Kerlin Bus Sales & Leasing’s roots in Indiana go back nearly a hundred years—Russell Kerlin founded the Kerlin Motor Company in 1927. Then, in 1962, his son Ed sold his first Thomas Built Bus, setting the dealership on a course it has followed for sixty years and counting. In that time, and across four generations, the Kerlin family has been meeting the transportation need of schools, organizations, and institutions throughout the state, always going above and beyond the expectations of their customers with honesty, integrity, and respect.
That commitment has earned the dealership recognition as Thomas Built Dealer of the Year three times, most recently in 2021, when they were honored for their operational excellence, industry leadership, approach to new technologies like zero-emission vehicles, and commitment to educating more than 200 technicians across the state. Kerlin has also been a member of the prestigious President’s Club since 1972 and an active participant in the manufacturer’s Platinum Support Program.
Vice President, Melanie Zehr, is among the fourth generation of Kerlins to serve the Indiana community, and in describing what it means to again be named Thomas Built Dealer of the Year, she said, “Dealer of the year is such an honor. While the award looks at several things like market share, territory coverage, and training for employees, ultimately it points to our focus on taking care of our customers, which is the core of what we do here at Kerlin.”
Kerlin: Your Partner in Transportation
Kerlin’s tagline is “Your partner in transportation,” and partnership is at the heart of everything they do. As Zehr explains, “Our team has been with us a long time, so they know buses and are dedicated to them. They are focused on doing the right thing—whatever it takes to keep our customers’ buses on the road. We support our customers in whatever way they need us to, whether that’s answering questions over the phone, building buses, training their mechanics, or with parts and service. We even have four service technicians and two parts vehicles spread throughout the state, so buses can be serviced between their morning and afternoon routes.”
Choosing a DMS Provider that Prioritizes People and Processes
Kerlin had previously been using an automotive business system that had been customized specifically for buses, but they needed tighter manufacturer integration. After exploring several different dealer management systems, they identified Excede as a strong contender. From there, they met with other dealerships who were running the software so they could see it in action. However, Zehr explains that what really sealed the deal were the people and the processes. “We really liked the feeling of support Procede was offering and their commitment to helping us with the implementation process. Implementations don’t happen overnight—they take months—and we felt confident they would be with us every step of the way,” said Zehr.
A Smooth Implementation and an Investment in Training
Zehr describes the actual implementation by saying, “Implementations are a big deal for any dealership. You turn off your old system on a Friday and come into an entirely different system on a Monday, yet it all went very smoothly!” She cites thorough training as the key to her team being up and running on day one: “Prior to the implementation, each of our departments participated in instructor-led training to learn how their areas would function. Everyone also did online training based on their work area, which was helpful.”
However, what stands out the most for Zehr was the support she and the Kerlin team received during and just after the implementation. “They spent the following week with us. It meant so much to us that they were here to answer every question we had.”
As with any successful implementation, the Kerlin team also went above and beyond. “I am proud of our team,” said Zehr. “Although we chose a good time to make the transition, it was still a lot of change at once. Over time, people have continued to find the positives—there are so many things about Excede that we like!”
Post-Implementation, Kerlin Realizes the Benefits of Excede
Among the many benefits the Kerlin team has experienced since implementing Excede there are a handful that really stand out: streamlined accounting and timesheets, tighter OEM integration, and ease of use to name a few. “From an accounting standpoint, we have better control overall and there’s more consistency. It’s streamlined how we reconcile receipts, deposits, and bank accounts. The time clock app has made a big difference in how we track tech time—we used to do it manually. It’s made all these things so easy!” said Zehr.
The integration between Excede and Daimler has also had a big impact on Kerlin’s business. “It’s really simplified things for us, and we greatly appreciate the work Procede put into getting it set up—it was well worth the effort!” said Zehr. “We’re especially seeing benefits around parts. It’s great to be able to update price tapes easily and now our customers can see our parts inventory online.”
Zehr also cites the ease of use and consistent user experience across modules as an additional advantage of Excede, saying: “Excede is very intuitive: once you learn how to do one thing in it, everything else just falls into place. We had a new employee start shortly after implementation. I showed her how to do one thing in parts, and everything else was so similar, she was able to figure out how to navigate through it on her own.”
With Changes Ahead, Customers Still Come First
Looking ahead, Zehr sees the coming years as a time of change for the bus industry: “The next few years are going to be interesting. We expect to see more electric buses in the future due to an increase in federal funding. While we’re not sure exactly when and how this change will come to Indiana, we are seeing an uptick in interest from schools. There will likely be an impact on our mobile technicians, in particular, because buses won’t be able to drive as far. They will need to be positioned even closer to the buses.”
Despite all this change, some things will remain the same. Zehr explains, “Kerlin is still going to be there to take care of the customer, however, the buses are powered, and we look forward to working with Procede as the future unfolds.”
A Shared Commitment to Customer Service
When asked what she would like other bus dealerships to know about Procede Software, people are top of mind for Zehr: “I can’t emphasize enough how great the people are, especially the ones who came out to our location. They were so good about answering our questions, and if they didn’t know, they found out. Procede’s customer service can’t be beat.”
Here at Procede, we’d say the same about the Kerlin Bus Sales team…and a bit more. The people there have our deepest admiration and respect, and their commitment to partnership and their customers is evident in everything they do.
At Procede Software, we strive to serve heavy-duty vehicle dealerships of all sizes and types, and we are delighted to welcome another bus dealership to our family. We look forward to our ongoing partnership with Kerlin Bus Sales and learning more about how we can better serve them and our other bus dealership customers.