All businesses conduct a never-ending search for newer ways to achieve economies of scale and to improve their cost position. Companies that transport refrigerated food products are no exception. In fact, one of the reasons for the healthy growth of the refrigerated trailer industry is that food-service firms are looking to gain economies of scale by making more drops per delivery stop. They come to Kidron, Inc., the leading manufacturer of refrigerated truck bodies and trailers, because Kidron makes the trailers they need.
“We are a full-service provider to the multiple-stop, multiple-temperature refrigerated-food distribution industry,” says John May, president and chief operating officer of the Kidron, Ohio-based company.
Kidron’s major customer markets include food-service companies, dairies, leasing companies and specialty accounts. “Many companies need longer-length equipment that can maintain several temperatures for frozen, fresh and dry goods,” says May. “For example, food-service companies are now using one multiple-temperature trailer to make a delivery in lieu of several single-temperature truck bodies.”
Kidron’s trailers can maintain as many as four different temperatures. John Sommer Jr., sales and marketing manager, says, “There are a lot of competitors out there who chase refrigeration only when times are tough. We consistently build more multitemperature, multistop vehicles for food-service, leasing, dairy and specialty accounts than anyone in the country.”
Kidron is the only company that has the technology to manufacture both refrigerated truck bodies and trailers in high volumes. “None of our competitors have the presence we do in manufacturing equipment for food service, dairy, leasing, ice, meat and produce, and the emerging home-delivery markets. Our single focus is refrigerated equipment,” says May.
Hot Market for Cold Storage
Major clients — such as Sysco Foodservice, Avalon, Ben E. Keith, Penske, Ryder, Dean Foods, Suiza Foods and 7-Eleven — have long and successful relationships with the company. As suppliers of refrigerated food to restaurants, hotels, schools and supermarkets, these clients rely on Kidron’s quality in order to deliver their own custom quality to their customers at the right temperature. “Publix, the fourth-largest supermarket chain in the country, is another of our biggest customers with its recent emergence into the home-delivery market,” says May.
Kidron operates two manufacturing plants — one at its headquarters and the other in Lakeland, Fla. Together, the two facilities total about 300,000 square feet of space and employ about 500 people. The company is renowned for its innovative spirit, and boasts a number of industry firsts that are now standards. “In 1989, we introduced ACMT center partition technology,” says May. “Then, in the early 1990s, we developed the drop-deck and low-deck trailers. In 1999, we introduced the side-lift gate. This year, we will introduce a new, exclusive foam technology that produces a more consistent cell structure, resulting in consistent thermal efficiency.”
Also this year, the company added three new products to its portfolio. Its Glaciervan Plus is designed for the chassis-dealer and leasing markets. “It’s lighter in weight and lower in cost with the same warranty, and has all of the requisites for today’s leasing needs,” says May.
Within its Hackney Classic series, Kidron introduced the Hackney Dairy Classic, designed specifically for medium-temperature applications as required by vehicles such as milk trucks. Kidron developed this product offering with features and options requested by leading dairies. The Hackney Classic is designed for low-temperature applications like ice and ice cream trucks. Also, the exterior skins of these trucks use no exterior fasteners, offering a cleaner look for companies’ graphics.
“Our new trailer design will further enhance our position in the trailer industry,” says May, noting that the new trailer will be introduced at the annual Productivity Conference — the largest food-service show in the country — in late October. Lighter in weight and with a lower price tag, the new trailer offers a higher standard for ergonomic design than is currently available in the marketplace. “It was designed using a state-of-the-art, computer-assisted 3D solids-modeling program named Pro E that allowed us to simulate the trailer in any condition and understand where the stresses were and how we could reduce weight and cost, while maintaining the integrity and performance needed in today’s market,” explains May.
Kidron recently introduced the Ultra-Temp refrigeration system, a proprietary refrigeration system combining both cold-plate and blower technologies. Ultra-Temp melds cold-plate refrigeration and a mechanical system, thus reducing the maintenance required on traditional plate systems while greatly reducing condensation. “It’s a new innovation that allows trucks to run longer routes,” says Sommer.
Engineering is another facet that sets Kidron apart. “When a truck body or trailer is out delivering and the driver opens the doors to get products, it is important that these bodies and trailers are able to recover temperatures quickly so food maintains a certain base-level temperature,” says Sommer. “We offer that by engineering in a lot of small things such as a double seal around refrigeration units, made by Thermo King or Carrier. Our doors are equipped with frost breaks, which prevent moisture and condensation buildup, and we’ve built in fully welded door thresholds to keep moisture and condensation out. Another advantage is Kidron’s PPS™ (pillow pressure seal) side door. All of these features allow our customers to maintain their products at critical temperatures.”
Delivering the Numbers
Since 1975, the 55-year-old company has grown about 870 percent. From 1990 to 2001 alone, Kidron grew more than 500 percent through acquisitions and market expansion. The company has positioned itself for future growth as well. By instituting lean manufacturing in its facilities, Kidron has experienced an increase of 35 percent in productivity and a decrease of 40 percent in its inventory — all within the last 12 months. The company also uses kanban methods of maintaining inventory to streamline its cash flow needs. “Our continued commitment to lean manufacturing will position us in a greater way to support our customers’ cost and delivery needs,” May says.
The food-service industry is growing at an annual rate of between 10 and 15 percent, which adds up to strong growth for Kidron as well. “We also expect the home-delivery market to grow significantly, as traditional supermarkets are gaining momentum in this area,” says May. “We are well positioned to capitalize on every growth opportunity in this market.”
Kidron’s customers are located primarily east of the Rockies, but the company is now on the threshold of expanding its coverage to include all of North America. “We recently placed a selling group on the West Coast and are developing markets there in anticipation of the new plant we plan to open in early 2002,” says May. “Having a West Coast plant will broaden our capabilities to serve all of the large national leasing companies as well as the large food-service companies by being a one-stop, full-service supplier of refrigerated truck bodies and trailers in all of their geographic regions. We are also expanding into international markets, and we are examining ways to help our customers better manage their fleets through providing support services.”