Some people, such as Johnathon McLaughlin of New Way Trucks, were (literally) born to be in the waste and recycling industry. Growing up surrounded by passionate and dedicated family members who worked hard to build up the family-owned company to what it is today, McLaughlin knew he was destined to be a part of the industry.
At a young age, McLaughlin learned the ins and outs of the industry, one department at a time. And since then, he has worked his way up through the ranks, now serving as the company’s executive vice president.
“Johnathon represents the future of the solid waste industry, which requires a different perspective and fresh thinking,” says Don Ross, vice president of sales and marketing at McLaughlin Family Companies. “He has the insight to challenge the status quo and drive innovation. Our industry continues to evolve; the changing ton, an increased focus on waste diversion, and autonomous vehicle design are just a few current topics that will require new ideas and a creative approach in the next few years. The industry needs people like Johnathon who can offer new perspectives because the business of solid waste today will not look the same tomorrow.”
Waste360 recently sat down with the Waste360 40 Under 40 award recipient to discuss how the company has revolutionized its collection vehicle design, how he has helped the company give back to the communities it serves and what we can expect to see from New Way at WasteExpo 2018 and beyond.
Waste360: How did you get your start in the waste and recycling industry?
Johnathon McLaughlin: With New Way being a family business, I have been involved since I was a little kid. When I was 18 years old, the age you have to be to work in the factory, I started working at the company in various departments, including wiring, welding and mounting. I really enjoyed working in the welding department, and after working in that department for more than a year, I left to attend college and to get some different perspectives in different businesses. After about three years of doing that, I found out that working was more my speed than school, so I came back to New Way and worked as a salesman. In that role, I started with one dealer and then gained more as time went on.
Waste360: You’re now working as executive vice president. Tell us about some of your responsibilities in that role.
Johnathon McLaughlin: As executive vice president, I oversee all of the departments, including sales, manufacturing, service, warranty and after sales support, and ensure that they all work together. There is a lot involved in those departments daily that I focus on, but I still have an active role in the sales and marketing department, which allows me to be in the field with customers and dealers to find out what they are actually looking for in a product. I also have an active role in the parts and services side of the business, which allows me to gain insight into what’s going wrong and what could go wrong with our products. We strive to give our customers the correct parts they need to get their fleets up and running in the shortest amount of time, so that’s also a very important part of my role.
Waste360: Over the past five years, Scranton Manufacturing (the parent company of New Way) has revolutionized its collection vehicle design. Tell us a little bit about that.
Johnathon McLaughlin: At Scranton, we aren’t afraid to change our products based on customer needs. We send our engineers out into the field, and they spend a lot of time out there researching and asking customers what they like about products and why. Then, they bring that information back to Scranton, and we share it with the engineering department so they can design what customers. It’s easy to imagine what customers want, but getting their feedback helps us design products that they really need.
For our Sidewinder XTR Automated Side Loader, for example, we put a lot of time and effort into making that vehicle the best it can be. We built it with some of the best components out there, and we built it to last. That product is one product that we’ve had the ability to watch up close over time because we have had the truck on the road for some time now, and we have been able to fine-tune it and make it even better than it was before. We’ve increased its arm strength and made it easier to service with our CanBUS system.
Recently, we also increased the safety factor on our automated side loaders. We’ve added an integrated arm lock that keeps the arm from drifting out or potentially running when it’s not supposed to. We’ve also started to gain traction with our ROTO PAC automated sideloader, which processes trash through the hopper into the body using an auger design. We are the only company to do this, and we believe it gives companies better compaction and better legal loads. Plus, it can be used for either organic waste or household trash.
Waste360: In addition to your full-time duties, you’re actively involved in making sure the company gives back to the communities its involved in. Can you provide some examples of how New Way has given back to its communities over the years?
Johnathon McLaughlin: New Way is one of the largest employers in Greene County, Iowa, and we are the single largest employer in the town we are in so our employees are the community. We participate in a lot of local Relay For Life events, hold blood drives at our factory, volunteer at high school sporting events, collect food for local homeless shelters, etc. Our town recently had a playground project where they raised money to purchase new playground equipment, and we got involved in that project by helping take down and assemble the new playground. We also had a Veterans Day breakfast for the veterans here at New Way to show support and appreciation for all they’ve done for us. Lastly, we always hold a Christmas party and a company picnic for our employees and their families, where everyone eats, plays games, has fun and interacts with each other.
Waste360: Your grandfather and father are also members of the waste and recycling industry, both receiving honors from the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA). What have you learned from them over the years?
Johnathon McLaughlin: It was really exciting when my grandpa was inducted into NWRA’s Hall of Fame in 2009 and when my dad was recognized as the Member of the Year in 2017. I have been really lucky to work with those two over the past 15 years, and the day-to-day interactions that I get with them is amazing. I don’t think a lot of people get that opportunity, and I am truly lucky to be in the position that I’m in.
The biggest things I have learned from them over the years is their hard work, dedication and work ethic related to what we are doing at New Way. They have worked hard to get New Way to where we are today, and that’s something I want to continue to build on for years to come. I’m hoping my kids will come back and work here, just like I did, when they are older. I’m married with two young boys, ages six and nine, and they love coming to see what we do. I love seeing their eyes light up when they see the big equipment and when they can identify one of our trucks out on the road.
Waste360: What advice would you give to someone looking to start a career in the waste and recycling industry?
Johnathon McLaughlin: I would advise them to try and get involved in as many areas of the sector that they’re interested in. By doing that, they can gain well-rounded knowledge of a company and the industry to meet the many different needs of customers. If they only look at it from one side, it’s tough. But if they are well-rounded and have experience in different areas of the industry, they will advance and succeed in more than one area.
Waste360: What exciting things can we expect to see from New Way/Scranton at WasteExpo and throughout the course of this year?
Johnathon McLaughlin: WasteExpo is particularly special for us this year because this is the first time that we are sponsoring the WasteExpo Welcome Reception. We are really excited about that and know it will do a lot for us. We are looking to make a big splash at the show, and we hope that after this year people won’t walk away not knowing who New Way is. We have a good plan to showcase who we are, what we do and what we can provide to people. In addition to that, we have a couple of new products that we are demoing right now, and those should be launched in the next year or so.