Since the founding of Global Trailer in 2011, the magazine has consistently focused on supporting the international trailer manufacturing scene through the provision of timely reports and in-depth analysis of the sector’s most influential and emerging voices. It is the imperative of the editorial team to meet the needs of the global road transport industry and the diversity of its information requirements via expertly filtered data in both print and online formats in the interests of providing a trusted business resource.
A testament to this work ethic, Global Trailer has established rapport with numerous industry partners and organisations over the years and will continue to do so.
This editorial was ambitious in scope as all past cover story participants were asked to reflect on the 10 years gone by, detail key milestones and offer insight into what the future might bring.
CIMC ups the ante
Over the past decade, CIMC Vehicles has experienced three important periods of development, namely ‘Rapid Growth Period for the Global Businesses’, ‘Incubation Period for the Sophisticated Manufacturing System in Domestic Market’ and ‘Intercontinental Operation Based on the Sophisticated Manufacturing System’.
From 2010 to 2016, CIMC Vehicles’ global business grew rapidly. CIMC Vehicles has driven the growth of its semi-trailer business in North America and Europe, completing the acquisition of the US-based Vanguard and the Europe-based SDC and LAG. Based on the business philosophy of ‘global operation, local knowledge’, the international business of CIMC Vehicles has achieved rapid growth through cross-over designs, intercontinental manufacturing and global supply chain management.
During 2014 to 2018, CIMC Vehicles was in its Incubation Period for the Sophisticated Manufacturing System in Domestic Market. The CIE pattern of ‘made in China, assembled in overseas’ catalysed the rapid expansion of CIMC Vehicles’ global operations, which is the prototype of the business’ first ‘Light Tower’ plant in Dongguan which commenced operation in 2014. Meanwhile, CIMC Vehicles also developed the modular design of bodies of environment-friendly urban muck truck bodies, container chassis trailers, tanker trailers and centre-axle semi-trailers in China, and developed and built product modules, which further accelerated the construction of the digitisation, automation and intelligence of Light Tower plants.
Since 2018, CIMC Vehicles has deepened its business model of ‘Intercontinental Operation, Local Manufacturing’, based on the preliminary construction of the Sophisticated Manufacturing System. In 2019, CIMC Vehicles initially completed the upgrade and construction of the production line of container chassis trailer, multiple van trailer and refrigerated trailer in the North American market, strengthening localised manufacturing, and further alleviating the impact of changes in the trade tariff between China and the US, and Covid-19.
In 2021, CIMC Vehicles established six major businesses or groups to help remove internal barriers in operation and form strategic synergy as guided by the model of intercontinental operation.
At present, CIMC Vehicles has completed the global acquisition and integration, multi-brand layout, and stepped into a new stage of deepening the construction of the Sophisticated Manufacturing System, building the ‘Light Tower Network’ and comprehensively establishing six major businesses or groups. CIMC Vehicles has put forward five cornerstones of ‘the Sophisticated Manufacturing System’ and new management infrastructure to further improve CIMC Vehicles’ management measures under the intercontinental operation.
In July 2019, CIMC Vehicles was listed on the mainboard of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, becoming the first manufacturer of high-end semi-trailers and specialty vehicles on the Hong Kong stock market. In July 2021, CIMC Vehicles was officially listed on the ChiNext Market of the Shenzhen Stock Exchange, becoming the first global manufacturer of high-end semi-trailers and specialty vehicles with dual ‘A+H’ listing status in the world.
In 2021, based the actual operational and strategic management needs, CIMC Vehicles has established six major businesses or groups: ‘Champion Tanker Business Group’, ‘Light Tower Pioneer Business’, ‘TB Business Group’, ‘Urban Dump Truck Business’, ‘North American Business’ and ‘European Business’, so as to help remove internal barriers in operation and achieve the linkage between production and sales, information sharing, professional volunteer long-term goals, strategy, operation, coordinated development of comprehensive management, and a breakthrough in China’s further subdivided market share, develop competitive advantages for seven overseas major categories of semi-trailers in the North American market and the European market, thus further enhancing the leading position in the world.
The past 10 years, according to Li Guiping, the CEO and President of CIMC Vehicles, have been of great significance to the company.
“This period could be a transition point and a starting point,” he said. “In the past ten years, we have constructed 22 Light Tower plants, established the Sophisticated Manufacturing System, deepened the business model, successfully achieved dual ‘A+H’ listing status, and become the global leader in high-end semi-trailers and specialty vehicles manufacturing. In particular: The first one is to do with upgrading manufacturing. With the gradually increasing understanding of the semi-trailer market and semi-trailer technology, we have become more aware that semi-trailer products are by no means as simple as ‘putting containers on wheels’. We began to explore the combination innovation from parts. That is to say, assembling semi-trailers with high-precision parts. This is the modular way of manufacturing. If we improve production efficiency through automation and digitalisation, we can not only realise the scale and standardisation of product manufacturing, but also fulfill the customisation requirements of personalised products. As such, ‘flexible production’ has been formed.”
In early 2015, the first Light Tower project of CIMC Vehicles was located in Dongguan City, Guangdong Province, China, and was officially put into operation in 2016. Light Tower plants integrate virtual simulation, big data, Internet of Things and digital technology. With highly automated equipment (such as laser cutting machine, robot welding workstation, KTL and powder coating line), it can realise large-scale automatic and flexible production and solve the problems of backward production equipment, technical lag, increasing labour cost, energy conservation and emission reduction.
“This is a powerful measure to promote the development of the industry from traditional manufacturing to intelligent manufacturing,” said Guiping. “As a new generation of manufacturing system, Light Tower plants have led to a comprehensive innovation in the production mode of the company and even the whole industry. They contributed to develop from traditional labour-intensive manufacturing to more automated modular, intelligent, and environmentally friendly manufacturing.”
Light Tower plants are also a key factor for CIMC Vehicles to move towards the Sophisticated Manufacturing System.
“After years of development, CIMC has built 13 Light Tower plants for the production of semi-trailers, seven Light Tower plants for the production of truck bodies for specialty vehicles and two Light Tower plants for the production of lightweight van truck bodies at home and abroad,” said Guiping.
