Lean body building

CANCADE Company Ltd has survived the Great Depression, World War II, and today's tight economic climate by staying lean as an organization. The company is not bogged down with the bureaucracy that some similar sized manufacturing companies have experienced. Perhaps that's a trait learned from dedication to the agricultural industry that it has faithfully served in Manitoba, Canada.

Paul Cancade's father, Pierre Cancade, started the company as Cancade Brothers Ltd, shortly after he returned from World War I. “At that time, the family had several businesses in the small farming community of Belleview which is located on the boarder between Saskatchewan and Manitoba,” says Paul Cancade, retired president of Cancade. “Nevertheless, all of the businesses were aimed at providing services to the local farming communities. Those were struggling farmers that had to deal with some harsh economic realities, as in many cases, they still have to today.”

Helped by the family's own farming background and their ability to understand the farmer's needs, the family business naturally found itself manufacturing wooden wagons and other farming equipment, including a very primitive wooden auger used for stacking the winter storage of hay.

The Brandon-based company is manufacturing agricultural and construction bodies as well as trailers, hoists systems, including their own cylinders and reservoirs. Cancade is also beginning to manufacture hay hauling equipment.

Manufacturing and Organization

The company's diversified product lineup might suggest the need for more than 50 employees. However, the various departments such as administration, sales and marketing, and manufacturing and installation have been able to remain lean and efficient.

Cancade is an interesting study in manufacturing operations and plant organization. The company has designed itself to react quickly to changing market conditions. “The company doesn't have a large labor force or a large managerial overhead,” says Darrel Thiessen, Cancade's assistant manager and sales director.

“We believe that our employees-to-manufactured product ratio is probably one of the smallest in the industry when you take into account the diversity of products that we manufacture. We use several teams of skilled people that have been carefully exposed to all of the products that we manufacture.

“For example, our system doesn't involve manufacturing department supervisors. We use a quality control network where key individuals manage what goes through their department and are responsible for the work that is produced under their direction.”

Thiessen says this system has evolved over Cancade's 80-year history of manufacturing products. “One of our reasons for success is that all our people learn from the ground up. We use a team approach of organizing our manufacturing operation.

“Another interesting part of our team concept is the continuous involvement in the day-to-day work,” says Thiessen. “Our team leaders are in the plant actually leading the manufacturing teams. They aren't sitting at a desk, far away from the daily work.”


One of the reasons for Cancade's success is the company's ability to be self-sufficient in manufacturing many of the needed ingredients for the body and trailer manufacturing operations. Cancade has not only had success in manufacturing many of the subsystems for use in body/trailer manufacturing, but the company also fabricates welding jigs and much of their own capital equipment such as metal forming equipment and paint booths.

“We manufacture many of the subassemblies within our own product,” Thiesen says. “We invest a lot of energy on our hydraulic hoist cylinders. We manufacture each of these from the ground up in our own machine shop. We do this as a quality control precaution and supply precaution. We also build our own mechanical-trip, hydraulic, and pneumatic engagement devices for the end-gates.

“The machine shop also makes our press dies that we use. We do that because we have the skilled machinist and the equipment to perform that type of work.”

In 1980, Cancade built a paint booth incorporating a cutting-edge downdraft system, “When we added a chemical water flush, we studied the best way to redesign our drafting system, and then we changed the booth over to an end-draft system.”

Today's Products

Cancade serves the agricultural community on both sides of the border. “We are a small company, but we sell on a global basis. Obviously, most of our business is done in Canada and the US, but we do receive overseas orders.

“In any given year, we manufacture over 60% of our product aimed at the agricultural community,” Thiessen says. “That includes an average of 45% of our production going to the Monobody and Unibody styled farm bodies. Then you have to add the agricultural hopper bottom trailers to the mix, plus the auger systems that unload product from the trailers or truck bodies. We also manufacture fifthwheel end dumps engineered specifically for the agricultural industry or the construction industry.”

Thiessen says that construction applications are a major market for Cancade products. “We manufacture our AR 200 and AR 400 double wall dump bodies and trailers, as well as a single wall radius tub style. The units are specifically designed to suit the varying needs of the customer. We do a lot of custom manufacturing when it comes to our truck bodies and trailers because of customer requirements.

“With our standard dump we feature a full height double wall construction which really cuts down on the dents and blisters that can form in a traditional single wall gravel box,” says Thiessen. “We offer all the standard options such as air trip tailgates, cab shields, two-way tailgates, asphalt aprons, and a variety of tarp systems.”

