When the market demands more than your plant can produce, it’s like sitting down for a big meal. You see more than you can possibly eat, but that doesn’t keep you from wanting dessert.
After years of tight capacity, Travis Body & Trailer is ready to gobble up more—as much as 50% more.
That’s because the Houston, Texas, trailer manufacturer has completed a multi-phase expansion program that will enable the company to more effectively meet demand. With both Phase 1 and Phase 2 now in operation, Travis has increased capacity from 800 specialty trailers a year to 1,200.
“We have increased our production footprint by 50%,” says C K “Bud” Hughes, president. “Our goal, then, is to use that space to build 50% more trailers.”
Travis has made two moves that make the entire plant more productive. The first is a 70-ft x 330-ft finishing building, a structure that centralizes multiple operations that had been scattered throughout the company’s campus. The new building has been operational since the middle of 2015. With the emphasis on fabrication and major assembly at the company’s main production building, the finishing building plays a key role in turning a large metal structure into a trailer by adding electrical, hydraulics, and even wheels and tires.
The second phase of the expansion project was a 150-ft extension of its main production building, creating an additional 18,000 square feet of production space that Travis has been using since the first of this year.
The net effect of the two expansion projects is like loosening your belt after eating a big meal. It’s not just the immediate tight spot that gets relief. Everything around it feels more comfortable.
“Adding on to the end of our building enabled us to add to our entire production lines,” Hughes says. “We generally allow 15 feet by 50 feet for our stations. That gives us three feet to work on either side of an eight-foot-wide trailer. So depending on the specific assembly line, we can add three stations as a result of this extension.”
The Travis plant produces multiple types of trailers and employs multiple assembly lines to do so. The company has dedicated lines to build aluminum bottom dump trailers, another for transfer trailers, and a third for its Alumatech half-round end dump trailers. Everything else—primarily aluminum frameless and frame-style end dumps—can flow down the company’s primary assembly lines.
“The expansion had added more than capacity, it also made the plant more flexible,” Hughes says. “In the subassembly and floors departments, we added six more stations in each area. In the floors department, we centralized common floor types and located materials typical to those types, facilitating continuous work flow and reducing movement of materials.
Travis also added two robotic welders to help boost production.
Starting with finishing
The expansion project began last year with the opening of the company’s new finishing building.
The 75-ft x 330-ft structure houses 16 bays, enabling the company to fit multiple non-structural operations under one 25,000-sq-ft roof. Those operations fall under three general categories:
• Tires and wheel installation.
• Tarp and liner installation.
• Rig-out. This is an omnibus category that includes dump cylinder installation, plumbing, electrical, and other operations.
“The finishing building has been a big help to us,” Hughes says. “We designed it to minimize material handling. Racks between bays will store, depending on the part, maybe a week’s worth of parts. Before, we might have had to grab parts every day. But regardless of the part, things are closer than they had been.”
Along with reducing unnecessary movement, the racks have a visual inventory element, enabling technicians to easily see stocking levels and helping prevent stock-outs, or shortages for the rigout department.
Improving safety and efficiency
Travis added new scaffolding to the tarp and liner department of the finishing building to increase safety and to expedite tarp and liner installations.
Four bridge cranes inside the finishing bay is another help.
“We use them mostly to move heavy items such as telescopic cylinders,” Hughes says. “But they have the capacity to move trailers from one bay to another when we need to.”
Travis also installed a parking lot between the finishing building and the main plant to enable trailers to be placed a lot closer to where they need to be. The lot holds work in process and finished goods. Work in process is arranged so that trailers are readily accessible to the bay in the finishing building where they will be worked on next.
“We dedicated several acres to the new lot.” Hughes says. “This has been great for our work in process. We can park four or five rows of trailers by the finishing building,” “None are farther than 150 feet from the bay where they need to go to be processed.”
With the latest construction project completed, Travis now has 169,000 square feet under roof. Production takes up 124,000 of that number. Offices, warehouse, and trailer repair occupy the balance.
The expansion is the latest in a series that the company has made since its start in 1989. Travis now sells through a network that covers most of the United States and western Canada, with limited sales elsewhere. Recently the company delivered its first dump trailer to South Korea.
With its added capacity in place, Travis is now able to reach for more. ♦
Strengthening the team
Travis Body & Trailer has made a series of personnel additions recently:
• In early 2015, Travis hired Greg D. Smith as vice-president of sales and marketing, to spearhead the effort to increase sales.
• Rusty Watson was hired as area sales manager in the Southeast.
• Jerry Guerrero was hired as director of operations. He has extensive expertise in plant management within the automotive industry and is trained and certified as a six-sigma black belt.
• Larry Freeman is the company’s new sales and leasing coordinator.
• Travis has also added Rusty Freeman as its new Southeast area sales manager.