Given its operation on a global scale in a balanced manner, CIMC Vehicles will rationally allocate global superior resources, all of which will be supported by digital technology. While continuously exploring and deepening the manufacturing technology, CIMC Vehicles has made a new leap in understanding the direction of technology upgrading in the next move. As a result, ‘Digital Vehicles Workshop’ has been established accordingly. That is to digitise production and transform human experience into computer computing power, thus breaking through the bottleneck of production efficiency that cannot be overcome by manual work.”
In August 2016, the ‘Magellan Vehicles Workshop’ project was officially launched and implemented in Tonghua, Yangzhou. It took the lead in the exploration and practice of intelligent manufacturing of specialty vehicles in China. With the continuous progress of the project, Magellan was upgraded to ‘Super Magellan’.
In July 2018, the ‘Super Magellan Digital Production Line’ of Yangzhou CIMC Tonghua Special Vehicles Co., Ltd. officially commenced production. In May 2019, the ‘Super Magellan Project’ of Yangzhou CIMC Tonghua Special Vehicle Co., Ltd. was approved by the expert group, which marks the success of the exploration and research of CIMC Vehicles digital plants.
In 2018, to effectively cope with the impact of global trade headwinds, CIMC Vehicles’ business philosophy was revised from ‘Global Operation, Local knowledge’ to ‘Intercontinental Operation, Local Manufacturing’.
“In the new stage, we emphasise more on ‘local manufacturing’,” said Guiping. “To develop in the local market for a long time, we have increased investment in local manufacturing, improved the manufacturing capacity of overseas plants, and cultivated and incubated local brands, so as to reasonably avoid the impact of global trade frictions on the company and enhance its development resilience under the new normal global economy.”
In August 2019, CIMC Vehicles launched the ‘Polar Bear Project’ investment plan to further develop the North American refrigerated semi-trailer market in response to the impact of global geopolitics. Specifically, the project was to construct a North American refrigerated semi-trailer manufacturing plant in Monon, Indiana, US.
In January 2021, the first new vehicle from the new plant of Polar Bear Project was manufactured and was officially put into production. The new factory adopted the production mode of Light Tower plants, which significantly increased production efficiency and raw material utilisation, improved product quality and service, and further optimised the Intercontinental Operation.
In 2021, the revenue of CIMC Vehicles from refrigerated trailer business in North America increased significantly by 122.3 per cent to 1,516.2 million RMB, ranking third in the refrigerated trailer market of North America.
Since July 2019, CIMC Vehicles has been listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. It has adapted to the strict supervision and test from the Hong Kong capital market in terms of standardisation, marketisation, and transparency. In the first half of 2020, the Shenzhen Stock Exchange launched the reform of the ChiNext Market registration system, and the efficiency of enterprise listing has been greatly improved. In this case, CIMC Vehicles made the decision to launch the listing on the ChiNext Market and officially listed on there on 8 July 2021. CIMC Vehicles has also become the first global manufacturer of high-end semi-trailers and specialty vehicles with dual ‘A+H’ listing status. The dual listing status has provided sufficient capital and development support for the company to maintain its long-term core competitiveness.
Looking ahead, Guiping said Chinese economic operations are expected to become more stable and balanced, providing a stable macro environment for the development of the manufacturing, logistics and transportation industries.
“Ten years is a long time, but in the foreseeable future, with the continuous development of science and technology, science and technology will exert more and more influence on the changes and shaping of the manufacturing industry day by day,” he said. “We believe that new energy, industrial Internet of Things, Digital Twin, automated plants, human-computer cooperation, intelligent and higher sustainability are the important development trends of the global manufacturing and logistics industry in the future.”
As a leading sophisticated manufacturing enterprise in the industry, CIMC Vehicles has already taken the lead in realising transformation.
“The Light Tower plants we built have gradually embraced digitalisation in every aspect,” said Guiping. “In the process of upgrading to digital plants and intelligent manufacturing, our automation factory has deeply integrated IoT and on-site lean management. The digital manufacturing management system has been fully introduced to realise the integration of design, process, and manufacturing site data. In terms of product modularisation, we have initially established modular research and development and design systems for semi-trailers, truck bodies of light and durable concrete mixer trucks and truck bodies of environmental-friendly urban muck trucks, and refrigerated van truck bodies. In the next three to five years, the company will continuously carry out comprehensive digital upgrading of the above product designs. As we actively embrace innovation and transformation, we can always maintain a leading edge in the world. In the international market, our sophisticated manufacturing system and high-quality global supply chain management capabilities can still give full play to the advantages of technology and scale in the next decade to achieve quality development.”
In the North American market, according to Guiping, the strong economic stimulus in the US has led to the recovery of the local semi-trailer and logistics transport equipment market, and the demand of the semi-trailer market has recovered significantly in the short run. “Coupled with the stimulation of medium and long-term infrastructure projects, the demand for semi-trailers in the North American market will also maintain a high level of prosperity in the next three to five years.” he said. “At present, we have completed the construction and upgrading of the localised production line in North America and believe that we can gain further market share from the future opportunities.”
Also, with the actions in European countries to curb inflation, various macro factors may continuously affect the global supply chain, leading to the persistent existence of the contradiction between supply and demand in the market.“There will be new challenges in terms of the semi-trailer supply chain and production capacity in the European market, while the reshuffle of the industry will be accelerated, and thus the industry concentration is expected to further increase,” said Guiping. “Our LAG and SDC are well-known brands in Europe. We believe that with the operation model based on ‘Intercontinental Operation’, we can gain more advantages in the competition pattern of the local markets.
“In the Chinese market, sophisticated manufacturing has been recognised as China’s golden development trend in the next decade.
“At present, China has become the country with the most complete industrial system, the largest industrial scale and output value in the world,” said Guiping.
“China has also made remarkable achievements in marine engineering equipment, intelligent manufacturing equipment and advanced rail transit equipment. Yet, the Chinese semi-trailer industry still has the characteristics of low market concentration and inferior competition among non-compliant enterprises, so there is still a big gap with the European and American markets. It can even be said that at present, our semi-trailer industry is at a historical turning point, because the whole industry is in a cycle of transformation.
