July 1, 1998
A LARGER manufacturing plant has expanded the capabilities of Kidron Inc in Lakeland, Florida.The company had been producing van bodies in a 34,000-sq-ft

A LARGER manufacturing plant has expanded the capabilities of Kidron Inc in Lakeland, Florida.

The company had been producing van bodies in a 34,000-sq-ft plant in Lakeland. Relocating to a 120,000-sq-ft plant provides the company with several advantages, including the ability to manufacture trailers.

Kidron has manufacturing plants in Kidron, Ohio, and Washington, North Carolina. The company has been building van bodies in Lakeland since 1965, but space limitations made it impossible to produce trailers at the Florida plant.

"This is the best plant we have for manufacturing trailers," says John Sommer, Kidron's executive vice-president. "We have analyzed the operations of our other locations and have come up with a plant that really suits our needs."

One of the biggest needs was flexibility. Kidron is one of the few major manufacturers that routinely builds trailers and truck bodies on the same assembly line. The Lakeland plant is capable of manufacturing nine-foot van bodies, 48-ft trailers, or anything in between.

Most of Kidron's production involves insulated van bodies and trailers, but the plant also produces dry-freight vans and some aircraft catering bodies.

Built-in Flexibility Kidron has done several things to enable the plant to produce vans ranging in length from 9 to 48 feet, 78 to 108 inches high, and 84 to 102 inches wide.

The plant is set up with two assembly lines, both of which can produce bodies and trailers. The key to the flexibility is found in the fixtures the company uses. The floor fixtures, for example, can accommodate all widths and lengths of floors that Kidron needs to produce. The track welder can automatically lay down a longitudinal weld of any length up to 55 feet. The same is true for the two roofing stations, both of which are 55 feet long.

"We had six units in our two roofing stations yesterday," Sommer says. "All of the bodies were short enough to fit three in each station."

The roofing station is a fixed height. To accommodate the different heights of trailers and truck bodies, Kidron lifts them to a convenient working height for those installing the roof. An air hoist lifts the vans to the desired height. To maintain that height during the roof installation process, the vans are placed on pairs of fixtures that move laterally in and out. The closer the stair-step fixtures get to one another, the higher the van can be placed.

Sides are produced by feeding the aluminum sheet, sideposts, and rivets through a rivet press. The press is wide enough to handle sidewall height requirements, and the CNC press is easily reindexed to accommodate various lengths and sidepost spacing.

"Length is no problem," Sommer says. "Our sidewall station is 140-ft long. We just keep setting rivets until we've made a wall that's long enough."

Self Reliant Until the new facility opened last year, the Lakeland operation relied heavily on the main plant in Kidron, Ohio, for the components it needs. That is changing now that the company has a plant with sufficient space and equipment for component production.

"This has been a big change for us," Sommer says. "The money we save by not shipping parts from Ohio to Florida will more than pay for the lease on this building."

After moving into larger quarters, Kidron sold the building it previously occupied to Jim Hardee Equipment.

"Moving was a real experience," Sommer says. "At one point, we were building product while we were wiring the building and installing fixtures."

The new Kidron plant is part of a long, narrow building located in an industrial park at the Lakeland airport. Kidron leases a 400' x 300' space in that building. In addition, the company has a 300' x 40' overhang and a 4,000-sq-ft paint area. Kidron use the overhang area to install liftgates, bumpers, mudflaps, and refrigeration units. The mild winters of central Florida make it possible for the company to use the area all year long.

The paint area houses two paint booths-33 feet and 54 feet in length. A Year of Change

The past year has been one of change for Kidron and parent company, Transportation Technologies Inc. Among the tasks the company has undertaken:

* Purchased Hackney Brothers, manufacturers of insulated bodies directed primarily at dairies.

* Closed the old Hackney Brothers Body plant in Wilson, North Carolina, and moved production to the Hackney & Sons plant in nearby Washington, North Carolina.

* Moved into the new plant in Lakeland.

* Implemented a new computer system. The company is in the final stages of converting software from other data formats.

* Trained staff in all plants (Kidron, Lakeland, and Washington) to build cold-plate trailers.

* Introduced a new product-the Hackney Ultimate-that combines the best features of the Hackney and Kidron designs.

Ultimate Truck Body The new Ultimate van is designed for dairy and ice cream products, meat, seafood, frozen food, cut flowers, ice, and other products that are sold on multi-stop routes.

Bodies range in length from nine to 24 feet. The outside sheet is made of smooth aluminum panels or color-impregnated fiberglass sheet. Inside lining typically is fiberglass with damage-resistant wear strips on the side and front walls.

Insulated with up to six inches of non-CFC polyurethane foam, the vans are designed to hold temperatures at -20 degrees F on multi-stop routes. They can be equipped with Hackney Vari-Temp and plate systems as well as conventional refrigeration units.

Grand Opening To commemorate the opening of the new plant, Kidron sponsored an open house April 30. The event attracted about 500 visitors and the support of 40 suppliers, many of whom set up tabletop displays promoting their product.

"The open house gave us the opportunity to show our customers and vendors the additional capability we have with this new plant," says John Sommer Jr. "We emphasized our insulated van manufacturing capability. That's our strength."

About the Author

Bruce Sauer | Editor

Bruce Sauer has been writing about the truck trailer, truck body and truck equipment industries since joining Trailer/Body Builders as an associate editor in 1974. During his career at Trailer/Body Builders, he has served as the magazine's managing editor and executive editor before being named editor of the magazine in 1999. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin.