Volume 11 | Issue 2 | Year 2008

About 20 years ago, Darryl Rivers sold trailers to the Cushman Motors Corporation for use with that company’s well-known tow vehicles. His pioneering design for a maneuverable trailer, the Quad-Steer Positive Tracking Trailer, offered significant cost and energy advantages over fixed and single-purpose equipment. The concept proved so popular that Rivers founded Peregrine – named after the falcon noted for its constant movement and ability to accurately remain on the path to its destination no matter what obstacles encountered – in 1987 to sell the tracking trailers initially to Cushman dealers, and then to independent dealers throughout North America.
Peregrine trailers and carts go where no other material handling equipment has gone before. Positive tracking allows a train of trailers or carts to follow a tow vehicle’s exact path. Where this becomes important is in navigating corners: because positive tracking trailers don’t begin to turn until their wheels reach the same spot at which the tow vehicle begins to turn, there’s no need to swing wide. A train of positive trackers can hug corners, or turn completely around in less space than most trailers require to just turn a corner.

“For companies interested in lean manufacturing, where the whole guiding principle is to do more with less and with the flexibility to change processes on the fly, our trailers are an ideal application,” says Troy Rivers, president of the Lincoln, Neb.-based, privately-owned company. “While trailers and carts have been around, as Darryl likes to say, since the wheel was invented, traditionally they weren’t cost-effective because aisles had to be wider to accommodate turning, thus losing valuable space. However, our trailers and carts work in the tightest plant layouts, allowing the customer to get the most per square footage use and at the same time have everything easily accessible.”

He adds, “Typically, what plants will use is a forklift. Yet, the single-purpose nature of forklifts – they are essentially dedicated loading and/or unloading units – combined with their high price and dependence on a skilled operator, does not compare value-per-dollar with trailers. Moreover, in these days of companies striving to be ‘green,’ forklifts add pollution, both in terms of noise and emissions. A forklift can only move one set of pallets at a time. But tracking trailers can be hitched together so you only need one tow vehicle to transport multiple sets. So you’re cutting your fuel use, which is both a cost savings as well as more environmentally conscious, at the same time as you’re moving materials more efficiently. The goal is to be forklift-free, or at least use a forklift only for the one thing it’s designed to do, to load and unload a truck shipment.”

But it’s not just a case of putting the forklift for sale and getting some trailers. “The whole design of workflows throughout the facility, from start to finish, have to be thought through and redesigned,” Rivers emphasizes. “We design a solution that minimizes wasted space while allowing for future expansion in ways that have sound environmental, ergonomic and expense ramifications. Bottom line is always to achieve better outcomes, where more space goes to profit, and less is wasted by inefficient material handling methods. Moreover, if there’s any change in plant layout, or if situations call for temporary rerouting, tracking trailers offer the most flexibility to accommodate and adapt to any change, without extra equipment or labor costs. ”

Even before computing the operating savings gained from improved efficiencies and safer work environments, Rivers points to the expense advantage of not having to buy multiple forklifts. “A forklift costs $20,000 to $30,000. If you lease one, that’s $400 to $600 a month. Needless to say, one of our trailers costs a lot less. You could buy about 10 of our trailers for the cost of a forklift, and move more material than any forklift could. You also eliminate labor expenses; you only need one operator to two multiple trailers, as opposed to multiple forklifts with multiple operators.

Peregrine tracking trailers and carts are at work in the automotive, electronics, aerospace, food, metal fabrication, glass, furniture and health industries, as well as in office buildings, theme parks, military facilities and sports stadiums. Customers include major companies in diverse industries such as Boeing, Disney World, General Electric, General Motors, John Deere, Lockheed Martin, Mack Trucks and the Pentagon.

In addition to the Quad-Steer Tracker, Peregrine manufactures the modular Falcon II Lean Manufacturing Trailer, a hand-moveable chassis that can accommodate a host of superstructures, allowing snap-on adaptability to ever-changing material handling needs. An added bonus is the trailer tracking ability to navigate under the tightest circumstances.

While there is an extensive line of stock trailers, Peregrine also custom-designs solutions to meet virtually any capacity, space or standard requirements of any application. Peregrine has engineered everything from three-sided cargo containment systems to beverage handling accessories to special ramp and offloading systems to special fire and rescue trailers. A variety of shelves, doors, flooring materials, hitches and enclosure panels can be easily added. And the trailers can accommodate anywhere up to 10,000 pounds in carrying capacity.

While Peregrine does sell used equipment, the market is relatively small because, as Rivers points out, “Our products are made to last a long time. Our customers don’t usually ‘trade-in’ equipment. The only time that might happen is if a facility is shut down or customers have ordered more trailers than it turned out they actually needed, so as a service we list them on our Web site to help sell them. But it really is just that, it’s nothing that is a significant part of our business.”

The reason why Peregrine products are so durable is simply because they are made that way. However, such built-in quality cannot be obtained on the cheap, Rivers stresses. “There is a certain up-front expense that comes with what we call ‘maintainability of the product.’ While we will build to any specification a customer wants, I always emphasize that if you want to be a green company, you want to minimize waste. Unfortunately, we live in a ‘disposable’ culture – ‘Hey, so what if it doesn’t last, it’s cheap enough that I can just throw it out and get another one,’ is the attitude. But if you make a sufficient investment in building a quality product that lasts, at the very least you’ll spend as much over time, maybe less, with one dependable product than a series of products you have to continually trash and replace. Besides, nobody wants to be in a mission-critical situation that is endangered because the material handling equipment has broken down.”

Quality features standard on all Quad-Steer Trackers include heavy gauge rectangular steel tubing reinforced axle beams for unmatched strength and durability. Even seemingly small details such as pivot points use the highest quality parts.

Rivers notes, “Our trailers are built to take abuse. So they don’t break down as frequently as something from a manufacturer that isn’t as committed as we are to quality. So you also have to factor in your maintenance costs. Does it make more sense to spend the money up front and maybe have annual repair costs of $100, or buy something cheaper that costs you $500 to replace parts every year, not to mention lost time and money in the breakdown of your materials handling efficiency? We think to ask the question is to answer it.”

One thing is for sure though: Peregrine is flying high these days because it builds a product that leads the way for those to follow.

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