“Faced with the complicated macro environment, other non-compliant small and micro plants may think that it is a huge challenge; but for CIMC Vehicles, it poses a huge development opportunity in the Chinese market. We believe that the development certainty of China’s semi-trailer business will continue to improve in China’s domestic economy cycle in the future. As new national standards come into force, the five major types of semi-trailers in China are undergoing a comprehensive transformation, with obvious opportunities for upgrading. Coupled with the implementation of the strategy of ‘carbon peaking and carbon neutrality’, the supply-side reform for replacing outdated capacities with advanced capacities in the semi-trailer manufacturing industry of China will be carried out, and the industry concentration is expected to increase.
“Meanwhile, the Chinese government has also introduced several policies to promote the development of multimodal transportation in China. The development of drop and pull mode and the trailer rental industry promoted by multimodal transportation will generate greater incremental demand for standardised high-quality trailers.”
In addition to the semi-trailer business, our other main businesses in China are also expected to achieve high-quality development in the future.
“Thanks to the guidance of moderately advanced infrastructure investment and ‘dual-carbon’ strategies, as well as the full implementation of China VI standards, the upgrading and replacement of concrete mixer products we manufactured and sold have been expedited,” said Guiping.
“As the production capacity of the concrete mixer industry will be optimised, we expect to continue to maintain our leading position in the Chinese market by leveraging our economies of scale and technological advantages in the future. As China’s infrastructure construction will heat up in the next few years, the recovery of the infrastructure market will also unleash the market demand for truck bodies of compliant urban muck trucks manufactured and sold by CIMC Vehicles.
“At the same time, with the development of new energy in the heavy truck industry, the market demand for lightweight, intelligent and environmentally friendly new energy urban dump trucks will be further unleashed in the future. It is believed that with our years of experience in strategic cooperation and joint development with tractor manufacturers, we will be able to secure a position in the market when the new energy heavy truck era comes. In addition, the lightweight van truck bodies business, which we have been focusing on in the past two years, has a blue sea market in China.
“At present, it is in a window period when the market demand is ready to develop. With the improvement of cold chain logistics infrastructure in China, the cold chain logistics industry will maintain rapid development, and the demand for refrigerated trucks will continue to be huge in the future. Meanwhile, the transformation of urban distribution vehicles towards green and low-carbon will be accelerated, and the compliance dry cargo compartment will usher in an opportunity for development.
“Last year, we established the ‘TB Group’, which integrates the three major bases in the Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta of China. They primarily engage in two major product categories of refrigerated van trucks and dry cargoes van trucks, and are expected to become a new business growth point.”
In the face of future opportunities and challenges, CIMC Vehicles will use the breaking point from strategic development to unlock greater advantages and growth potential and create room for profit growth.
“In the ever-changing trend of the times, every enterprises’ journey of development is not easy, and the journey is not immune to changes,” said Guiping.
“Large enterprises are bound to experience the cycle of ups and downs and growth. Born in Shenzhen, the forefront city of China’s reform and opening up, CIMC Vehicles has always had a sharp vision and strong ambition.
“Over the past 20 years, we have always urged ourselves to maintain innovative vitality. We are constantly adjusting the situation and keeping up with the changing trend of the times in terms of production, management and operation.”
With respect to new energy applications, guided by the strategic objectives of dual-carbon in China, the new energy heavy truck market has entered a stage of rapid development. As a manufacturer of truck bodies for specialty vehicles in China, CIMC Vehicles jointly develops and promotes the R&D and application of new energy in specialty vehicles with tractor manufacturers. With the advantages of the moat trend formed by the Sophisticated Manufacturing System, it will vigorously operate light, intelligent, new-energy and environment-friendly specialty vehicles.
Regarding green manufacturing, CIMC Vehicles has invested in the construction and upgrading of more than 20 Light Tower production lines in the past six years. Yet, the utilisation rate of these production lines has not been fully developed, and they fail to support intercontinental operation and trans-regional operation very flexibly and quickly.
In the coming days, CIMC Vehicles will actively prepare the upgraded version of Light Tower plants: Light Tower Manufacturing Network. Construct a trans-regional operation network of semi-trailer products in China to expedite product launch, improve the utilisation rate of Light Tower plants’ core production equipment, effectively connecting the global semi-trailer business in the long run, and providing guarantee for the development of the group’s businesses.
For business innovation, the cost reduction and efficiency enhancement of China’s trunk logistics needs the sharing and collaboration of many standardised and van equipment. Given that the Chinese government encourages the development of intensive and efficient transport organisation modes such as trailer sharing and rental, and drop and pull transportation, CIMC Vehicles has proactively incubated ‘Vanguard Trailer Rental’, a semi-trailer time-sharing rental and life cycle management service platform, which targets at the vast semi-trailer leasing market in China. It provides standardised transport equipment for logistics enterprises so that they can rent the equipment instead of purchasing, bringing a new concept of sharing to China’s freight equipment industry.
In 2021, the revenue from Vanguard Trailer Rental increased significantly by 66.6 per cent year on year. It has completed Series A-round financing, attracting over 100 million RMB.
“It is how CIMC Vehicles demonstrates its adaptability and preparation for risks,” said Guiping. “That is why CIMC Vehicles could be so calm and forged ahead against the headwinds when the epidemic suddenly came in 2019. From 2019 to 2021, our revenue has repeatedly reached new heights, with annual revenue increasing from 23.387 billion RMB in 2019 to 27.65 billion RMB in 2021.”
In the current era, uncertainty is ubiquitous and normalised according to Guiping.
“The epidemic crisis has become an accelerator for enterprises to differentiate or enhance their competitiveness, but transformation remains the main theme of the times,” he said.
“Looking ahead, we will stay true to its original intention, face the global market, capture global business opportunities, open up a brand-new intercontinental operation territory. Moreover, the group will keep pace with the times in the internal and external circular economy.
“With the help of breaking point, we will maintain vigorous creativity, release greater advantages and long-suppressed potentials, actively create space for profit growth and strategic manoeuvre, abandon or adopt what we want freely to turn a passive situation into an active one.
“At present, China is embarking on a new journey to achieve the goal of the second century and to achieve the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation. As a bridge to safeguard people’s livelihood and construct social and economic circulation, commercial vehicles play an important role, and have been raised to the national level to build a ‘unified national market’ development strategy.
