CASH BROTHERS LEASING is not the type of company that fits into a conventional category, so it makes sense that its newly expanded shop would not be pinned down for a specific operation.
The Elba, Alabama, company began nine years ago by leasing two storage trailers to an area retailer. Today the company leases trailers and ISO containers by the hundreds. The shop, built originally to refurbish the containers and trailers bought for the leasing operation, has expanded in scope. It houses trailer repair services for area fleets, a customizing operation for nearby Dorsey Trailers, and even some design and manufacturing of specialized truck bodies and trailers (see accompanying story).
Two basic concepts incorporated in the shop help Cash Brothers to perform a wide range of trailer-related services. They are:
No support columns to define work bays. The shop almost has the atmosphere found inside a domed stadium or an exhibit hall. Deep rafters enable the building to support the roof without intermediate supports for the entire 200-ft width of the shop. This makes it possible for Cash Brothers to position trailers virtually anywhere inside the facility.
The free-span structure enhances traffic flow. Even 57-ft trailers can be pulled straight into a bay from an outside door and can leave the shop through a center aisle without being blocked by a support column or a job in the next bay. "This is really the key that allows us to switch easily from doing repairs to working on new trailers," says Pete Cash, president.
No shop equipment is permanently mounted. Major items such as welding machines and scaffolds are mounted on casters and moved wherever mechanics need them.
"We built this shop for refurbishing the trailers that we lease," Cash says. "But we have branched out into several areas during the time we have been in business. We figured that we better have a building that gives us some flexibility in terms of where we go and what we do." Free Consulting Services
Brothers Pete and Russ Cash grew up around trailers. Their father, Russell Cash, dedicated a 40-year career to virtually all aspects of truck trailers, including their design, engineering, manufacturing, and repair. After giving retirement a brief trial, the former general manager and head of the engineering department at Dorsey Trailers began assisting in his sons' growing business.
"It just seemed like there ought to be more to life than fishing and raising cows," Russell Cash says.
In addition to owning Cash Brothers Leasing, the two Cash brothers are employed by other companies. Pete is an accountant for a nearby lead smelter and operates several small companies. Russ, vice-president of Cash Brothers, has degrees in mechanical engineering, accounting, and computer science. He operates the computer system for the same company. Drawing on his computer expertise, he set up the Cash Brothers' computer system so that the brothers can access it remotely.
With the two brothers involved in a variety of businesses, much of the day-to-day operation of Cash Brothers now is the responsibility of Keith Marbut and Russell Cash. Marbut serves as general manager of the operation while Russell Cash handles technical issues.
"I am here because I want to be," Russell Cash says. "I love this business and just help out around here. Not to brag or anything, but when customers bring their trailers in for repair, it's like they are getting consulting services for free. I analyze what happened and see that the trailer is repaired properly."
"The repair business has grown, and we have become good at doing repairs," Marbut adds.
Working on New Trailers But Cash Brothers is more than a trailer repair shop. The company also does routine work and special projects on new equipment manufactured by Dorsey Trailers.
Routinely, Cash Brothers installs all the liftgates and loading ramps that customers order with their new Dorsey trailers. The company also performs specialized work for Dorsey on an as-needed basis. This includes tire mounting, axle building, and installation of liftpads for piggyback trailers, logistic track, and scuffbands.
In addition, Cash Brothers performs last-minute change items. These include the addition of side doors (dry-freight vans only) and modifications to the trailer nose to accommodate different refrigeration units. These are changes to an order that arrive too late to be made on the Dorsey assembly line. Typically these are alterations to new trailers that Cash Brothers makes after talking about them directly with the trailer customer.
"With the shop we have, we can repair, modify, or manufacture," says Russell Cash, a former trailer manufacturer.
Drawing from Experience Cash Brothers drew from experience when designing the new shop. Some ideas came from Russell Cash's work in setting up manufacturing plants at Dorsey. Others are the result of what he learned from running his own trailer manufacturing company. And the new 200-ft by 200-ft expansion reflects fine-tuning the original 100-ft by 150-ft shop.
One of the important dimensions is door height. The new section provides eight 16-ft doors on each side, with an exit door at the end of the building.
