ANYTHING worth doing right once is worth doing over.
From the perspective of Kentucky Trailer in Louisville, Kentucky, and Mickey Truck Bodies of High Point, North Carolina, if you build a truck body or trailer well enough, it should have enough value (after years of service) to make remanufacturing it worthwhile.
So it's not particularly surprising that these two venerable companies — both of whom have been building truck bodies and trailers (or covered wagons) for more than 100 years — have committed to offering remanufacturing services to their customers. But the unusual thing is that they are doing it under the same roof.
Kentucky Trailer and Mickey Truck Bodies companies purchased the building together and are leasing it back to their respective subsidiaries — Kentucky Trailer Paint & Reconditioning and Mickey Truck Bodies Mid-Central Service Center.
The two subsidiaries moved into an 82,000-sq-ft building in January of this year. The facility in suburban Louisville, is in the same industrial park where Kentucky Trailer Manufacturing built a new plant to produce moving vans and other specialized van trailers.
“With this location, we are aggressively entering the refurbishing market,” says Scot Maggard, general manager of the new Kentucky Trailer Paint & Reconditioning (KTP). “We believe the downturn has created a new set of customers for us — one who may not necessarily be able to buy new trailers.”
Kentucky occupies 80% of the building, with Mickey using the remaining 20% to refurbish used beverage bodies and trailers.
For Mickey, the new Kentucky Trailer & Mickey Truck Bodies Paint & Reconditioning Facility is the latest in a series of regional service and repair locations that the company operates in the U S. In addition to its new Mid-Central Service Center, Mickey Truck Bodies operates service centers in Ocala, Florida; Freehold, New Jersey; Bloomington, Illinois; and Thomasville, North Carolina.
For Kentucky Trailer, the facility is home to the newly created Kentucky Trailer Paint & Reconditioning division.
The new facility has enabled both companies to broaden their capabilities by servicing truck bodies and beverage trailers as well as painting new trailers and tractors.
Kentucky Trailer and Mickey Truck Bodies have worked together before, with Mickey building Kentucky's van body. Now that the two companies share a building, the idea that they work together takes on a new meaning.
For Kentucky, the move is the latest in a series. A couple of years ago, the company moved from its historic plant near downtown Louisville and built a new one in a suburban industrial park. With the opening of the new refinishing operation, Kentucky Trailer has moved the last of its manufacturing-related operations from the old plant and no longer has to send new trailers back to the old plant for painting.
Sources of customers
The new refinishing facility gets its truck body and trailer business from several sources:
- Kentucky Trailer Manufacturing
The state-of-the-art downdraft paint booth and high-volume, low-pressure (HVLP) spray equipment in the new facility serves the paint needs for trailers built a block away at the Kentucky Trailer Manufacturing plant.
- Kentucky Trailer Services
When Kentucky Trailer remanufactures a trailer, any mechanical and electrical work is done at the company's 14-bay shop near downtown Louisville. Trailers are then taken to the refinishing facility to be prepped, primed, painted, and decaled.
- Mickey Truck Bodies
Mickey uses its 20% of the building to perform the same basic functions that Kentucky does at the Kentucky Trailer Services shop. When Mickey products (primarily beverage bodies or trailers) are ready for paint, Kentucky Trailer performs the work.
Thanks to the work done at the Kentucky Trailer Services shop, remanufactured trailers require little additional work when they arrive at the refinishing facility. The mechanical and electrical work required to bring trailers to like-new condition is performed at the 14-bay facility, a former Fruehauf branch that Kentucky Trailer began leasing 10 years ago. The work ranges from minor repairs to full-scale remanufacturing services.
New finish for old trailers
“We have always offered these types of services, but now we are able to do so on a larger scale,” says Jeff Hamilton, vice-president and general manager. “Before we opened in the Fruehauf building, we had been operating in a four-bay building within our old plant. We never really promoted this service, but we offered it to our long-time customers. Now we have the facilities that we need to meet the needs of our trailer customers. Plus, we have the capacity to be able to offer painting services at retail.”
Hamilton says customers typically bring in trailers that have been in operation for about 10 years.
“The service we perform gives them another 10 years of life,” Hamilton says. “From floor to roof, from front to rear, brakes, suspension, and body work. We restore these vans to like-new condition.”
