Great Dane anticipates growth from $5 million retooling

Great Dane’s vice president of manufacturing operations in Indiana said he expects the company to experience growth after its $5 million re-tooling of the refrigerated and dry freight trailer production lines at its manufacturing facility in Brazil, Ind.

"Our customers will see various improvements, including an even higher quality product than we already have, and the ergonomic improvement to our processes will enhance safety and efficiency for our employees," John Flathman said. "We also anticipate a growth in business resulting from the modernization of our facility as well as projected demand from customers, which will eventually create more jobs."

Great Dane Trailers is already the largest employer in Clay County with 1,200-plus employees.

The re-tooling consists of adding specialty foam presses to build trailer wall and roof assemblies. These units will be part of a new modular trailer design assembly, which allows for reduced manufacturing cost while at the same time lowering the weight of the trailer and improving the design integrity.

All Great Dane Classic dry freight vans will now come from Brazil. The Brazil plant will also continue to produce Classic refrigerated trailers, as will the Savannah, Ga., manufacturing facility.

"This investment allows us to make significant improvements to our manufacturing processes and enhance the work environment for our employees," said Bernie Buttram, plant manager. "Our employees will see improved consistency, productivity and efficiency."

There will be a temporary furlough for some employees to facilitate the re-tooling process, beginning Jan. 10. However, the return process for most of these employees will be very aggressive, noted Flathman.

"The temporary furloughs are being done only to accommodate the changes, and we have scheduled the improvements to allow for as minimal disruption as possible," he said. "Of the 530 employees who will be furloughed, we expect more than 125 employees will be back at work within a week, and another significant number to return a week after that. We hope to have the re-tooling completed and our production level back at full capacity within two to three months."

In addition to upgrading to the 29-year-old facility and allowing for immediate improvements to the process and the product, Great Dane's $5 million re-tooling is an investment in the future.

"We have strong order backlogs, and economic indicators are good for 2005," Flathman said. "We are implementing these improvements to upgrade and modernize as well as meet customer needs. As we grow and improve our processes and efficiency, we anticipate a growth in output, which will in turn require additional manpower.”

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