Getting bigger in small trailers

Nov. 1, 2003
IT'S BEEN A BIG YEAR for the Lorick family and Triple Crown Trailers in Ocala, Florida. This time last year, the company was in the woods, off the beaten

IT'S BEEN A BIG YEAR for the Lorick family and Triple Crown Trailers in Ocala, Florida.

This time last year, the company “was in the woods, off the beaten path,” as president Marty Lorick describes it. But that has all changed.

One year and a sum of money later, the manufacturer of light-duty trailers sits right on the beaten path, and new customers are beating a path to the company's convenient door.

The 20-year-old company moved into its new location in February, exchanging a 10,000-sq-ft building for one 53,000 square feet on 7½ acres. With it comes a number of advantages.

Triple Crown manufactures a variety of trailers designed to be pulled by light- and medium-duty trucks. They include:

  • Utility trailers. Widths range from four feet to just under seven feet and lengths of 8 to 20 feet.

  • Equipment trailers designed for hauling small pieces of machinery are built to customer specifications.

  • Dump trailers are rated between 7,000 and 20,000 pounds GVW.

  • Car trailers are similar in design to the company's equipment trailers, but with flooring only along the path where the vehicle wheels travel. Options include ramps, electric or surge brakes, and custom tires and wheels.

  • Special trailers. Some of these such as lawn equipment trailers are conventional trailers. Others, such as a trailer that folds out to become a mobile rock-climbing wall, are one-of-a-kind projects.

The company also produces accessories for its trailers, including a range of products for landscapers. These include special racks for line trimmers, shovels, and rakes, plus lockable expanded metal boxes and holders for water coolers.

New place to build

In response to increased demand for its trailers, Triple Crown moved into a new location February 5.

“We bought an existing facility and then spent half of the purchase price making it work,” Lorick says.

But with the new location, Triple Crown gets substantially more production capacity, improved efficiency, and better quality.

“Quality is important to us,” Lorick says. “One of our goals was to have a plant where our raw materials stay inside until they leave here as a finished trailer.”

The new building also keeps Triple Crown employees out of the weather.

“Because of space limitations at the old place, we had to do a lot of work outside,” Lorick says. “Our productivity is up sharply because we no longer are tied to the weather. We can produce trailers, rain or shine.”

Triple Crown also changed its manufacturing approach. With room inside for material storage, the company now places material next to where it will be fabricated.

Adding parts sales

The new building also gave Triple Crown the ability to get into the aftermarket parts business in two ways. The company now has the room for parts storage and a showroom. And the company's new location on a major federal highway gives the company the traffic and visibility that helps increase sales.

“The parts operation is new for us,” Lorick says. “We got into it to take advantage of our new location. We spent $35,000 on a sign out front. That's been our ad budget, but we wanted to make sure that our customers could find us.”

By finding Triple Crown, customers locate what Lorick says is the largest selection of light-duty trailer parts and accessories between Orlando and Jacksonville. The retail parts store has between 4,000 and 5,000 part numbers — including trailer hitches, jacks, cargo control equipment, tires, and wheels.

“We have enough parts for a customer to be able to build an entire trailer,” Lorick says. “Being able to have these parts in inventory has helped us sell parts, but it also has been a big benefit to our manufacturing operation. We don't have to place nearly as many special orders for parts that we need to produce custom trailers. Now there is a good chance that we already have the parts we need in our own parts department.”

The retail parts operation is only for the local trade area around Ocala. Lorick says he does not want to compete with his dealers. The company has about 50 active dealers, all of whom are in the eastern United States — from New England to Florida and as far west as Alabama.

Lorick says parts sales have been increasing 10-20% per month since Triple Crown opened its retail parts operation in February.

Building a booth

Included in the Triple Crown facility is a powder-coating system that the company built.

“Everything we produce is powder coated,” Lorick says. “When we moved into this building, we didn't even put up a paint booth. We figured we would get a jump on the Environmental Protection Agency and just powder coat our trailers. Powder coating provides a great finish, and it is a good way to comply with EPA regulations.”

The system consists of two coating booths and an oven. The oven is made of four-foot-wide preinsulated panels. A natural gas burner at the rear generates the heat needed to hold the inside of the oven at 400° F for the 30-45 minutes that the trailers bake. Ductwork can be opened and closed so that heat from the burner is distributed equally.

“We built two booths and an oven and saved about $50,000,” Lorick said.

Flat-rate manufacturing

At Triple Crown, trailers are not produced on an assembly line. Instead, an individual production worker assembles a trailer from beginning to completion.

Most of those who work in the plant are paid a flat rate for the trailers they assemble. Those who work in the powder-coating department also are paid a flat rate. Only those who work in the finishing department — installing lights and floors — are compensated differently. In their case, they receive an hourly wage plus a bonus for each completed trailer. They are not on a pure flat-rate system because they do other jobs such as assisting customers in picking up trailers.

The welder welds a number onto the tongue of the trailer for the individual trailer that he assembles. This identification number makes it possible to know who assembled each trailer that leaves the plant.

“Most of our employees are on piece rate,” Lorick says. “It's a system that works for the employee and management alike. It gives them an opportunity to make more money. I like it because our plant is more productive and more stable. We have a lot of long-term employees and I think that our pay system is one reason why.”

Management has developed a fixed rate that is paid for each standard trailer that employees produce. To produce nonstandard trailers, Triple Crown uses a time-and-materials system, with the labor cost being the average wage that individual employees have earned over the past four weeks.

Triple Crown has been producing trailers for 20 years.

“My wife has been here since Day 1,” Lorick says. “It's always been a family business. My son, Marty Jr, and his wife, Jennifer, work here, too.”

The company started manufacturing horse trailers. However, Triple Crown really began to grow after it introduced a line of utility trailers. The popularity of the utility trailer line led management to discontinue producing horse trailers. And with the continued growth in the line of hydraulic dump trailers nine years ago, Triple Crown decided to get onto the beaten path and grow even more.