Doors are a big part of the process.
“We build our own doors at Kentucky Trailer,” Hamilton says. “If a door needs to be replaced, we can do that. But we don't have to — we can supply only what the door needs. If the gaskets need to be replaced, we can do that. The same is true for the hardware.”
Moving vans are the heart of the Kentucky Trailer product line. The condition of the floor is a key consideration. After Kentucky Trailer has completed sanding and sealing the floor, the result can rival the finish of a basketball court.
Convenient, well equipped
The former Fruehauf branch is well suited for doing much of the work associated with remanufacturing the type of trailers that Kentucky Trailer customer use.
Customers and service technicians appreciate the service pit that came with the Fruehauf facility. Kentucky is able to offer before and after pictures of trailer chassis service work to customers via the service pits.
“There's not much room beneath a moving van,” Hamilton says. “It helps our technicians. We find that a pit makes it a lot more comfortable to assess what needs to be done to the underside of a trailer and to show the customer firsthand if needed exactly the condition of his trailer.”
Kentucky Trailer also appreciates the location of the Kentucky Trailer Services shop. The company's manufacturing plant and refinishing facility are far from major freeways. Not so at the Kentucky Trailer Services shop. It is located near Interstate 65 and 264, making it convenient for customers to drop off trailers to be repaired or refurbished. Because of its convenient location, Kentucky Trailer Manufacturing also uses the facility as a place where customers can pick up their new trailers.
“We also install liftgates here,” Hamilton says. “When a new trailer order requires something we don't want to do on our assembly line — or if a customer wants a last-minute modification to his trailer, we have the capability to do it here.”
It's location near the Kentucky Exposition Center is an advantage when the annual Mid-America Trucking Show is being conducted. Hamilton says customers frequently bring in trailers for service, attend the show, and pick them up.
Under one roof
Unlike Kentucky Trailer, Mickey Truck Bodies does all of its refurbishing work within the reconditioning building. Welding, mechanical, electrical and paint prep are all performed in six bays located in one corner of the facility. Mickey technicians do the work, but once the trailer or truck body is ready to be refinished, Kentucky Trailer personnel take over.
“Being able to have our trailers painted on site has been very beneficial for both us and our customers,” says Mickey's Dave McLochlin, general manager.
Mickey's new operation has been ramping up over the course of this year, building up a customer base in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee.
Early business has come from major national customers such as D.S. Waters, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Budweiser as they discover that Mickey has a service center that might be more convenient for trucks that operate in that particular area.
The opening of the Kentucky Trailer Paint & Reconditioning facility is the latest step that Kentucky has taken to enhance its ability to provide trailer repairs and service. Exactly a year before it moved into the new refinishing facility, Kentucky Trailer acquired Western Truck and Trailer of Fontana, California, to serve its West Coast customers.
Western Truck and Trailer had been in business for more than 40 years when Kentucky Trailer bought the company.
“We have done it all over the course of our history,” says Doug King, operations manager. King joined Kentucky after an extended career formerly with Western.
“We used to manufacture trailers as well as repair and service them,” he says. “Today we will work on anyone's brand of trailer. But since we were Kentucky's warranty center and parts distributor for many years, we have lengthy relationships with Kentucky Trailer customers. Of the trailers we remanufacture here, 90% of them are built by Kentucky.”
Kentucky Trailer Services back in Louisville has access to the new refinishing center. By contrast, the company's Fontana operation does not have a paint booth. As King points out, California's environmental regulations make it challenging for small companies to justify a spray booth if painting is simply a portion of what a company provides.
“We have several painters that we use,” King says. “But a lot of our customers have preferred suppliers, too. If the customer has a preference, that's who repaints their trailers.”
Back in Kentucky, management is pleased with the early performance of the operation.
“We inherited a good paint system, one that really allows us to give the customer what he wants,” Maggard says. “We are not locked in to any one paint supplier. If the customer's preference is Valspar, PPG, whoever, we can accommodate them. Our system is for small batches. We just switch out a hose, and we are ready to paint.”
Management believes that the move into this facility was a good one, even in a time of economic uncertainty.
“We think the downturn has created a new customer for companies that offer remanufactured trailers,” Maggard says. “Remanufactured trailers may make more sense now than ever before.”