Schmitz Cargobull (UK) Ltd's new multi-product trailer assembly line is now fully operational. The new integrated line, introduced at the company's UK manufacturing plant at Harelaw, County Durham, allows both curtainsider and refrigerated trailers to be built simultaneously.
It has been designed to enable Schmitz Cargobull to manufacture an extensive range of other trailer types at the Harelaw facility and, as a result, the number of products built by the company in the UK will be enlarged significantly.
The development of the new production system means that the overall output capacity of the plant has effectively been doubled. However, whereas in the past Schmitz Cargobull had operated two stand-alone factory units at Harelaw – one for reefer production and the other for curtainsiders – now just a single factory unit is required.
"Prior to the redevelopment, each type of trailer built at Harelaw had its own individual production line, but now we will make five or six different trailer products on a single line at Harelaw," explained Paul Avery, Schmitz Cargobull (UK) Ltd's general manager – operations. "For us it is far more viable to produce trailers on a shared assembly line rather than on their own dedicated facility."
The switch to a single assembly line has resulted in no increase in takt time - the time allowed to produce an individual trailer. In fact, if anything, production times are slightly reduced. This means that Schmitz Cargobull can continue to offer the short lead times that trailer users demand.
Various sub-assembly stations where trailer components such as, for example, refrigerated panels, are prepared, feed the production line. The sub-assembly bays deliver components to the main production line on a just-in-time basis which means that trailer takt time remains consistent.
All trailers are built using Schmitz Cargobull's bolted and galvanized production technique. Essentially, the bolted and galvanized system removes the need for any welding and, therefore, results in consistently high product quality and greater production flexibility. The galvanizing process – all parts of the chassis are galvanized before the build process takes place – ensures that there is no corrosion within the joint when two parts of the trailer are brought together. Schmitz Cargobull offers a 10-year anti-corrosion warranty on the galvanized chassis as standard.
The ability to build a number of new products on one production line will give Schmitz Cargobull the opportunity to enter a number of new markets.
Three new ranges are being introduced to complement the curtainsider and refrigerated models for which Schmitz Cargobull is best known in the UK and Ireland.
The new products are the M.KO Rigid – which, as its name suggests, is a rigid box unit; the Reefer S.KO with foldable walls; and the Curtainsider S.CS BULK - a robust curtainsider for the transportation of a range of loose materials.
"Nobody is pretending that the market is not tough at the moment," said Tom Macallan, managing director of Schmitz Cargobull (UK) Ltd. "However, we feel that the investment we have made in our new production facilities will enable us to not only develop our share of those markets where we have been historically strong, but to move into new areas where we have not competed in the past. We believe that the Harelaw plant now features the most advanced multi-product trailer production line in the world and our investment in the factory at this time should be seen as a mark of our commitment to the UK and Irish markets and our intention to emerge from the current downturn better and stronger than ever before."