“CIMC Vehicles will take the initiative to grasp the market trend, lead the new chapter of the global commercial vehicle industry with world-class quality products and services, create the best commercial value for global users, lead Chinese enterprises to develop in the world, highlight the strength of Chinese brands so that the name of China shines in the world.”
Kögel stands firm in the face of uncertainty
Christian Renners, the CEO of Germany-based OEM, Kögel, agrees that business has changed dramatically over the last decade – especially during the last three years.
“In economic terms, there are more uncertainties than certainties today,” he said. “Trailer manufacturers must be prepared for strong fluctuations in production figures. Furthermore, high costs for energy and raw materials put high pressure on margins. Additionally, disruptive changes like digitisation and electrification demand high invests.”
From the customer’s point of view: Commercial vehicles must offer their users economic and ecological advantages. Otherwise innovations will not pay off. Furthermore, customers demand one-stop-shopping experiences. It’s not enough to sell only the vehicle.
“Customers rather demand support over the whole life cycle of a trailer unit including all value-added services – from the process of purchasing including finance and rental offers to aftermarket solution,” said Renners. “Of course, trailer telematics and full-service must be part of the game. Companies had and will have to adjust their business models accordingly and they must adopt to the changing demands. Kögel already adopted its business model. Needless to say, Kögel offers an all-round transport solution portfolio which is manifested in the company’s slogan ‘Economy meets Ecology – Because we care’. All transport solutions offered by Kögel to its customers provide economic advantages such as high payloads or high transport volumes. Or they are optimised for multimodal transport.”
Renners said Kögel continues to set the standard when it comes to payload without compromising on robustness.
“Trailers now weigh about one tonne lighter compared to 10-year-old vehicles,” he said. “Furthermore, we introduced the EuroTrailer which is now known by German law as ‘Lang-Lkw Typ 1’. An extended semi-trailer that offers 10 per cent more loading volume at almost no extra cost and eliminates the need for one in ten freight trips. It took quite a while to convince European law makers of the practical benefits. Now it pays off step by step. That’s what we are proud of: pragmatic solutions that pay off in almost no time – for the customer and the environment.”
Load restraint has also seen innovation which is becoming increasingly important.
“Customers either ask for highly specialised and time efficient solutions or general solutions which cover a lot of applications in a safe way,” said Renners. “Data and load tracking became really important, too. Trailer telematics are the viable solution. Fleet operators demand that they can track the status and location of cargo at all times. Telematics is the backbone of full-service offerings and fixed, transparent total cost of ownership. Trailer telematics contributes to high sustainability and reduces unnecessary (empty) trips.”
Renners expects demand for lighter vehicles will continue to rise.
“Furthermore, topics like the CO2 impact of commercial vehicles in the EU will affect body builders, too, and even more than today,” he said. “Various innovations are introduced to reduce the overall CO2 emissions of the tractor-trailer-unit. Including aerodynamics and electrification, new and improved materials.”
Multimodal transport, according to Renners, will also grow stronger.
“Telematics are the backbone of a more connected transport environment,” he said. “Sustainability will be strengthened. The carbon footprint is assessed from cradle to grave.
Insights from the Middle East – GORICA
Ivan Fornazaric, the CEO of GORICA, is committed to pursuing innovative solutions that have far-reaching impact which contributes to the overall health, safety and environmental vision that is starting to evolve around the world.
“Over the past few decades the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and wider region have transformed into more sophisticated economies, and with that, rules and guidelines are also starting to trail this trend to ensure appropriate environmental goals; however much work still needs to be carved out,” he said. “Our vision in 2013 when we started our major investment to produce high quality insulated panels that are then assembled into our final products of refrigerated semi-trailers and reefer bodies, was to be prepared to meet demands that would ensure and deliver on the environmental, health and safety aspects built into our product, and to yield benefits for all stakeholders. We are market ready, but we urge the regulations to tighten up in order to ensure the safe and healthy delivery of all cold chain transport goods in the region.
We require appropriate regulation that fit in with the already seen successful evolution of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) economies, and possibly a regional version of the existing ATP standards as seen in Europe.”
Krone reflects on a journey of growth and innovation
In the space of 10 years, Krone, a trailer manufacturer based in Germany, has since diversified into a service provider, offering a solid selection of programs from heavy goods vehicles to electrically operated bikes such as Rytle.
In 2013, the OEM acquired axle manufacturer, Gigant, and from that point presented an ‘all-in’one’ trailer to the market.
Another key milestone for Krone was the development of the innovating cooling unit, Celsineo, together with Liebherr.
By 2017 the OEM opened a new central spare parts centre in Herzlake, Germany, (€8.5 million) and the following year launched a new coating centre in Werlte (€40 million).
Krone also introduced a program of modernisation and automation across all of its production facilities, especially the Herzlake plant, where the assembly lines for the Dry Liner series and shell lines for swap bodies are now highly automated –complete with a new robotic production line for swap bodies.
Last year Krone opened its future lab and validation centre in Lingen (€20 million). It enabled the business to put farm machines and commercial vehicles and also supplier components through their paces before they are installed in a Krone product.
“In order to optimise the quality of our products effectively, we need accurate and objective evidence of lifetime and functionality of a part or machine,” Dr Frank Albers, Krone Managing Director Marketing and Sales, told Global Trailer. “As such, the validation centre also contributes significantly to customer satisfaction. In addition, its premises offer us excellent opportunities to explore new spheres such as autonomous driving.
Krone offers an interesting alternative with the new spare parts brand Krone Trusted. The advantage for the customer: From now on, Krone Trusted offers tested brand-name spare parts throughout Europe that can be up to 50 percent cheaper than the original spare part. The assortment, which Krone will continuously expand, currently ranges from ABS sensors to brake drums and air suspension hoses to disc brake pads and also includes axle types such as BPW, JOST, Sauer and Schmitz Cargobull. Of course, Krone Trusted offers a twelve-month warranty on all spare parts.
With the help of Krone Smart Capacity Management, freight forwarders utilise their fleets because locations and goods are linked to form optimal route suggestions. Freight exchanges receive the provider information from Krone Smart Capacity Management and provide the dispatcher with the cargo suggestions in the Krone Telematics Portal.