Cancade is nurturing growth opportunities in the construction market. “A growing market is supplying pup and fifthwheel trailer chassis for our distributors who also handle other companies dump bodies,” says Thiessen. “That way, they can match a pup trailer to a body that they have previously installed on one of their customer's trucks.”

Big Bodies

Thiessen says that it's the large truck mounted bodies that power the company. These units are used for a variety of farming activities. They are a mainstay of the agricultural community's transportation needs.

Thiessen believes that the company's success is exemplified by a situation that developed when a customer approached them to build a specialized leak-proof rear door for hauling wet peas to a distant processing plant. The soon-to-be customer's current supplier was not interested in designing a gate for “just a few bodies.” Cancade worked closely with the customer and has since established a very successful relationship with him.

“When you look at a truck body used for hauling agricultural product, there might seem to be some similarities to a chassis mounted dump body. However, they are really two very different bodies used for two very different jobs.”

Truck bodies used in the agricultural industry have to be constructed in a specific way, or they won't stand the strain of the side loads and the load shifting that a product such as beets can do to a body.

“The grain bodies have much higher sides. They also have a very different rear gate system because of different needs during the unloading of the cargo. Our standard farm body has a door system that is easily removable for the transport of some bulk cargos.”

Another example of differentiating designs that go into Cancade's products can be found in the farm body. Cancade farm bodies have no underbody crossmembers. “In this part of the world, farmers have to go out in very inclement weather. One of the things they like is an underbody that is clear of anything hanging down. This helps prevent snow, ice, and mud buildup, a big problem in the slushy northern climates. It also provides a lower center of gravity and less weight.”

Although the chassis-mounted farm and dump bodies are the main stay of the company's manufacturing activity, Cancade is also very active in the hopper-bottom segment of the trailer business.

“Our Transporter line of hopper-bottom trailers both as pups and trailer units is a growing segment of our business,” says Thiessen. “The trailer systems cuts down on trips to the processors, especially for the larger farming operations. Some of our trailers, with as many as five axles, can more than triple the payload that a standard tandem truck can haul. Furthermore, we build a variety of different systems such as converter dollies and pup trailers so that individual farming operations can tailor fit their combination of truck and trailer units to their operation.

“Our units are engineered to work together in a modular fashion. The customer can pull a pup trailer to the field with a grain truck, drop the pup, which can be equipped with a big folding auger, and use it as a grain cart. Then you can fill your truck body with it, then fill the trailer again and head for the storage facility with a huge payload.”

Cancade's augers have helped farmers move the grain and other products from trailer to storage facilities for many years.

“The augers we manufacture can be truck or trailer mounted,” Thiessen says. “We build them in many configurations to fit specific needs. We think of it as an intricate part of the farmer's transportation requirements, so we have been very active in working that niche market. Some augers are used to transport fertilizer. We provide special coatings for the auger as well as building some models in stainless steel because of fertilizer's highly corrosive nature.”

Canadian and US farmers use several popular configurations such as the ten-inch hydraulic folding rear truck mounted auger, a ten-inch side discharge rear truck mounted auger, and a ten-inch trailer underbody swing auger.

The truck-mounted augers are attached to the rear of the body. The truck or trailer mounted units fold or swing out of the way for transportation activity while allowing unloading with standard end gates or hopper chutes.

Thiessen says that the side discharge auger has become a very helpful tool for customers that use a pup-type trailer behind a chassis-mounted farm body because farmers don't have to back up the truck or pup to unload it. They simply drive up beside whatever they are unloading into and start the process.

Cancade manufactures the underbody swing auger for use with its Transporter series of hopper trailers. However, Thiessen notes that this auger can also be attached to other brands of trailers if the customer so desires.

“Our manufacturing of the auger products to fit other trailers helps us view the auger line as a separate family of products that we manufacture. It isn't just an additional option to the truck body or trailer. It also keeps us very close to the original product line that the Cancade family started with a wooden hay stacker.”

The Manufacturing Tools

Although the company's employee-to-manufactured product ratio may be small, its tooling-to-manufactured product ratio isn't. “We have a well outfitted shop,” says Thiessen. “We think that is a necessity for this industry.”

Cancade's sawing department has four saws, ranging from a 2002 Speeder to an early production 1960s model Ohmes. “We don't have any CNC models. We just haven't bought any yet. However, we are completely open to the idea, and when we can see some cost efficiencies for our specific operation, that would naturally take place. Since we built a CNC plasma cutter, we are not unaware of the benefits CNC can provide in some applications.”

Cancade uses a 1970s model Pearson for shearing operations. The shear can accept a ten-foot wide plate, which is the preferred plate size for Cancade's operation.

