SINCE 1995, the demand has doubled for bottom dump trailers built by CPS Trailer Company at its 120,000-sq-ft production facility in Oran, Missouri.
CPS built 500 trailers in 1995, says Judy Siebert, vice-president of CPS Trailer. Charleas P Siebert, president of CPS, started the company in 1979 and they used his initials for the company name.
"In the past two years, CPS Trailer Company has experienced phenomenal growth," says Judy Siebert. "Every year, we keep adding new dealers, and the number of sales they make is growing."
In 1996, CPS built 600 trailers and in 1997 built 700 trailers. In 1998, CPS' 70 employees will build 900 trailers including bottom dumps, half-round dump trailers, and live-floor refuse trailers.
In about two years, the company has grown by almost two-thirds but added only 10 to 15 employees since 1995, says John Wright, general manager at CPS. The company has increased production without hiring substantially more employees because of the quality of its workforce.
"CPS employs the best welders within a 50-mile radius of our location," Wright says. "The company has only a 5% annual turnover rate."
Increased Trailer Demand To keep pace with the increased demand for bottom dump and half-round trailers, the company moved into a 60,000-sq-ft addition in May that it built and equipped for $2 million. Refuse trailers are built in another plant area adjacent to the corporate offices.
"When the owners of CPS built the new addition, they purchased the best available equipment," Wright says.
The addition has a variety of new plant equipment including welders, pressbrakes, and shears. CPS has the ability to form virtually any piece of steel. A 500-ton Accurpress brake can bend 20-ft 1/2-inch-thick steel sheet. Some of the Accurpress brakes are CNC controlled, have programmable memories, and a display screen that shows a workpiece as it is being formed.
Esab welders and Lincoln welders are used to assemble CPS trailers. The Esab welders are mounted on booms, and the Lincoln welders are portable. The machines use pulse-arc welding, which produces a more uniform weld bead than a standard spray-arc weld.
"A better weld bead is produced because the power source regulates between high and low amperage," Wright says.
Making Better Welds Besides being more uniform, beads produced by pulse-arc welding do not require cleanup because there is very little weld spatter, Wright says. The wire is completely burned during the pulse-arc transfer, which also results in less weld smoke.
A hard wire is used in pulse-arc welding rather than a metal-core wire, he says. Compared to a metal-core wire, solid-steel wire provides a higher deposition rate and lower wire costs. CPS uses the Esab Mig-6, .035-diameter hard wire, which costs a metal-core wire..
The company pays a few cents more to have the hard wire spooled into 550-lb barrels, Wright says. Wire in barrels is less expensive than spooled welding wire. But the greatest payback with barreled wire is in labor costs.
Using bulk wire saves 30 minutes of labor each day that was spent changing wire spools, he says. Some barrels of wire need to be replaced only once every four to six weeks compared to spools on wire feeders that are changed every day.
A Fanuc Arc MATE 100 welding robot is used to build small subassemblies and parts such as cylinder mounts, hinges, and landing gear brackets, Wright says. The machine has an eight-foot working radius. In the new plant addition, it will be mounted upsidedown so it can rotate 360 degrees to make larger parts such as upper coupler plates and hopper doors for the bottom dumps.
Fabricating Trailer Parts The welding robot was purchased originally to build 150 carts for transporting field cotton, Wright says. After building the first order, CPS received an order for another 100 cotton carts. When the orders were finished, the welding robot was quickly adapted for manufacturing CPS trailers.
Pieces used to build components for CPS trailers are fabricated on a Koike Aronson plasma cutting table, Wright says. None of the pieces are made with hand-held cutting torches.
Welding fixtures in the new plant addition for building bottom dump trailers were designed by Charles Siebert, who has extensive manufacturing experience. In the shop, Siebert can sometimes be found working alongside welders after modifying or building a new fixture to ensure it functions properly.
In the large fixtures, sidewalls are held on inward-sloping angles as they are welded to form the concave shape of the sleek, aerodynamic bottom dump trailers. The fixtures have hydraulic cylinders that push the sidewalls into place automatically squaring the trailer.
Crossmembers are first placed into the bottom dump welding fixture. Then a hydraulic cylinder in the fixture pushes the sides snug against the crossmembers
Steel sheet for the sidewalls is corrugated in a pressbrake with a special die, and then moved to a sidewall fixture. The sidewalls have a liner that prevents the exterior from being dented by aggregate.
Color-Coded Steel CPS uses color-coded steel channel when assembling the trailer sidewalls. The lower rail is gray and has a 100,000-psi tensile strength. The upper rails are red and have a minimum yield strength of 60,000 psi.
The large trailers are moved to each work station in the new plant addition using eight radio-controlled overhead cranes. Bottom dumps are built in the center section of the new plant and half-round trailers are built in a side section that occupies about one-third of the plant.
When CPS opened for business, it was located in a small welding shop near the new plant in the center of Oran, Siebert says. The company's first growth spurt occurred in 1980 when it began building grain trailers. Growth has been sustained and increased by demand for bottom dump trailers.
Most of CPS Trailer's recent growth is the result of sales by its nationwide network of 45 dealers, she says. CPS bottom dumps account for most of the company's trailer sales.
Since 1994, most of CPS trailer sales are made by its dealers. The number of trailers sold by dealers increased to 60% in 1997 from 40% in 1994. In the first six months of 1998, 87% of sales were made by CPS Trailer dealers.
"Sales made by our trailer dealers are growing every year," Siebert says.
Trailer Dealer Network CPS trailer dealers are located primarily in states west of the Mississippi River, Siebert says. The company has dealers located as far west as California and all states in between.
In February, the company held its first dealer meeting and had 40 attendees representing 25 CPS trailer dealers, Wright says. At the meeting, the company introduced its half-round dump trailer made of AR400 steel. The trailer is designed and built primarily for use as an aggregate or demolition trailer.
"We expect the half-round to be a good trailer for us," Siebert says.