"We had 14-ft doors before, and they just weren't high enough," Russell Cash recalls. "We had to be careful when moving trailers into the shop with our yard tractor. There is not a lot of room for error when pulling a 13'6" trailer through a 14-ft door. If the yard tractor had the trailer lifted too high, we didn't have enough clearance to get through the door. With 16-ft doors, clearance is never a problem."
The shop is equipped with two air compressors and is plumbed so that either or both can deliver air throughout the facility. When an air compressor is down, the shop does not have to be.
Routing Utilities With no support columns, Cash Brothers had to decide how to supply air and electrical service to its mechanics. The company chose two different sources.
As is the case with the typical shop, air and electrical lines are installed along the walls of the building. However, the Cash Brothers shop also included three utility boxes in the floor. The boxes contain both 110-volt and 220-volt electrical outlets. They also provide quick disconnects for compressed air.
The three recessed boxes are installed along the centerline of the building, enabling each box to serve bays on either side of the center aisle. At the bottom of each box is a drain that allows any water build-up to flow into the sewer system so that the electrical outlets are not submerged.
Covers go on top of the boxes to maintain an even surface on the shop floor. The lids are strong enough that trucks and trailers can drive over them.
Equipping the Shop Cash Brothers has produced a variety of shop-built items to improve efficiency and flexibility. Among them are:
Carts for positioning welding machines. The carts carry both the power source and the wire feeder to the place where they are needed. The machines can be plugged into outlets either on the outside walls or in the floor-mounted utility boxes.
Caster-mounted scaffolds. The shop does not have a designated roof-repair bay. Instead, scaffolds can be positioned wherever needed. Each scaffold is equipped with its own plumbing system to reduce the amount of loose air hoses. A single hose delivers air from connections on the wall or floor to a quick disconnect mounted on the scaffold. From there, pipes run to the front and rear of the scaffold so that two mechanics can operate air tools simultaneously.
Handling roof coil. The shop has a strong roof-repair business. Cash Brothers buys roof sheet by the coil and stores it on a reel for easy dispensing. Mechanics cut the sheet to length and transport it to the bay on a shop-built carrier that is moved by forklift. The carrier provides a stable means of getting the coiled sheet to the bay while also extending the reach of the forklift. With the carrier, a conventional forklift can place the coiled sheet at the 13'6" level where it can be rolled easily onto the trailer.
Cash Brothers also uses the forklift to apply tension to the roof sheet. After the sheet is attached to the rear header, the forklift pulls away from the trailer until the sheet can be riveted in place. "There's a technique to it," Russell Cash says.
Tire mounting and inflating. Cash Brothers bought a German-built machine that gives the company the ability to mount up to 400 tires per day. Inflating tires is simplified with a special manifold that can inflate eight tires simultaneously. The manifold has eight bays-one for each tire-and a central pressure-control valve that inflates all tires to the specified pressure.
Getting Started Pete Cash started Cash Brothers when he was a newlywed living in a mobile home on the family farm. With little capital, he quickly turned a fledgling enterprise into Cash Brothers.
"I bought a storage trailer and began calling companies to get it leased," he recalls. "Someone called back and said they wanted two. I called Russ real quick to ask him if he wanted to get in the trailer leasing business. He did, and I was able to deliver the two trailers."
The two brothers used the lease revenue to buy more inventory. The company had 23 trailers on lease at the end of the first year and 60 leased at the end of the second year of business.
A 9,000-sq-ft shop on the farm came in handy when Cash needed to refurbish the used trailers the company was buying. At first, purchases were in small quantities. Today the company buys trailers or containers from fleets and large leasing companies.
"To get the best prices, we have to buy an entire lot," Pete Cash says. "That usually means that some of them aren't worth reconditioning. We use components from those trailers or containers to refurbish others. That is especially true when we are buying containers. Containers that can't be salvaged can help us make others look new. Our shop makes it possible for us to put refurbished trailers and containers on lease at a reasonable price."
Leaving the Farm The company remained on the farm for its first four years in business. In 1994, Cash Brothers bought the property for its present location and built the initial section of the shop in 1995.
"The whole idea was to have a building that we could use to refurbish the trailers that we lease," Pete Cash says. "But we began doing special projects for Dorsey, and our outside repair business also began to grow."