B H Workman Increases Output

Jan. 1, 1998
A PLANT built especially for producing dump bodies has increased output at the B H Workman facility in Prineville, Oregon.With the addition of the 7,500-sq-ft

A PLANT built especially for producing dump bodies has increased output at the B H Workman facility in Prineville, Oregon.

With the addition of the 7,500-sq-ft dump body plant and another 5,000-sq-ft paint building, the family-owned truck body manufacturing operation now has 41,000 square feet to produce its line of dump bodies, platforms, and hoists.

The company has been producing dump bodies regularly since 1989, but the new plant has enabled Workman to get into the market on a much greater scale. Dump body production was up in 1996, the first full year that the plant was in operation, and in 1997. Because platform production did not have to share manufacturing space, Workman was able to turn out more platform bodies during the same period-in addition to some platform kits for private label manufacturers.

"Some of our customers prefer to assemble the kits themselves in order to save money," says Curt Workman, president. "So we ship them sets that include crossmembers, side rails, pockets, and lights." More importantly, profits were up 50% in 1997, Workman says, as the company was able to drive more production through the plant.

New Paint Building While a separate building for producing dump bodies has boosted overall production at B H Workman, management has grown to appreciate the advantages provided by the paint building.

"This is a big step for us," Workman says. "We used to be unable to paint when the weather got really cold. Now when it is 0 degrees outside, we still have the ability to bake paint at 140 degrees."

Most of the dump bodies that B H Workman produces go out simply with a coat of primer. Platform bodies usually are shipped with a finish coat. A 3.5-million Btu air make-up unit maintains the desired temperature, while the 65-ft-long building gives Workman the ability to paint several trucks at the same time.

Growing Anyway B H Workman has been growing in spite of a shrinking local economy. Prineville, Oregon, historically has depended significantly on the timber industry. Located on the east side of the heavily wooded Cascade Range, Prineville had been the home of seven sawmills. That number has dwindled to only two in recent years.

This has been bad news for B H Workman, a company that began as a repair shop.

"The lumber business went down in the 1980s, taking our repair business with it," Workman recalls. "Jobs were leaving here like crazy. The lumber business is still shrinking. A plywood mill closed down in 1996, which did not help the economy-or the custom fabrication that we can do for sawmills."

Roll-Forming Platforms In response to the decline in the lumber business, B H Workman began expanding its truck body manufacturing. The company purchased a roll former in 1984 to increase production of its platform bodies.

"That purchase allowed us to be competitive with national manufacturers," Workman says. "The roll former can process coiled steel at a rate of 70 feet per minute-much faster than a press brake."

The Monitor roll former uses die cartridges that enable the company to change over quickly to produce another part. While conventional roll formers may require 12 hours to change over, Workman says, the Monitor roll former usually can be changed over in less than two hours and always in less than four.

"A conventional roll former produces about 500 feet of scrap as a result of the changeover process. We can change die cartridges with virtually no scrap. It begins producing perfect parts right away."

The roll former is used exclusively to produce platforms. Workman's dump body design lends itself to parts being fabricated with a roll former, but the large number of configurations offered by the company makes it more economical to fabricate all dump body components with a press brake.

Building Dump Bodies To produce its line of dump bodies, B H Workman bought a 12-ft shear and press brake. These two pieces of plant equipment allow the company to produce dump bodies up to 12 feet long.

"We farm out fabrication for anything longer than 12 feet," Workman says.

The B H Workman dump body is a true double-wall design. The outer walls, when welded to the inner walls, form three tubes that provide strength. In addition, the long sills also form tubes. The company offers the dump bodies with either straight or tapered sides.

"We have received a good response to the design," Workman says. "The double-wall design is strong, it lasts longer, and does not show dents on the outside."

Expanding Market Curt's father, Ben, and grandfather, Tom, started B H Workman as a repair shop in 1943. Soon after the company was formed, Tom Workman developed and patented a hoist. The company also offered platform bodies and an occasional dump body.

The local economy gave the company a source of sales for many years. But unlike a repair operation, B H Workman can reach far beyond the local market by manufacturing dump bodies, platforms, and hoists.

The company now has a network of 30 distributors, primarily in northern California, Nevada, Utah, Montana, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. B H Workman also gets some business from Hawaii.

"Most of our distributors sell both types of truck bodies," Workman says. "But in Portland, for example, we have two distributors. Coast Crane sells our platforms, while Northside Body handles our dump bodies."

In recent months, Workman has expanded its distributor network even further. "We had a little slowdown in the fourth quarter," Curt Workman reports. "But with our new distributors, some new products that we will be introducing, and the overall demand that is out there, we are looking forward to a great year in 1998."