Producing over 6,000 dry vans annually, Strick is the premier manufacturer of dry freight semi trailers. As Pat Whiteman learned, the company’s success is based on it custom capabilities, speed, customer service, innovation and a unique people driven work culture.
If you’re looking for a company to build your next trailer and want flexibility, responsiveness and unparalleled innovation, Strick is the company to call.Based in Monroe, Ind., the Strick name is synonymous with innovation in the industry.
Frank Strick started the company, which is currently owned by Frank Katz, Strick’s grandson. The company’s product line includes dry freight semi trailers and converter dollies. It specializes in sheet and post dry vans and produces everything from 28-foot pup trailers to 53-foot drop deck trailers. Strick is also financially strong. The company is debt free and has a partial employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) in place, which makes its 380 Strick employees stockholders.
In the 1950s, Strick became the originator of the aluminum plate trailer. Essentially, in this model, the wall of the trailer is a structurally stressed wall with joint splices that go between the plates and carry the load of the trailer without the use of posts. “The original design Strick created has been superceded by composite plates,” says John Shuttleworth, director of sales for Strick. Today’s typical users have a more demanding application for this type of trailer, like the automotive industry for instance, so while we originated the design, the plate trailer has evolved in the industry throughout the years to meet customer needs and requirements.” According to Shuttleworth the general trend in the marketplace is the reduction and desire for plywood trailers because of their increased cost and the new innovations and advancements being made in the plastic line sheet trailer.
In the early 1990s, Strick introduced another innovation – the plastic line sheet and post trailer. The company now offers a full line of plastic lined trailers, which lowers the cost of ownership because there is no plywood used in the construction. Therefore, the plywood never gets damaged or needs replacement. “This line has been extremely successful and it’s becoming industry standard. “We’re moving more toward the extinction of the plywood trailer over the next decade,” says Shuttleworth. “The Strick model really is the best of both worlds – a sheet and post trailer that provides 101 inches inside width and the capability to handle logistics bars as well.” The Strick 101, as it’s known, can also be ordered with the latest top rail-to-roof arrangements to provide you with scuff-like protection to prevent damage from cargo racks on the inside and tree limbs.
Currently, Strick’s focus is on its custom line of specialty trailers. Strick caters to customers who are specifically looking to do custom building for specialized products. It’s drop deck trailers, multi-axe trailers and side door trailers are easily customized. “We’ve recognized a niche market here,” says Shuttleworth. It’s becoming more difficult for other manufacturers to do these kinds of custom builds, so we’re happy to have the technology in place and the flexibility in our work processes to be able to provide custom builds. Our single line manufacturing makes us capable of doing almost all specialized componentry online.
We can cut a door in the side if we need to, rather than have to take the trailer offline, so customers get a factory-built custom trailer every time.”
In May 2006, Strick completed a 90,000-square-foot addition to its manufacturing space to accommodate its burgeoning custom work. It’s also about to embark on another expansion of its finishing bay that will be tailored to its growing custom product orders. The addition is planned for completion in the fourth quarter of 2006. The company is also in the midst of a capital investment cycle to help improve efficiency and custom trailer capabilities and currently has capital investment projects totaling upwards of $2 million on tap.
Another advent is a new special roof trailer that is currently being tested out in the field. The new trailer provides a smooth interior roof that eliminates snagging issues with lift trucks and offers improved durability.
One of the big issues in the trailer manufacturing industry is late delivery. Strick avoids delays through its “Firm and Fixed” program. Implemented in 2000, Strick researched world-class manufacturers like Harley Davidson and Toyota to create its own master scheduling and manufacturing procedures. “We work two-10 hour shifts, four days a week,” explains Shuttleworth, “because our employees are offered incentives with the ESOP. If the line is on schedule we let people go home with pay. If we fall behind we work Friday and we make it back up. It works really well and everyone is on board. We’ve reduced delivery issues significantly.”
Due to the rising costs of fuel, Strick is also refining its aerodynamic product offerings. It is part of the Smart Way Program, a joint venture between the Department of Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency which offers grant monies to help fleets implement more aerodynamic trailers and tractors to reduce fuel consumption and improve fuel efficiency.
To help tackle another industry trend – driver retention and recruitment – Strick recently became a member of the American Truck Association and is participating in the ATA’s recruitment initiative. “While wages have been increasing, and that’s a major incentive for drivers, Strick is helping both financially and through participation to help the ATA and its members come up with a better recruitment plan and identity recruitment issues and ways to make driving a more attractive vocation,” says Shuttleworth.
Looking to 2007
Currently, Strick’s marketplace is the central United States and the eastern provinces of Canada. However, a non-compete clause that occurred when it sold a former factory ends in 2006, allowing Strick to expand to East Coast markets in 2007.
The company also wants to move into specialty trailer markets and is overhauling its stock trailer program. “We want to be more responsive to the needs of our dealers and the needs of the marketplace,” says Shuttleworth. “We’ll be offering additional models of stock trailers in the next several months.”
With the expansion of its custom trailer capabilities, improvement of stock trailer availability and upcoming market expansion on tap, Strick has its finger on the pulse of the trailer manufacturing industry. “We have the flexibility and engineering capability to respond to particular needs customers,” says Shuttleworth. “With our quality plan in place, our history of innovation and strong retention of employees, there are no limits to what we can accomplish for our customers.”