Rising fast in flatbeds

Mike Conny, president of one of the industry's fastest growing dump trailer manufacturing companies, really doesn't like wasting time. So when he decided that his company, MAC Trailer Manufacturing, should get into the platform trailer manufacturing business less than two years ago, he skipped over a big part of the growth curve.

While MAC Trailer had been offering platform trailers since 1999, the company was producing only limited numbers of flatbeds, which most recently, were being built at the back end of the new service facility located on the MAC Trailer campus in Alliance, Ohio. But production capacity jumped substantially when the company bought a 200,000-sq-ft manufacturing facility in January 2006.

“I wanted to aggressively go after the flatbed market,” Conny says.

The decision to buy the building was made rather abruptly, even by Conny's standards.

“I went there because I was interested in buying some equipment,” Conny says. “But when I arrived, I noticed someone putting up a “for sale” sign. The building met our needs, so I bought it. We had been dabbling in the market since 1999, and the new plant gave us the ability to get into the flatbed market in a big way.”

The sale closed quickly, and MAC Trailer spent just a few months converting the building — previously used as a pump manufacturing facility — into a trailer plant. By June 2006, it was ready.

The building, located on 38 acres in nearby Salem, Ohio, was close to an ideal match for MAC Trailer expectations. The square structure provided a free span that could be used to lay out production lines without a lot of support posts interfering.

“The building met our needs, but during our conversion we still had to run miles of wiring and gas lines,” says Phil Bortz, vice-president of sales and marketing. “Along the length of one side of the plant, we put in new overhead doors and a wash bay, and we also needed to design, build and install our own jigs and fixtures, but the result has been impressive. Our vendors have told us that we have assembled one of the most efficient and advanced production plants in the industry.”

The basic plan

The result is a 200,000-sq-ft facility that can produce the entire line of aluminum platform trailers that the company offers — and some that the company doesn't offer yet.

That's because the plant is set up with two platform trailer lines — one for a standard trailer and one for producing high-option trailers. “We believe that some of our competitors are trying to serve their customers with limited options,” Bortz says. “In contrast, we have grown significantly because we do our best to provide the customer exactly what he needs. We initiated that philosophy with the dump trailers we offer, and we are now doing the same with our flatbed line.”

In addition to producing standard aluminum platform trailers, the plant manufactures step-deck platforms and an all aluminum extendable is in the research and test stages. The plant also has a dedicated assembly line to manufacture aluminum half-round dump trailers.

The one thing that all of these trailers have in common is that they can be completed with little or no paint, therefore, extensive paint facilities are not required.

With the Salem plant now operational, MAC Trailer has shifted its production of flatbeds and half round dump trailers from Alliance to the new facility. However, the company continues to produce steel and aluminum truck bodies in Alliance, along with transfer trailers, conventional aluminum dump trailers, and steel dump trailers.

“We are not offering a steel flatbed,” Conny says. “Aluminum is where the growth in this market will be.”

Separate company

The Salem plant is more than just a separate building a dozen miles from Alliance. It is a stand-alone company with its own administrative staff, engineering department, separate fabrication capabilities, and its own name — MAC Manufacturing.

“It just made sense to make the Salem plant self sufficient,” Conny says. “In Alliance, we have separate buildings for warehousing, for paint, quality assurance, and finishing in addition to our main assembly building. In Salem, everything is under one roof. As a result, we are far more efficient. We would not have that efficiency in Salem if we constantly had to send people or materials from Alliance.”

The building in Salem came with more office space than the company has in Alliance, so providing the separate office staff with a place to work in Salem was easy. That includes the engineering staff, where the five engineers and two interns match the number employed in Alliance.

Cutting energy costs

One of the novel features of the Salem plant is its corn-fed heating system. By using locally grown corn instead of natural gas to fuel its furnace, Conny estimates that his heating bill has dropped from $125,000 annually to only $30,000.

The corn is cleaned, dried, and burned to provide the steam that heats the building.

But using corn power is not the only way that MAC Trailer saves money on energy costs. The company also:

  • Installed fully insulated doors throughout the plant.

  • Installed new energy-efficient lighting.

“All of these additions save us money,” Conny says. “Plus, they earn us tax credits for installing them.”

With the addition of the Salem plant, MAC Trailer has more than doubled the size of its facilities in less than two years. The company had also purchased another 150,000-sq-ft building in 2006 adjacent to the Alliance plant, giving the trailer manufacturer a total of 500,000 sq ft under roof.

“Today we use about half of the building as a warehouse,” Conny says. “But we will introduce a new product next year, and we will produce it in the other half of the building.”

Introducing new products is getting to be routine at MAC Trailer. Just within the past year, the company has introduced or is testing a series of new designs, including:

  • Long way to grow

    An all-aluminum extendible platform trailer.

  • An aluminum B-train dump trailer

  • Lightweight steel dump trailer

  • Scrap MAC heavy-duty steel dump trailer.

When MAC Trailer introduced its first platform trailer, it took two weeks to build it. And then later, after setting up a production line in the back half of the newly built service center, production was still spotty — perhaps five units per week. But today, even in an extremely soft market for flatbed trailers, the company is producing 25 platform trailers weekly. And with the new plant on stream, MAC Trailer will be able to produce 75.

Conny admits the Salem plant was a huge step forward, but he has long-term plans for the facility. The plant is consistent with the way that the company has operated since it began 15 years ago as a one-bay repair shop.

“I wanted MAC (Conny's initials) to be all encompassing,” he says, “with new production, financing, engineering, sales, aftermarket parts operations, a used trailer department, and an excellent service department. The decision to purchase the Salem plant was a huge step, but you know, I'm 42 years old, and MAC Trailer has only been around for 15 years. We still have a lot of growing to do.”

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