Shippeo Strategic Partnership; Thanks to the collaboration, Krone is the first trailer manufacturer to provide real-time real-time ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) ETA predictions within the framework of its ‘Krone Telematics’ telematics solution. Customers gain access to the most accurate and reliable ETA predictions for the logistics area on the market.
More and more transport companies want to concentrate on their core business and rely on flexible services instead of organising the diverse tasks related to the mobility of their trailers themselves. The focus is also on reliable planning of the fleet and clear cost transparency. With this in mind, Krone has developed its modular service concept. The transport company can choose whether to opt for just one basic module or to combine various modules according to its needs.
Everything that can be digitised, Dr Albers said, will be digitised.
“This can be found in production (Smart Industry), but also with solutions / apps around the trailer. Not only the condition of the trailer (wear data, Main Inspection, Predicted Maintenance) but much more information about the transport goods are interesting – condition of the goods, refrigerator, cargo security, theft, etc.”
Electrification will also play a very big role.
“In addition to the recovery, the trailer is also operated with an e-axis, which helps to save fuel and reduce CO2,” said Dr Albers.
To achieve the highest possible sustainability in refrigerated transport, Krone is converting the Cool Liner completely to electric operation in cooperation with the electric specialist THT. For this purpose, the second trailer axle is converted to a recuperation axle, which feeds electrical energy to a battery pack mounted longitudinally under the trailer. The third-generation energy storage unit, which weighs only 320 kilograms, supplies the all-electric refrigeration unit with electricity with the help of intelligent control electronics, so that the ‘THT New Cool’ Cool Liner does not need a diesel unit at all. The total weight of the fully electric refrigerated trailer is the same as that of a conventionally refrigerated trailer with a full diesel tank. Another aspect: such an e-trailer serves to extend the reach of BEV tractor.
“Unchanged is important and remains customer contact; develop practice-oriented ideas,” said Dr Albers. “Lack of drivers is also a factor that should not be forgotten. The driver image is changing; driver of the future will be a smart transport manager.”
Riding the energy transition wave with CHEREAU
It comes as no surprise that CHEREAU of The Reefer Group in France is leading the world with its smart trailer and hybrid heavy vehicle innovations for a greener tomorrow. The OEM is leaning into solutions that reduce energy consumption which means exploring the use of other energies to replace diesel.
Road transport and logistics is also turning to digitalisation – a trend that CHEREAU is actively engaged in.
In more recent times the Covid crisis and conflict in Ukraine has had a flow-on effect with industry, namely the spike in costs for raw materials, a drop in component availability which ultimately exacerbates manufacturer delivery timeframes and capitulates what is already an unpredictable environment.
Going back to the energy discourse, there will not be a single solution but a panel of solutions that will emerge. These include electric reefer semi-trailers with battery packs, a charge on the network by e-axle or by solar PV cells. CHEREAU will continue to focus on insulation, aerodynamic performance and cut energy needed to operate trucks and trailers.
In the short term, CHEREAU aims to push these technologies in the market. In the future, the OEM anticipates a new taxation system on CO2 as an opportunity to encourage better ways to transport goods while minimising the envrionmental impact on our planet.
A decade from now, CHEREAU expects digitalisation to continue to grow and electrifciation along with hydrogen will set new standards for energy. Longer vehicles will also appear to address the driver shortage and autonomous vehicles will see experimentation on public roads as new solutions for the final mile following the push for decarbonising road transportation. As for manufacturing, CHEREAU expects a fully digital chain from customer offer to the vehicle life’s end.
To reach the goals of the Paris Climate Convention, CHEREAU is adamant that new behaviours such as new ways of consuming and and transporting must be encouraged. For example, there seems to be no consequence or consideration for carbon emissions and efficiency when producers can catch fish in northern France, send it to the southwest to make fillets and then distribute the product to all supermarkets across the country – including the supermarket next to the original fishing area.
Security has also been a focus for drivers and carriers which is why CHEREAU has developed a series of tools including a Bumper-C and SafeLoading-C (which took out a bronze medal at the Solutrans innovation awards). Safe-Loading-C is a CHEREAU patented system that automatically locks the vehicle’s brakes when the dock door is opened. When the vehicle is secured, a blue light blinks to inform the dock operator. As soon as the dock door closes the security system releases and allows the vehicle to leave the loading dock. This tool improves dock operator safety.
LAG Trailers gears up for an automated future
Belgium-based OEM, LAG Trailers, has transformed from a manufacturer of an extensive product portfolio including tanker trailers for liquids and dry bulk containers, container chassis, curtainsiders, flat beds and tippers for the Benelux market to a dedicated and focused producer of tank and intermodal solutions for the entire European market.
“Today, we are a prominent tanker manufacturer in Europe,” LAG CEO, Rob Ramaekers and LAG Director Sales & Marketing, Maarten Houben, told Global Trailer.
In 2015 the business integrated from CIMC Group into CIMC ‘Vehicles’ division.
“This was our first shot to define our new strategy of becoming a true road tanker manufacturer,” said Ramaekers and Houben. “Over the past five years (2017-2022) we have invested 7.0 million euros for the optimisation and expansion of our production capacity. Between 2017-18, we introduced new welding assembly lines, new spray booths and a dry hall. In 2019-2020 we upgraded the workshop with a new fibre laser machine, the first welding robot for the automated welding of silo trailers. Last year we added a second welding robot as well as a new grinding installation, new round seam welding machine and optimised the logistics process of our docking station.”
In 2021, the LAG Group founded a new assembly factory. Located in the Netherlands, the subsidiary company, CIENL, manufactures intermodal chassis for liquid containers and sea containers. Since 2022 the factory is fully operational and a part of LAG’s global supply strategy.
“CIENL manufactures, due to continuous innovations, chassis of the highest quality,” said Ramaekers and Houben. “Know-how and experience make the difference. Creating intermodal excellence is not just a slogan but a determined goal on which we focus.”
Another milestone emerged this year for LAG Trailers.
“We began focusing on the construction of tankers in 1947,” said Ramaekers and Houben. “Today, we offer a wide portfolio of tank semi-trailers and intermodal solutions. Know-how, innovation and the enrichment of 75 years of experience are the base of our high-quality products. But most importantly, teamwork makes the dream work. Day in, day out our employees make the difference in creating and manufacturing our liquid and powder tankers. We are not only celebrating our rich history but also our driving forces behind the story.”
