Looking to improve access to markets in the West, MAC Trailer has opened new manufacturing facilities on both sides of the Red River in Texas and Oklahoma. The expansion comes as the Alliance, Ohio based trailer manufacturer celebrates its 25th anniversary.
“We have 87 authorized MAC distributors throughout the United States, and we have always had dealerships out West—but certain products you just couldn’t compete,” said Bill McKenzie, president of sales for MAC. As an example, he pointed out that dump trailers would cost $5,000 each to ship from Ohio. “These new locations allow us to service the West Coast, logistics-wise, and allow us just to be more diversified. They allow us to expand our footprint and gain market share. We are now also more attractive to new dealers.”
In Davis, OK (just off Interstate 35, about halfway between Oklahoma City and the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex), MAC Trailer Oklahoma has opened a manufacturing plant in a 315,000-square-foot facility that currently manufactures flatbed and drop deck trailers, with a line for dump trailers in the works.
To the south from Davis, across the state line in Haslet, TX, near Denton, MAC Trailer Texas now produces tank trailers in a 120,000-square-foot facility.
In addition to the Davis and Haslet sites, MAC’s facilities in Alliance include two manufacturing plants, Aftermarket Parts, MAC Service, MAC Trailer Sales, MAC R&D and the Corporate Office. MAC also has manufacturing facility in Salem, Ohio; and MAC Liquid Tank Trailer plants in Kent, OH and Billings, MT.
MAC Trailer manufactures dump, flatbed and transfer trailers, straight truck bodies, dry bulk pneumatic tanks in both food grade and raw materials, as well as an entire line of liquid tank trailers equipped for transporting gas, oil, fertilizer and food grade materials.
Oklahoma is OK
The Davis facility, built for oilfield services company Halliburton in the 1960s, had been repurposed a number of times but then sat vacant for several years before MAC took possession in early 2018. The first shipment of aluminum beams arrived last fall and production was underway—albeit at a slow initial pace. Still, a year later, nearly 600 trailers have rolled off the line.
“We started with a basic straight deck where everything was the same, just a stripped-down version of a flatbed and base model trailer,” McKenzie said. “Now we are going to start doing some rear-axle sliders. We
have some dealers in Utah, California and in the Northwest, so we are going to start building some quad axles, which is a typical piece of equipment for that territory that is currently manufactured in Salem.
The path has been similar for drop deck production, starting with a base model and, as the line gets up to speed, adding more features.
Looking ahead—and depending on market demand—McKenzie anticipates a production rate of eight flatbeds a day, along with two drop decks and one dump trailer.
“We still have plenty of room to grow here. In the future, do we look to bring on a brand-new product—maybe completely new to our entire company? Absolutely,” McKenzie said. “We have no interest in slowing down.”
MAC currently has 87 employees in Davis, and General Manager Jason Ingram anticipates growing to 200 as production increases. And while he admits to “challenges and struggles” in staffing—including competing with a boom/bust oilfield economy and having to recruit welders who live 50 miles away—Ingram reports that the turnover rate is now “the lowest it’s ever been.”
MAC’s introduction to the area included buying signage at the high school football field.
“We are building a workforce in a small community. The population is about 3,000 people, so this company has a huge impact on their economy,” Ingram said. “They were glad that MAC Trailer had reestablished a business here. It means a lot to them. We want to be here, and they want us to be here. It’s a great relationship.”
“It is incredible what has happened here in one year,” McKenzie added.
While not nearly a turnkey facility when MAC took possession in early 2017, the MAC site in Haslet had previously been used to build specialty trailers. Also aiding in the expansion, explained Scott Swenson, Vice President of Operations in Texas, another local manufacturer had recently moved tanker production to Mexico—leaving behind a highly skilled workforce, and with whom Swenson was very familiar.
Now in his second year in Haslet, Swenson started out washing trailers as a teenager and never left the business. He spent more than 30 years at a competing company—rising to the role of Vice President of Operations. A reorganization following a private equity purchase led Swenson to MAC. So, he has the expertise to get a plant up and running.
“I grew up in this industry. Most of it is second nature to me,” he said. “When I came to this location, finding people wasn’t very difficult. About 85% of them have worked for me for close to 20 years. I have been very fortunate.”
The plant, which started with 16 employees, is now up to 100.
The facility, a third the size of the Davis plant, can produce four trailers a day. And as in Davis, the plant features a number of manufacturing fixtures designed and built by the MAC R&D facility, including a proprietary method for flipping giant tanks and mounting them on chassis.
The Haslet location also had been used to build dump trailers, but that work will shift to Davis.
Otherwise, Haslet is an ideal location to serve the tank markets in Oklahoma and Texas—as well as opening up market’s farther west.
“When customers need trailers, we can respond quicker,” Swenson said. “It’s been a really good move.”
While McKenzie declined to put a dollar figure on what was a substantial investment in the Davis and Haslet plants, he emphasized that there was no question that the investment needed to be made.
“The only other option is to buy existing companies—and we get those phone calls,” McKenzie said. “If a competitor popped up for sale in California tomorrow, I don’t think we would look at just going out and buying ABC Manufacturing—that’s not been in our DNA. Really, everything is built in-house and we have pretty much kept it that way. I don’t see that changing.”
Similarly, growing the MAC culture in the new locations has been a priority. Experienced employees from Ohio were sent to both plants to get them up and running. Vice President of Manufacturing, Dan Tubbs, was in charge of the project. Management, including Chip Ferguson, Al Becker, and Greg Utley, from Ohio have been on hand throughout, bringing a proactive attitude along with production processes.
“Haslet has a more educated workforce because they were building a different version of that product—so they just had to learn the MAC way,” McKenzie said. “Jason has a brand-new workforce in Davis and started from scratch. It really is incredible what has happened here because these people all had to be trained.
“We are here, and we are going to be here. We’re going to continue to grow this workforce in this community, and put out a very good trailer. From my background for the past 25 years, you know the name speaks for itself. The product is there, the quality is there, and everybody knows it.”
Along with utilizing the design and engineering expertise across the group, the new facilities also benefit from MAC’s bulk purchasing of critical materials—including “millions of pounds” of aluminum, McKenzie noted—while local sourcing is also an option in the right circumstances.
Swenson, with his extensive experience with another company, credited MAC with “doing a really good job, strategically” of centralizing its processes and eliminating the duplication common to other large manufacturers.
“You don’t have the same set of people here doing the exact same thing someone else is doing there,” he said.
Looking to 2020 and beyond, McKenzie is cautiously optimistic—even in the event of an anticipated market slowdown. “I’m not a doom-and-gloom kind of guy, but everything I have seen from FTR and from the conferences I have been to, they are saying somewhere around 20% off for 2020,” McKenzie said. “But we have a wide range of products, and this company has always been unique. Whenever there is a slowdown, that is when you lace up the boots and go get market share.
“That’s how you fight in a downturn—you gain market share.”
Indeed, the Davis and Haslet plants are representative examples of that strategy.
“That is what we are doing here,” Ingram said. “During a downturn, we are going to invest in getting more products here, so we are ready to go with a workforce, equipment, and material. Everything will be ready to go.”