Custom Made

Grant Engineered shows that innovation and high quality can lead to increased profitability

As some manufacturers continue to grow in the global community, the opportunity for innovation and exciting new developments can sometimes be overlooked in the quest to standardise designs as a way of reducing costs.

The introduction of low-cost axles and suspension systems from countries such as China has not been without its difficulties, not only because of long-term durability issues, but also with materials such as asbestos finding their way into insulation and brake pad compounds.

Another increasingly common problem with imports from China is the variation in the integrity of components and fabrication work, with previously approved quality controls being either ignored or changed without notification.

The Australian transport industry is one of the most efficiently operated distribution systems in the world, and we’ve achieved that level of efficiency because of the role played by Australian manufacturers, whether they be truck makers or trailer builders.

In our feature in the TrailerTorque section (P96-98) we interview two of Australia’s major equipment rental operators, and both make comment on the increase of container traffic and imports, resulting from the escalating reliance of overseas manufacturing. We manufacture less and we import more. Free trade agreements might be the flavour of the month with Politicians of both persuasions, but they do nothing to help sustain our own local manufacturing expertise for future generations.

Although the decisions to cease local car manufacturing operations in Australia were made in overseas boardrooms of multinational companies, fortunately, when it comes to the trucking industry, there remains an overwhelming need for local knowledge and ability in trailer building to continue in Australia. And that means local manufacturing, not offshore importation.

In our last issue, Warren Caves featured Sydney-based Avijohn Contracting, with particular mention of a new conveyor rear-discharge trailer that’s working in conjunction with paver machines to improve efficiency in road building. Built by Grant Engineered, the highly positive comments concerning the trailer efficiency and ability suggested that a visit to Grant Engineered itself was long overdue on our part.

Managing director, Grant O’Brien, founded this family business some 23 years ago, gradually expanding from premises at Castlereagh to grow into the current location in Penrith. Now with a team of 20, and with 3 apprentices learning their way in the trailer building business, the company has an enviable reputation for being a custom builder that can establish specific designs to improve productivity and efficiency.

Continued investment in equipment, such as the installation of two 400 tonne presses, additional overhead cranes and plasma cutting equipment, plus upgrades to the full-sized paint spray booth, have assisted the company to stay in the forefront of metal fabrication. Consequently, the production team is well versed in the specific building and welding variations of different metals, with construction handling both aluminium and steel with ease.

“The new press can handle 100 tonnes/metre at 8.0-metre lengths and can operate in tandem so that we can run a 4.0-metre machine with a radius tool, and a 4.0-metre machine with a knife blade,” said Grant.

“That was a big investment, but with a strong focus on research and development it has enabled us to maintain a steady growth rate in a very competitive industry,” he added.

The company specialises in rigid truck and tipper bodies, ranging from semi-tippers to four-axle dog trailers, and also produces grain trailers as well as rear-discharge belt trailers. Onboard weighing systems are common throughout the range, Integrated with WABCO tipping alarms.

The rear-discharge belt trailers are designed by the company to use the same format as a paver with a chain delivery. Rubber belt drives suit certain applications, but by achieving commonality with a paver belt system it maintains an easier match of flow rate. Ringfeder couplings are also set at a higher level to match the paver levels.

The advantage of using the chain conveyor is that they unload in the opposite direction to a rubber belt system. They operate from the rear and leave the weight on the drive axles so the truck has good traction. A rubber belt system pulls the load back and leaves the weight on the trailer and not on the drive, which can affect traction.

Close attention to structural strength and the use of materials such as Hardox and Quicksilver have enabled Grant Engineered to provide tare weight savings of 300, 500 and even 800 kg, improving efficiency while also improving profitability. By enabling a payload of 40 tonnes, with all options taken on a four-axled truck and dog combination, it can improve an operator’s bottom line by at least $10,000 per year.

This weight saving and payload improvement is achieved by collectively evaluating the entire build of the combination, considering the different weights of competitive axle and brake assemblies, whether to use disc or drum brakes, and even changing tyre sizes, which alone can provide a 150 kg tare weight benefit.

The use of Quicksilver provides a low friction surface that speeds the discharge of material and minimises the risk of clogging. It provides such a significant benefit in flow rates that trailers can be built with one less stage on the hoist, thereby reducing the height to which the trailer has to be raised. With a durability factor three times that of aluminium sheet, the Quicksilver product is used to line the corners and the floor of the bin.

Despite the known advantages in productivity of PBS-approved trailer configurations, the reluctance or hesitation on the part of some of the Sydney councils to accept the benefits has delayed its universal implementation. This creates complications for the operators locally, especially those that have progressed to 20-metre combinations under PBS regulations.

“Where a council has not embraced the advantages of PBS or handed over the jurisdiction to the RMS or NHVAS, operators are forced to go back to 19-metre overall length in order to maintain versatility. This reduces productivity but avoids having to continually apply for a road access permit at $70 each to operate at 20 metres,” said a company spokesperson.

Grant Engineered is currently developing a sliding drawbar to enable universal operation at 19-metre or 20-metre overall lengths. By releasing air-operated locking pins and reversing the truck towards the trailer (with its brakes applied), the drawbar retracts to shorten the overall combination length so it can run on non-PBS-approved road networks.

The operator then has the option of running at PBS approval with 57.5 tonnes at 20-metre, or reducing the overall length to operate at lighter weights and stay within 19 metres. With air-operated locking pins, shortening or lengthening the drawbar becomes a quick and easy remedy to maintain day-to-day compliance.

Despite demonstrating its expertise as a custom builder, approximately 30-40 percent of the company’s regular work is centred on accident repair, and this remains an important part of the services provided to operators. The company also designs and builds service bodies for fitment to rigid trucks for use in plant maintenance and mobile mechanical service operations.

This rear-discharge trailer delivers loads such as soil or garden mix laterally across kerbs by incorporating a remote controlled, rear-mounted conveyor that extends to deliver the mix between gutters. This substantially minimises the labour requirement to spread the mixture.

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