Looking to the future, in order to face shortages in the labour force along with increasing costs, Ramaekers and Houben said investments in robotisation and globalisation will be necessary for business growth. “The lack of drivers and their increasing wages will enhance the modal shift towards more intermodal transport solutions.”
Embracing opportunities in resource recovery – Gervasi Ecologica
Gervasi Ecologica was founded in 2016, but the project of a company entirely dedicated to Ecology had already been in the thoughts of Alessia and Stefania Gervasi for many years.
Both working in the family business, a well-known manufacturer of steel semi-trailers and truck equipment, they dreamed of dedicating energy and resources to a specific sector, that of ecology and recycling.
The production of vehicles for transporting waste materials had always aroused a particular passion in them, in view of its social value and the contribution it could make to the environmental cause.
So about six years ago, they launched Gervasi Ecologica, a spin-off of the family group, focused on design and construction of semi-trailers for scrap and waste materials.
A niche company, young and with an innovative spirit, which in just a few years built a strong identity with clear values and objectives.
In these first years, the company has changed significantly, growing in economic terms, but above all pushing hard on innovation and perfecting their existing solutions.
In 2019, production and offices moved to new, larger premises, able to accommodate the growth process already undertaken with more suitable space.
During the difficult years of the pandemic, Alessia and Stefania Gervasi invested in digitisation and process improvement to provide each customer with customised, durable and efficient solutions.
A choice that has paid off, leading to a 150-plus-per-cent growth in orders by 2021 on 2019.
Some key steps along this path of change were the rebranding started in 2017 and presented at the Ecomondo and Solutrans trade fairs, the launch of the first steel moving-floor semi-trailer in 2018, and the internationalisation process started in 2017 with the European
homologation of production and crowned in 2022 with the participation at international events such as IFAT and, in September, IAA in Hannover.
On the demand side, an important change that has been recently observed is the growing interest in semi-trailers with crane.
This type of vehicle has always been the flagship of production since the very beginning (we are talking about 40 years ago) and today it is great to see that it is attracting new customers all over Europe, starting from France to Germany and the UK.
This trend makes the company very proud, but it may also represent an important step to develop more and more the collection of waste materials to be repurposed.
In fact, the use of a semi-trailer with a crane makes possible the collect of large volumes of waste material independently. The truck driver himself can manoeuvre the crane installed on the semi-trailer and load scrap, demolition vehicles, electrical cables, waste and much more.
It is well known that increasing recovery rates is a globally shared goal, so facilitating collection and making it as autonomous, efficient and widespread as possible is important for everyone, even beyond business reasons.
“We see great potential in this change and hope to see it growing in the next decades,” said Alessia and Stefania Gervasi. “But the innovative soul of the company and the global focus on the growth of the recycling process continues to bring new challenges and new inspirations. That’s why Gervasi Ecologica research and development team is already at work on new projects, expected to be available in 2023-2024. After all, living immersed in the world of recycling and environment, dedicating all the energies to this sector allows us to intercept opportunities and latent needs in a timely manner and, as the company often repeats, without limits.”
Lecitrailer enjoys success by putting the customer first
Since its foundation in 1990, Spain-based OEM, Lecitrailer, has always put the customer at the centre of its business. This has never changed and is in the company’s DNA. The same can be said for the trailer builder’s policy of re-investing profits which enables it to undertake important in-house enhancements to continue growing.
In 2021, Lecitrailer exported 57 per cent of its production representing a significant market presence in more and more countries. As a result, the OEM stands tall as the leading trailer builder in Spain, second in Portugal, third in France and sixth in Italy.
Over the past three years Lecitrailer has also grown significantly in the Netherlands, Norway, Finland and the UK.
Investments have been constant at Lecitrailer. During the first few years, its opened aftersales service bases in Spain in Zaragoza, Barcelona, Madrid, Seville and Valencia.
In 2013 it opened its sixth own aftersales service base in Lyon, France, with a total area of 50,000 square metres, of which 7,000 square metres are covered. The service base is located in a strategic point for the aftersales of all carriers with international routes to Central Europe and Eastern European countries, which has undoubtedly favoured the development of the Lecitrailer brand in the French market.
Also in 2013, with the acquisition of EGA, a manufacturer of reefer panels, Lecitrailer began to manufacture its own complete reefers semi-trailers, chassis and bodywork.
In 2019, the OEM opened Europe’s largest KTL facility, from which time all of its semi-trailers have undergone the cataphoresis process on the chassis, which ensures a uniform coating over the entire chassis surface of 50-micron KTL primer (e-coat), the highest chassis protection on the market, enabling it to offer a 10-year guarantee against corrosion perforation.
In 2022, Lecitrailer opened its seventh aftersales service base in Mangualde, Portugal, with an area of 36,000 square metres and is equipped, like the rest of Lecitrailer’s service bases, with the latest available technologies available on the market. It has bench redressing tool, shot-blasting, painting cabin, brake-tester, tyres alignment laser system and inspection pits.
With the start-up of the new aftersales base, there are now seven Lecitrailer bases with a total surface area of more than 500,000 square metres
“We are in a fairly mature market in which there is a large fleet of vehicles pending renewal,” said Lecitrailer. “It is our duty as manufacturers to produce vehicles that allow transporters to extend the useful life of their vehicles and that allow them to diversify the type of load to be transported, so that it is more profitable for them. In this respect, our production flexibility is a plus for our customers, as we can manufacture vehicles that are fully adapted to their requirements.
“Over the years, the semi-trailer has been adapted to the different types of loads, to the demands of each particular job, they have been transformed in favour of ease of handling, seeking more safety both on the road and in the handling of the semi-trailer itself, and within a current environment of CO2 reduction. We actively collaborate with authorities, universities and administrations for the study of CO2 reduction, such as the projects carried out with duo trailers and mega-trailers (25,25 metres), in which Lecitrailer is the pioneer. On the other hand, an important part of the sector is committed to intermodality and we have been working for years with semi-trailers designed for this purpose.”
