Wright & Filippis drives down costs

Monday, November 29, 2010

ROCHESTER, Mich. – Wright & Filippis has a cab ride in Las Vegas to thank for a new initiative that will not only save the provider money but also make it more “green.”

“Our leadership was attending Medtrade West three years ago and took a cab that was powered by propane,” said Tom Hopkins, the distribution and fleet manager at Wright & Filippis. “A.J. Filippis (president) came back and said, ‘We should be looking into this.’”

Fast forward to Medtrade in November, where Roush CleanTech announced that Wright & Filippis plans to buy 12 propane-powered vans over the next few years, transitioning about 25% of its fleet to the cleaner burning fuel. Roush, a Livonia, Mich.-based manufacturer of liquid propane-injected fuel systems for Ford vehicles, showcased one of the vans at its booth.

While a liquid propane-injected fuel system adds about $10,000 to the price tag of a vehicle, Wright & Filippis, which logs more than 975,000 miles a year, will make that up and maybe then some, Hopkins says. It expects to save thousands of dollars in fuel (propane costs about 40% less than traditional gas) and maintenance (propane-powered vehicles require less service because their engines don’t get as corroded).

Cost savings aside, it’s an initiative Wright & Filippis can feel good about environmentally, Hopkins says.

“We’re constantly looking for these kinds of opportunities,” he said. “We have, as many people do, an extensive cardboard and paper recycling program; we’ve implemented a UPS logistics routing technology; and we’ve installed a motion sensing lighting system in our facilities.”

It also helps that Wright & Filippis will defray much of the costs of the initiative through a grant from Ann Arbor Clean Cities, a U.S. Department of Energy program that “advances the environmental, economic and energy security of the U.S. by supporting local decisions to adopt practices that contribute to the reduction of petroleum consumption in the transportation sector,” according to its website. Basically, the provider will pay for the vehicles and the grant pays for the propane-injected fuel systems.

Roush believes Wright & Filippis will help drive demand in the HME industry for propane-powered vehicles.

“The first day at Medtrade, providers wanted us to explain what we were doing there, because they didn’t see the connection,” said Todd Mouw, vice president of sales and marketing for Roush. “Then we told them what Wright & Filippis was doing and the benefits of propane, and the feedback after that was fantastic.”