, anywhere in the world, overnight.

"Zoho Creator is a great platform that can cover 90% of an organization's development requirements. If you need something right now, and you want to customize it for something that you don't have a solution for, then Zoho Creator is a quick and accurate way to implement a process. A custom software solution up-and-running in 3 weeks—incredible!"

-Terry Jaecks, Customer Service & After-Sales Manager

Thermo King had a situation where they had to recall engines from the field, and wanted to manage the situation in a very short time frame. They were looking for a solution that was quick to implement, and wanted to ensure that it didn't affect their customers and dealers.

Key issues

Thermo King wasn't sure how they were going to get the engines swapped. They had a huge cross-functional group of people get together, and at one point, were looking to develop training manuals and programs for dealers to manage the situation. Then the plan was to build up engines in multiple kits, depending on the configuration, and manage the whole operation through dealers.

"The component we were replacing was an engine—a very expensive part. We could have asked our dealers to manage the situation on their end, however that would have been a huge cash outlay for them, especially for a problem that wasn't their fault. We wanted to own the issue and solve it for our customers, and made the decision to ship the engines at no charge to our dealers."

But they needed a mechanism to make sure that the engines reached the correct places. In a normal situation, if a recall was made, 40% of the engines would be in stock before launch. In this case, the usual approach didn't work because they couldn't build the engines for suppliers fast enough.

"If we delayed the launch until we had 40% of the engines available, that would mean customers out there would keep experiencing issues with their engines as we built up inventory."

Thermo King wanted a method to distribute the engines fairly, and get them to customers who were feeling the most pain first.

It started out with a salesperson thinking through managing the process from a field perspective. Then Bob Roberts—Manager, Customer Solutions—worked on making it operational, in terms of managing work, communicating with the field, and proactively scheduling repairs with customers.

They didn't want to ship units to a dealership and wait a week for it, nor did they want their dealers to place an order just to have it on backorder.


"The reason we didn't develop this in-house was because we came across Zoho Creator and found that we could implement this much faster and stay in compliance with our security standards."

It would have taken at least 6 months if Thermo King had developed their solution in-house, then it would have to go through a thorough IT security audit and each dealer would need access approvals to the company's single sign-on (SSO).

"That's why the timing of Zoho Creator was so critical—we really needed somebody who could partner with us and turn a program around quickly and accurately."

Thermo King had meetings with the Zoho Creator team to define what had to be accomplished, and in a short time, the team put together a proof of concept. When something required changing or needed fixing, the team resolved it in the span of a business day.

"We needed that level of support in order to move forward. Our launch experience was incredible."

In terms of other options out there, Thermo King evaluated and found that they'd take longer to implement, and some of the solutions couldn't do what they needed to do without in-depth business case and planning.

"This was 'design as we go,' so that collaboration between the developer and business managers is what made the difference."

The solution helped Thermo King ensure that they didn't produce even one more engine—a large expense on its own—than they needed to. It was critical for the program that they didn't run out of engines, but also didn't have a surplus.


Zoho Creator enabled the end-to-end management of Thermo King's engine repower program. The tool allows Thermo King to support customers by quickly getting them a brand new engine into their equipment, extending the life of the current unit and making it more reliable.

When a dealer makes an order on the tool, the after-sales team is notified via email. When a shipment is ready, another email is triggered back to the dealer with the order and shipment details. This process keeps automatic email history logs that the team can go back to and verify, should the need arise.

Dashboards are used to monitor progress at a program and a customer level. The application allows Thermo King to make sure they're handling customers fairly, proactively report progress, and prioritize customers who are facing the most problems.

Instead of dealers wondering how many engines are available, the tool communicates that to them, and when they need one, they use the tool to communicate back to Thermo King.

"The application is well structured, collects the data, and allows us to report off of the data, so that we know what percent is complete, which dealers have received engines, and which customers they're going to. That allows us to completely manage the program all from one location."

Zoho Creator allowed Thermo King to display availability, schedule dates to ship using a calendar interface, inform customers of service availability, and meet the business goal of delivering on time and managing schedules efficiently.

"If we didn't have a solution like Zoho Creator, then this would all have to be handled through email and informal communication. This would've quadrupled the amount of emails and phone calls we have today."

The vendor portal feature enabled dealers to sign up and manage their own usernames and passwords, without any assistance from Thermo King. It gave Thermo King the ability to display engine availability and manage production that reflected the volume they were able to produce.

"The portal was absolutely critical for us. It made a HUGE difference."

Thermo King has 800+ people across North America—some retiring, quitting, moving on, or joining the company, and up to 4 people at each dealership interact with the tool. Managing usernames and passwords on a case-to-case basis just wasn't a feasible option for a team already tasked with managing the engine repower program.


"The biggest impact is that we've been able to meet our customers' needs. We are 6 months ahead of where we thought we'd be at this time. The tool has really helped us manage the flow of engines, and it has helped us reduce the number of people we'd need to manage the program."