Schwarzmüller doubles down on the niche vehicle segment
Roland Hartwig, the CEO of Schwarzmüller, said the bespoke vehicle market has increased considerably in the last 10 years.
“The target group of companies that demand vehicles with a customised configuration has become wider, above all particularly due to the development of many East European markets,” he said. “This trend is favourable for the Schwarzmüller Group, as we focus on these niches in sectors such as the construction industry and the infrastructure industry, as well as long-distance transport. With 150 different vehicle types in eight areas, our portfolio already covers quite a wide spectrum. Thousands of versions of these roll off our production lines every year. That is why we have recently been extremely successful in the two largest European markets, Germany and Poland.”
More services has helped Schwarzmüller focus on the entire lifecycle of a trailer.
“We are currently seeing an increasing demand for aftersales services throughout the entire lifecycle,” said Hartwig. “On the one hand, this is due to the fact that the vehicle technology is so specific, including the digital components, and on the other hand to the lack of suitably qualified staff. This increasingly leads to the maintenance and repair of entire fleets being outsourced to specialised service providers, including the Schwarzmüller Group, the only major European manufacturer among these. We view this close customer liaison as part of our core business, and therefore offer a wide spectrum of services: Spare parts supply, maintenance, repairs, a large fleet of hire vehicles that also includes special vehicles, and the international trade in used vehicles; however, also support services for the telematics systems in all of our vehicles. Due to the demand, we are ramping up these customer services, and intend to be present throughout all of the important markets.”
In terms of company milestones, there has been a change in production at Schwarzmüller with regards to flow and sequence.
“The Schwarzmüller Group has recently completely changed the production processes at all four sites, to a computer-controlled sequenced flow production system,” said Hartwig. “More than 140,000 processes were re-organised. On all production lines, the optimum sequence for the widely differing vehicles is calculated on a daily basis. This makes it possible for us to supply customer-specific niche vehicles as quickly as ordinary standard vehicles.”
With time, the OEM has also expanded its range of products. It now focuses on extremely high quality vehicle niches.
“We currently offer 50 different tipping trailers that all differ in terms of the material combination and the trough surface,” said Hartwig. “We now also produce our own walking floor vehicles; the latest generation of long-distance transport vehicles weighs less and performs better. Furthermore, we are the only manufacturer to offer lightweight construction vehicles in all product categories. Their lower unladen weight permits higher payloads, or also reduces the truck’s carbon emissions on empty runs by almost 10 per cent, for example.”
With the acquisition of German company Hüffermann Transportsysteme GmbH in 2020, the Schwarzmüller Group extended its product portfolio, which now also includes container transport vehicles. The new subsidiary, whose brand will continue to exist within the group, is the European market leader in this segment, which is growing strongly in consequence of waste management and recycling.
“For the past nine years, the long-established, fifth generation family company has been headed by an external manager: The German mechanical engineer Roland Hartwig has been at the helm as its CEO since 2016,” said Hartwig. “Schwarzmüller recently achieved a company record, with a turnover of 414 million euros and almost 10,000 vehicles sold in 2021.”
Schwarzmüller also expects to see more automation going forward.
“The production process as well as the actual vehicles will increasingly become more automated,” said Hartwig. “Now that we have the currently most innovative production lines in our sector, we are focusing on the automation of the vehicles. One area we are looking at is the automatic loading of low loaders.”
The future may also see the rise of more drones – third level transport.
“The development of drones as a new means of transport also poses new challenges for the trailer construction sector,” said Hartwig. “In cooperation with the German drone manufacturer, Volocopter, we are developing a trailer that carries transport drones and at the same time serves them as a take-off platform. The concept design process has already been completed; we are now working on the mechanical prototype.”
In the coming years, Hartwig expects that bespoke vehicles will perform better and contribute to necessary efficiency increases hence the OEM’s focus on this vehicle segment. He added that human resource shortages, especially qualified staff, will become the new normal.
“In view of the fact that we desperately need properly qualified staff for the production of such a high number of different vehicles, we intend to increase our in-house vocational training offers as much as possible,” said Hartwig. “At the same time, we must establish optimum working conditions for these specialists. This goal will tie up considerably more resources than in the past.”
Innovation and cooperation will also be more important in the future.
“The transport industry is facing an imminent major transformation,” said Hartwig. “The specific form this will take is only just starting to become apparent. That is why innovativeness looks set to be one of the future core skills. However, the more complex the projects become, the more their solutions call for external collaborations. That is what we are preparing our organisation for.”
A bastion of North America – Wabash
Over the last 10 years, US-based OEM, Wabash, has adjusted its company strategy to focus on delivering solutions that support customers from first to final mile. Recently, the company has expanded capabilities in its Parts and Services business to provide service throughout the entire customer lifecycle.
“As an end-to-end solutions and service provider, we’re now able to offer customers the convenience of working with a one-stop-shop through the entire product lifecycle,” Wabash told Global Trailer.
“Throughout this process, we’ve also restructured our teams internally and adopted a more customer-centric approach to our business.”
Earlier this year, Wabash’s Parts and Services offering brought together historically disparate parts and services businesses under one leadership team. The OEM’s parts distribution utilises an extensive network of equipment dealers’ service capabilities, as well as the infrastructure of industry-leading partners of national wholesale distribution for aftermarket heavy duty truck and trailers parts, using multiple distribution centres across the country. The creation of this new tech-enabled parts distribution network not only unified and expanded Wabash’s parts distribution capabilities across all product lines but also provided immediate scale to grow.
“We’ve also built a strong collaborative relationship with FreightVana over the last year, and we believe, together, we can solve some of the transportation industry’s most meaningful challenges such as driver shortages, detention times at shippers’ docks and an overall lack of network fluidity,” said Wabash. “In an effort to ease these challenges, we announced a partnership supporting the 3PL’s fast-growing power-only offering, FreightVanaX, with trailer availability and services through our Trailers as a Service (TaaS) platform.”
A decade from now, Wabash expects great changes across the manufacturing and logistics industry.
“First, we expect traditional logistics models will be widely disrupted by e-commerce,” said Wabash. “We also think the freight market will be rebalanced, requiring more equipment, and if the demand for home delivery products continues to grow at the current rate, it will likely result in larger classes of truck bodies down the road.”
