Trailer maker cuts back, profits at old Alloy site
Reliance Trailer Co. LLC trims production of units, pursues niche marketsSeptember 16th, 1999
Since buying Alloy Trailers Inc.s assets out of bankruptcy one year ago, two California businessmen have formed a new company here, called Reliance Trailer Co. LLC, that has cut Alloys production level, closed a manufacturing facility, and produced something thats been needed at the plant west of Spokane: a profit.
Reliance Trailer Co., which manufactures over-the-road truck trailers, is operating at less than half the size of its predecessor. As part of its downsizing, it has begun concentrating on smaller runs and custom orders.
Everythings a niche here now, says Greg Kreshel, who was hired as Reliance Trailers general manager after working as vice president of engineering at Alloy Trailers for 22 years.
Two California businessmen, Brian Ling and Duke Yolo, bought Alloy Trailers assets in a transaction approved by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge last September. They formed Reliance Trailer Co. LLC here last October and started manufacturing trailers in November.
Approaching the final quarter of its first calendar year in business, Reliance is on pace to manufacture 500 trailers in 1999, Kreshel says. Thats 900 fewer trailers than Alloy made in roughly the first three quarters of 1998, but Reliance is meeting sales projections for 1999, Kreshel says.
More importantly, Reliance is profitable, Kreshel says, and is expected to exceed profit projections this year. He declines to disclose sales figures.
Reliance now is in the process of projecting sales for the year 2000, and Ling says that, preliminarily, he expects sales next year to parallel this years figures.
Reliance manufactures many of the products previously made by Alloy, including van trailers, wood-chip hauling trailers, and flatbeds, and it still markets those lines under the Alloy name. It also makes a few product lines that carry the Reliance name.
Ling and Yolo also own trailer manufacturing plants in Cotati, Calif., and Eureka, Calif., under the name Reliance Trailer Manufacturing and a trailer sales company in Windsor, Calif., called Redwood Reliance Sales Co.
To make the Spokane plant profitable once again, Reliance Trailer Co. opted to stop competing directly with national, high-volume trailer manufacturers. Alloy, which competed with the national concerns, claimed to be one of the two largest full-line manufacturers of over-the-road truck trailers in the Western U.S., but, Kreshel says, The really big manufacturers kept eating into our order backlogs.
A major part of Reliances downsizing of Alloy involved closing a 160,000-square-foot manufacturing facility at the Spokane Business & Industrial Park in the Spokane Valley. Reliance now operates out of 105,000 square feet of office and manufacturing space at another former Alloy Trailers facility, at 3025 S. Geiger Blvd. across the street from Spokanes waste-to-energy plant.
The number of employees at Reliance has been pared down compared with the Alloy operation, to about 100 workers from about 175. However, Kreshel points out that the number of employees dropped at a less dramatic rate than the decline in production volume.
In addition to trimming the volume of work, Reliance is starting to implement some lean manufacturing operations. Lean manufacturing generally is characterized by cutting time between customer order and manufacturing while eliminating waste in the production stream.
Reliance also has invested in equipment that allows its design department to operate more efficiently, Kreshel says.
New dump trucks
During the past year, Reliance also has added a line of hydraulic transfer dump trucks. The new dump truck comes with an auxiliary trailer that carries a second dump-truck bed. The driver can shift the dump-truck bed from the auxiliary trailer into the dump-truck bed on the truck via a hydraulic chassis. Such a setup typically is used by companies that need to dump large amounts of materialgravel, topsoil, etc.in tight quarters, says Karl Wiese, a sales representative here for Redwood Reliance Sales Co.
For example, a truck driver who needs to dump two loads of topsoil in a residential development might not have enough room to maneuver both a truck and trailer. In such an instance, the driver could unhook the trailer, leaving it near the dump site, then dump the first load. He then could return to transfer the dump-truck bed from the auxiliary trailer into the dump-truck bed thats affixed to the truck. The process would take seven or eight minutes. The driver then would dump the second load.
Wiese says the company has sold 20 of the dump trucks since manufacturing its first unit in March.
Its a product that is seeing more and more acceptance in the Northwest, he says.