After investing in the Bystronic fiber laser, Titan added an automated material handling unit connected to an Antil material warehousing system and an Xpert press brake, all driven by Bystronic's Bysoft7 software.Click image to enlargeby Noelle Stapinsky | photos by Ron Ng

Ontario trailer manufacturer’s rapid growth spurs expansion and an investment in automation

The Problem: Dated cutting technology slow and costly to operate.

The Solution: A customized, fully automated solution from Bystronic.

Delhi, Ont.-based Titan Trailers Inc. has always had a steady focus on advanced manufacturing and green engineering concepts. It specializes in a full range of custom trailers for aggregate, waste, scrap metal, forestry and grain products, as well as a portfolio of end dump, tippers and hoppers. And business is booming—the order book is full and it recently grew its shop floor capacity by building a 100,000 sq. ft. facility and buying a 250,000 sq. ft facility at a nearby location in Tillsonburg, Ont. 

With the room to grow, Titan started looking at how it could improve its fabrication shop, the heartbeat of its production, and Bystronic caught the trailer company’s attention.

Roberto Nicoli, managing director for Bystronic Canada Ltd., says that the conversation started with how automation could help the company improve productivity and efficiencies. “We presented a solution that offered a full spectrum—from offline programming software to a highly productive 10kW fiber laser and a press brake. The laser they purchased is integrated into a large automated load and offload storage system, which helped them reduce floor space and reorganize the flow of materials that they had in their shop, moving vertically rather than horizontally without having material on the floor.”

Since owner Mike Kloepfer founded this family-run business in 1973, growth has been extraordinary. Today, it has 250 employees and operates out of five shops at three locations that total just over 500,000 sq. ft. of manufacturing floor space. 

Chris Kloepfer, plant manager, explains that Titan Trailers bought its first robotic welding cell in 2008 and has since added six KUKA welding cells. But for cutting its .060 to 1.25 in. steel, aluminum and stainless, they were using a 600-amp plasma table and a Flow waterjet system. “The plasma that we cut 80 per cent of our sheets on is 50 feet long. Our theory was if you could put a big sheet on it, it meant less loading time.”

Operator Zach Gorvett checks on cutting parameters  on the Bystronic ByStar Fiber laser cutting machine.Click image to enlargeKloepfer says they had some concerns when looking at replacing their current cutting system with a fiber laser. “We would be limited by table size. And because we don’t know what kind of trailers we might be building in the future, we thought that buying a smaller machine might be closing some doors.” 

All of that doubt was gone when Kloepfer and his team saw the cut quality the Bystar4020 was capable of at Bystronic’s demo facility. From there, knowing the operators wouldn’t be able to keep up with the speed of the laser production, they added a fully automated material loading and offloading unit that’s connected to Antil material warehousing and a Xpert 320 press brake, all driven by Bystronic’s Bysoft7 software.

And rather than trying to squeeze this new system into its existing fabrication operation, Titan decided to utilize its newly acquired building and build the fab shop around the fiber laser. 

Having operated the new system since January, Kloepfer says, “it’s increased production, cut costs and creates a superior product—there’s no heat affected zones or warpage on the material. It’s also safer for the guys than the plasma table. It’s an all around win.

Chris Kloepfer, Titan Trailers' plant manager, says his concerns about buying a fiber laser disappeared when he saw the Bystronic fiber laser in action.Click image to enlarge“It all boils down to cost and being able to cut something faster and for less money. This system is a lot cheaper to run and it pays for itself,” he continues. “We are operating it for about five hours a night in lights out production. The laser is really good, but we are still tweaking some of the little glitches in the automation.”

In terms of using the Bysoft 7 software that runs this system, Kloepfer says he doesn’t run the fiber laser, but he has used the press brake, which runs off the same software. “I’m getting into it and like it. Bystronic makes really good press brakes.”

Titan Trailers is known for its ThinWall, a double-walled, double welded aluminum panel—a process it patented in 1999 and has since added several patents based on this technology. It also used the same technology to develop ThinWall. 

Loading and unloading automation is an effective way to improve operating efficiences, as Titan has discovered.Click image to enlargeAnd the innovation doesn’t stop there. Titan developed a unique manufacturing process to roll standard ThinWall panels into the profile required for tub assembly—a body construction that increases load capacity for aggregate haulers, which also improves visibility and provides a lower centre of gravity for stability on the road and unloading processes. 

The heart of this company’s growth has been its dedication to innovation and a constant investment in new technology. “Seeing a company that in just a couple of years has two new buildings, new equipment and technology…I think they’re taking the right steps for moving this company to the next level,” says Bystronic’s Nicoli.

What’s next for Titan? Kloepfer says there’s probably another laser in the near future and a big CNC router in the next year or two. And more milling machines should be added now that they have the additional space. He laughs, “but if there’s anyone looking for a welding job, they should come to see me. I wouldn’t mind about 20 more welders.” SMT

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