“The majority of our metal forming work is done with our press brakes for the agricultural bodies and trailers. A lot of rib and bracing material has to be formed,” Thiessen says. “Then there are all of the parts such as subassemblies and components that have to be formed.”

Cancade operates four press brakes. Two handle the mainstay of Cancade's work. One is used for smaller forming jobs, and the other is used to manufacture the largest of the forming jobs.

A ten-foot Chicago and a twelve-foot Pearson handle a variety of the normal manufacturing tasks. Both machines are manually loaded and operated.

“Additionally, we have two machines that we are very proud of,” says Thiessen. “One is a 1950s model Chicago press brake that has a small six-foot bed.”

Bigger is Better

The other press brake is a whopping 33-foot, 1966 model Cincinnati that was, until just recently, mechanically operated. The brake can deliver in excess of 450 tons of downward pressure. Cancade purchased the unit just over a year ago. Thiessen says that it has been completely overhauled and has been modified to be hydraulically operated.

“We use the brake for forming our side panels and floor sheets. Because of the brake's width, we can manufacture the side panels and flooring sheets in one piece for many of the bodies.

“This press brake can do the bending that's needed to make long mainframe rails and formed channel for trailers or trucks. We also use it to manufacture our reinforcement channels and plates for truck frames. We can perform these operations without having to make any splices. That's another great benefit to the customer.”

The press brake can manufacture frame extension pieces in excess of 30 feet. Because of its size capabilities, the company can manufacture reinforcement channels and plates for frame extensions and reinforcement applications without the need for splicings. That's a great benefit to the customer.

Integrated Machine Shop

Cancade manufactures 95% of its dies for its press brakes. “We have the machining tools and more importantly, our craftspeople have the skills to manufacture dies,” Thiessen says. “We think that's unusual for a trailer building facility; however, we are also a complete machining shop. To make complicated production parts is one thing; however, to make the tooling and dies for the production of other manufactured parts requires very capable people.”

The machine shop houses several machining tools worthy of mention. Upon entering the area, the Haas SL-30 computerized lathe stands out like a formidable adversary for those who aren't familiar with the intricacies of machine tooling. “That machine turns most of our cylinders,” says Les Currie.

The early 1950s model Gisholt lathe is another tool that deserves recognition. A quick inspection of the machine tool reveals the detailed work that went into the hardware that adorns the machine. It is easy to see that the machine comes from a period where cuttings of 0.01 inch were made by a craftsperson's skilled hand turning a control knob, as opposed to a programmer's knowledge of a computerized “touch-activated screen.”

The Gisholt can turn a blank up to 14 inches in diameter, and up to six feet in length.

The shop is also equipped with a Herbert #9 and a TOS lathe. “These lathes are used for the smaller work,” Curie says. “They are very accurate in their turning abilities. There's also the Gisholt FasterMatic lathe that can accomplish some precise turning jobs on the smaller pieces.”

A Bridgeport milling machine and Willmartht Norman surface grinder provide the machine shop with a sense of completeness and an ability to handle any job that finds its way through Cancade's doors.

Currie says that most of the dies that are used in the press brakes are manufactured in the machine shop. “That is a real challenge for a machinist. To make complicated production parts is one thing; however, to make the tooling and dies for the production of other manufactured parts — that is a zero tolerance piece of work. It takes a well equipped shop, and a master craftsman to handle that level of precision.”

Currie says, “that feeling of being a well equipped shop is very satisfying. No matter what repair issue a customer comes up against, we can usually find him a solution.”

Die sets and special replacement parts aren't the only things that Cancade has manufactured in-house. “The company also fabricated its own plasma cutting stations,” says Thiessen. “One of these includes a CNC control unit that we built and programmed to meet our needs. It is used for cutting many of the production parts like the rear bumper rails with light holes for all the bodies and trailers as well as parts for many other procedures.”

Thiessen also described the set-up jigs that are used to manufacture the products. “As we decide to manufacture or change the design of products, we build the set-up jigs that we will be using. Doing this also helps us to discover what the best assembly or welding position is for the manufacturing of some parts.”

Future Plans

“The company will continue to target the agricultural and general transportation industry in specific areas of Canada and the United States”, says company president and general manager Ralph Redfern.

It is rare these days to find a progressive company that is as committed to the agricultural truck body and trailer industry, as it is to the commercial, construction, and fleet markets.

Redfern says, “It is uplifting to see that the roots of our company that were planted almost 80 years ago have grown into the new millennium and are producing as strong as ever.”

TAGS: Truck Bodies
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