MaxiTrans’ Maxi-Cube temperature-controlled trailers protect frozen goods and ice cream from the harsh summer heat of the Australian Outback—where temperatures often hit 122 degrees Fahrenheit—thanks to people like Gavin Lewis, a fiberglass expert who supervises construction of the trailers’ insulated panels.
Lewis is the production supervisor at the MaxiTrans panel manufacturing facility at Hallam in Eastern Victoria, where the magic mix of foam and fiberglass is built to withstand the blistering heat of Australian road conditions. Highly efficient insulation with low weight and high strength work in unison with low-weight, diesel-powered fridge units to keep products chilled across “millions of trailer kilometers” every week, MaxiTrans said.
“We start by making the foam, we’ve got our own foam machine,” Lewis explained. “It’s formed into the required-size rigid modules for strength and used throughout the factory.”
The rigid foam is bonded between two fiberglass skins, a laminated panel with low tare and high strength. Then they go through a finishing process. The completed panels, up to 14 meters (46 ft.) in length, are assembled on an A frame for transport and delivered to MaxiTrans’ trailer manufacturing facility in Ballarat.
Panels aren’t a one-size-fits-all affair. Different build specs are made for different applications. Wall panels on the Maxi-Cube Classic Reefer refrigerated van have a 40-mm wall thickness and 125-mm thick roof panels, while a Hi-Cube Reefer van for fresh produce has 25-mm walls and a 100-mm roof, the company said.
Seven years ago, Lewis applied for and landed the job at MaxiTrans. He had worked in smaller outfits, making fiberglass fairings for four-wheel drives and recreational vehicles, and fiberglass aircraft components. But after hitting middle age, he decided to join a large corporation so he could learn the corporate way.
Lewis says he loves being a supervisor because he can help and guide employees. He treats team members with sensitivity and care, while at the same time being firm on the production expectations at MaxiTrans. His aspiration for the future: “I just want to be the best supervisor I can possibly be,” he said with a smile on his face.
While the bulk of manufacturing at Hallam goes to in-house supply for MaxiTrans’ needs, products for the PanelMasta brand also are built in the facility. Lewis explains that these panels are built to customer specifications for anything, from repairs after a trailer rollover to panels for body builders fitting out smaller trucks.
“In some cases we use honeycomb core rather than foam depending on application,” Lewis said. “And we also build panels with high-density foam. The foam core is thinner but of a higher density. We call it UltraPanel.”
Lewis says the biggest challenge working in a large facility is staffing.
“Managing the people, managing them correctly, making sure that I’m doing the right thing and learning to change with the times,” he said.
“MaxiTrans has given me the opportunity to be a better supervisor.”