The Kidron Division of Specialized Vehicles Corp-oration made itself significantly more competitive nationally with the acquisition of the Grumman Olson plant in Tulare, California.
The van body and trailer manufacturer did not have a plant west of the Mississippi River, much less west of the Rockies, until the company acquired the 146,000-sq-ft facility during the summer of 2003.
“The West Coast really is a market of its own,” says Victor Resendez, general manager of the Tulare operation. “It is difficult to produce van bodies and trailers back east and ship them all the way out here. Having a manufacturing plant in California is a big advantage for us.”
The Tulare location splits the distance between California's northern and southern population centers. The plant was built 32 years ago on a 40-acre site in the San Joaquin Valley between Bakersfield and Fresno.
After acquiring the plant from the Grumman Olson bankruptcy, Kidron began installing new tooling for fabrication and putting in a new plant layout.
“Our machine shop produces the parts we need,” Resendez says. “It took some time, but we no longer depend on our Ohio plant for any fabricated parts.”
It was Kidron's plan from the beginning to make Tulare a self-sufficient operation, including the parts and components supplied by outside vendors. Every supplier the plant has is located west of the Rockies.
The Tulare plant provides Kidron with a major boost in production capacity. At one point, it was building 31 cutaway vans per day. Under Kidron management, output is trending upward as the company addresses growing demand.
“Demand for Kidron product has been terrific west of the Rockies,” Resendez says. “We are building for customers from the Pacific to Colorado and from Canada to Mexico. We even occasionally cross the Rockies and ship into Texas.”
About 90% of the bodies produced at the Tulare plant are for refrigerated applications. They include dairies, food service companies, meat and produce, and ice companies.
“Grumman Olson built reefers here,” Resendez says, “but in two months, we produced more refrigerated van bodies in this plant than Grumman Olson did the entire time they were here.”
Tulare can build every Kidron product that the company offers, including trailers. Kidron recently equipped a second production line geared for high and low volume dry freight production. This is another step in Kidron's evolution as a one-stop shop provider for all their customers needs on the West Coast.
“We have high-speed data links that allow us to keep our engineers connected to the Kidron plant in Ohio,” Resendez says. “We also have our purchasing departments linked together.”
Kidron is pleased with the plant's fast start — made possible in part by the experienced ex-Grumman Olson employees the company was able to hire when the plant reopened. Approximately one-third of Kidron's Tulare employees had worked in the plant previously. They averaged 14 years of experience.