Ramping up lowbed production

April 1, 2004
TWO BIG BUYS are paying dividends for a trailer manufacturer in North Carolina. Short term, Ferree Trailers of Liberty, North Carolina, is benefiting

TWO BIG BUYS are paying dividends for a trailer manufacturer in North Carolina.

Short term, Ferree Trailers of Liberty, North Carolina, is benefiting from buying what President Michael Nash calls a “boatload” of steel late last year. That is good news from the standpoint that the big steel buy allowed the company to beat much of the spike in steel prices. But the benefit is short-lived as demand for trailers is growing, too, and the supply of relatively inexpensive steel, in the form of completed trailers, is quickly rolling out of the plant.

Long-term, the company is beginning to see the fruits of its recent acquisition of Boaz Lowbed, a manufacturer whose product line complements that of Ferree.

By acquiring selected assets of Boaz, Ferree adds depth to its line of lowbeds and other specialized trailers. The move gives the company additional products as well as pricing approaches.

The Ferree line, Nash explains, has been positioned as a premium trailer. With the Boaz line, Ferree will have a more competitively priced line to offer its price-sensitive customers. The result will be a full line of specialty trailers, including detachable goosenecks, folding goosenecks, rigid goosenecks, hydraulically powered folding tails trailers, oilfield, forestry and logging trailers, as well as custom designs.

Since acquiring the Boaz in 2003, Ferree has been moving fixtures and equipment from Boaz, Alabama, to the Ferree plant in Liberty, North Carolina — a facility that Ferree built four years ago.

The 47,000-sq-ft plant provides straight-line production of the Ferree and Boaz trailers. It is built on a 25-acre site off Old Hwy 42, less than 25 miles southeast of Greensboro.

Material handling was a key consideration. The plant is equipped with six bridge cranes — four with a capacity of five tons and two designed for 10 tons. Cranes serve the entire production process — including the unloading of raw materials at the enclosed loading area.

The plant is equipped with a variety of fabrication equipment, including a 400-ton Cincinnati press brake, a 12-ft shear, and a C & G plasma cutting table. A Bug-O semi-automatic tracker helps Ferree produce its own main beams.

Other major equipment includes a Hyd-Mech V18APC programmable saw and 18-inch band saw, 88-ton Piranha ironworker, Corrghi tire machine with jet inflators, and Gates hydraulic hose crimper with cutter.

“The new plant gives us a lot more room to work and to store our materials,” says Jim Porter, production manager. “And the way we have it designed makes the work flow smoothly through the plant.”

Porter particularly likes the 64-ft SBS paint booth equipped with dual-exhaust heater.

“Our paint quality is better now because we can bake the finish,” he says.

New products

Ferree builds detachable gooseneck trailers with capacities of 35 to 60 tons. Lowbed trailers are rated between 35 and 50 tons.

A variety of new products are in the pipeline, Nash says. For example, the company plans to address the oilfield trailer market once the annual increase in demand for construction trailers subsides this summer. A sliding-suspension trailer is coming, as is a new design for logging trailers.

Also in the works is a new version of its portable scales. The scales, which resemble a lowbed trailer without running gear, feature a sealed LCD indicator. Existing models measure the weight on tandem axles. A new version will measure tri-axles.

“Even during the trailer industry's downturn, we never stopped being busy,” Nash says. “The next few months should be even better. We have been reaching for a lot for new things lately. We will have much more to offer customers.”