CRYSTEEL Truck Equipment Inc invested $1.36 million to expand its truck and trailer refurbishing business at its shop in Lake Crystal, Minnesota. Most of the money was for a new building, paint booth, and grit-blasting booth, which began operations in January 1997.
"We want to develop a niche for refurbishing trucks, trailers, and truck equipment," says Larry Brandenburg, who co-owns Crysteel Truck Equipment with Glen Wiens. Brandenburg is the sales manager and Wiens is president. In September, the business partners hosted an open house for their new shop.
Crysteel Truck Equipment built the new 14,400-sq-ft building primarily to house the paint booth and grit-blasting booth. The new building was constructed adjacent to the distributor's main shop. The land purchase and construction cost was $800,000.
The grit-blasting booth cost $160,000 and was manufactured by Clemco Industries in Washington, Missouri. The grit booth is 60 feet long, 16 feet wide, and 18 feet high. Blasting with steel grit prepares metal surfaces on truck bodies, trailers, and truck equipment for painting.
The downdraft paint booth was purchased by Crysteel for $400,000 from Blowtherm USA in Dallas, Texas. The booth is 74 feet long, 20 feet wide, and 20 feet high. A bifold door divides the booth in half so one end can be used for painting while the other is used to bake.
"We can paint any vehicle or equipment up to 70 feet long," Wiens says.
Air-Operated Manlifts Inside the paint booth are four air-operated manlifts, two on each side of the bifold door. The manlifts move up and down, sideways, and into the paint booth towards the workpiece. Using the manlifts, two workers can paint a dump body in two to three hours depending on whether it is a single-stage urethane or a base-coat clear-coat job.
Connected to the paint booth is a mixing room with computerized controls that can match any paint color of a truck, trailer, or truck body. Crysteel uses Akzo Nobel Sikkens polyurethane paints.
For vehicles originally painted by Crysteel Truck Equipment, the correct paint color can be identified by entering the order number into a computer terminal in the mixing room. In the room are catalogs with paint formulas used to mix any paint color needed.
The paint mixing room is accessed through two entrances, each having two consecutive doors for safety and quality control. The double-door entrances help contain fires and keep contaminants out of the mixing area.
The paint and grit-blasting booths each have a system that supplies filtered breathing air. Both air systems have four breathing-air filters made by Martech Services Company in Rochester, Minnesota. The breathing air systems each have an audible alarm that activates if carbon monoxide gas is detected.
"During the open house, we wanted our customers to see our paint booth and grit-blast booth," Wiens says. "We want them to know we have the capability to completely refurbish a wrecked tractor or trailer. This is a great advantage when dealing with insurance companies."
Refurbishing is big business, especially in Minnesota where road salt used to melt snow and ice during the winter can be very harsh on trucks, trailers, and equipment, Wiens says. Corrosion caused by road salt is a constant maintenance problem.
When a vehicle is involved in a collision, the distributor has all the equipment needed to make the repairs. To straighten bent trailer frames, a Bee Line floor-pod system to chain down frames covers a 48-ft area. Over the floor pods, the distributor built a cage of steel I-beams for straightening dump body sidewalls and similar jobs.
In a pit next to the cage and paint booth are a Bee Line alignment rack and frame straightening rack for highway tractors. Moving this equipment to the new shop gave the distributor more room for truck body installations in its original 20,000-sq-ft building.
With its new shop and equipment, the distributor can work on front and rear suspensions, do brake work, and work on steering systems. Crysteel Truck Equipment is a distributor for BAB hydraulic steering pumps and gears.
"When we started this business, all we did was sell grain boxes," Brandenburg says.
Crysteel's Fridley Branch The truck equipment distributor is steadily building its refurbishing business but still spends a lot of time painting new vehicles. Besides the vehicles built at the Lake Crystal shop, Crysteel paints trucks, trailers, and truck bodies for its branch in Fridley, a suburb of Minneapolis. The Fridley branch has 25,000 square feet of shop, office, and warehouse space.
Trucks are hauled from Fridley to Lake Crystal on a Landoll rollback semitrailer, painted, and returned to Fridley. The Lake Crystal shop does all of the painting for the Fridley branch including service bodies, dump bodies, snow equipment, and any custom jobs.
With its new equipment, Crysteel Truck Equipment often does a wide variety of painting work. The distributor has painted excavating machinery, bulldozers, and farm combines.
"It's not cost-effective just to paint dump bodies," Brandenburg says.
However, being located next to a large dump body manufacturer such as Crysteel Manufacturing Inc does have its benefits. Crysteel Truck Equipment recently obtained a large order from its neighbor to grit-blast and paint 187 dump bodies for the military.
187 Dump Body Order Even though the distributor welcomed the work, the large order began to cause a bottleneck in its paint booth. Soon after receiving the order from Crysteel Manufacturing, the distributor had shifts working 24 hours a day in its paint and grit-blasting booths.
Crysteel Manufacturing and Crysteel Truck Equipment maintain a close relationship as neighbors and business partners. But both companies operate independently of each other. The distributorship was started in 1969 by Eldon Jones, the founder of Crysteel Manufacturing. Wiens and Brandenburg purchased Crysteel Distributing from Crysteel Manufacturing in 1974, renamed the company Crysteel Truck Equipment, and moved it next door.
Crysteel Truck Equipment is a full-line distributor and carries a wide variety of products. Among the products the company sells are Weather Guard toolboxes, Knaack Manufacturing storage boxes, Silent Drive lift axles, SRT-2 roll tarps, Aero Industries pull tarps, Liftmoore and Arm Lift cranes, and Eagle Lift and Thieman tailgate lifts. The distributor operates a Dodge chassis pool, enabling it to deliver a complete vehicle to a customer.
Most of Crysteel Truck Equipment's business is sales and installation of Crysteel dump bodies and grain bodies, Stahl service bodies, and snow equipment. Snowplows carried by Crysteel are made by Boss, Fisher, Monroe, and Western.
"Snow-removal equipment is big business in Minnesota," Brandenburg says. "We need bad weather to have a good economy."
The distributor hopes the harsh Minnesota winters will help to grow its refurbishing business. The new shop, paint booth, and grit-blasting booth are ideally suited for this type of work.
"We have a great opportunity with our new paint and grit-blasting booths," Wiens says. "There's not a comparable facility nearby."