One of the great lessons the team at Wabash has learnt over the years is the value of putting customers first.
“When we listen to their goals and pain points, we’re able to better anticipate their needs,” said Wabash. “This is how we approach new product development and it’s been incredibly successful in engineering solutions that help solve problems in the marketplace, like making refrigerated transportation equipment more sustainable with EcoNex Technology.”
Wielton Group, the champion of multibrand power
The CEO of Wielton Group, Mariusz Golec, defines the last 10 years as a period of intensive growth for his organisation both organically and through regular acquisitions.
“From a Polish company producing mainly for the local and eastern markets, we have grown into an international Group with foreign brands,” he said. “We are now present in most markets in Europe and in several markets in Africa. We have significantly expanded our product range, adding specialised vehicles and innovative solutions. We have expanded our production plants and developed automation and robotisation of processes. We have substantially increased our workforce and expanded our team of specialists. Today, we are one of the three largest producers in our sector in Europe and 10 in the world. We have five production centres (Poland, Germany, France, the UK and Spain) as well as two assembly plants: Italy and Russia (operations suspended from 24.02.2022). We also launched a company in the Ivory Coast. The entire Wielton Group currently employs around 3,600 people, whereas 10 years ago there were only 700 of us. As in the case of employment, our production has also increased from 6,000 units to 26,000 units. Our mission is to create and deliver the best transport solutions for business. We base our activities on four key values, which include: people, initiative, quality, and safety. We are currently working on our next growth strategy, which will be just as ambitious as the previous one.”
The strength of the Wielton Group, according to Golec, is consistently implemented strategy based on organic growth and acquisitions.
“Over the last 10 years, a lot has happened in our company,” he said. “In 2015, we acquired the leading Italian brands Viberti and Cardi and the French company Fruehauf. In 2016, we opened a research and development Centre in Wieluń with the only full-vehicle testing station for semi-trailers in Poland and the second in Europe. Then, in May 2017, as the Wielton Group, we acquired the German company Langendorf, which allowed us to expand our product range with, among other things, specialised vehicles for transporting glass and prefabricated concrete. In turn, the acquisition of Lawrence David, in September 2018, allowed us to enrich our offer with further unique vehicles, such as home delivery bodies and pillarless curtainsider semi-trailers. Meanwhile, the acquisition of Guillén Desarrollos Industriales in 2021 enabled us to expand the Group’s activities into another important market – Spain. In summary, we have done a tremendous amount of work over the last decade and our business has grown by several sizes.”
The future of the transport market today, according to Golec, is marked by numerous changes – many of them significantly accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Digitisation, automation, autonomous vehicles and sustainable transport are aspects that will have a big impact on the industry,” he said. “We are observing a clear recovery in the transport sector, while at the same time the very clear shortage of professional drivers is an increasingly serious problem. It is necessary to pay particular attention to improving the comfort and safety of their work, the answer to which is, among other things, the digitalisation and automation of processes. With the development of automated logistics centers, solutions such as the electrically retractable roof or sides of semi-trailers, which allow maintenance-free loading and unloading, are becoming standard in semi-trailers. It is important for the wholesale transport of goods, as well as for ‘last mile’ vehicles, making the work of couriers easier and more efficient.
“Telematics solutions, which allow data to be collected, processed, and distributed to the right links in the entire supply chain, are also becoming more widely used. Already today, we can not only locate semi-trailers or remotely identify transported goods, but also accurately track technical parameters, which helps to effectively manage not only the fleet but also vehicle servicing and the safety of transported goods. These solutions are being perfected and, with the spread of 5G technology, may allow for the real use of autonomous vehicles and the exploitation of transport efficiency in formations, i.e. truck platooning. These technologies will not fully replace drivers but will allow for even greater optimisation of haulage.
“A huge challenge not only for the transport industry is the need to reduce GHG emissions. ‘Fit for 55’ is an even more ambitious target to meet. The key for the Wielton Group is to create semi-trailers that will help our customers to reduce their emissions. The reduction of the carbon footprint is helped by e-mobility solutions such as electric axles indirectly powering the aggregates. On the other hand, sustainability activities across the Group, such as shortening the supply chain, in-house production, semi-trailer weight reduction activities, and the use of alternative materials, are also of great importance. We are also focusing on the production of clean energy for our use, robotisation, and automation of processes, and the reduction of waste or water consumption. For us, sustainable production is the sustainable development of the entire Group. Offering the best transport solutions for business, in line with our mission, mobilises us to best manage today’s challenges for the industry. So that our customers grow with us.”
Wielton’s multibrand power leverages strategic acquisitions and geographical diversification to accommodate the needs of various markets around the world. As one of the 10 largest semi-trailer and trailer manufacturers in the world, this unique business model, multibrand, is paramount to the Group’s success.
“It is based on a global reach built by strong local brands,” said Golec. “We form a Group made up of European companies: Wielton, which is the consolidating company, Fruehauf, Lawrence David, Langendorf, Viberti, and Guillén. The Wielton 2020 strategy, we have adopted, is based on organic growth and acquisitions and has been successively implemented since 2015. When entering new markets, we carefully analyse their sales potential and investment climate. Diversification of the business, both geographically and products, is extremely important to us. The acquired companies are partners for us. When looking for common synergies, we must ensure their autonomy and real growth. To this end, we jointly implement new investments. We conquer new markets and build competitive advantages based on new technologies, while fully exploiting the potential of the consolidated companies. For us, the success of our acquisitions is also guaranteed by our pursuit of integration within the Group. We see this process from four perspectives – process, purchasing, production, and sales. The synergies obtained in these areas not only significantly increase the negotiating position of the entire Group, but also positively impact the cost optimisation and efficiency of each of the constituent entities.”
Wielton also focuses on successively expanding its product portfolio and adapting it to customer preferences in the respective market.
“An important strength of our offering is the personalisation of products and unique solutions,” said Golec. “In 12 product groups, we can create a total of more than 800 product configurations. This means that we are ready to fulfill any, even the most specific order. This would not be possible without the mutual exchange of know-how between the companies. The flow of knowledge within the organisation has a significant impact not only on our product range but also on our awareness of customer needs in individual markets.
“We treat each acquisition individually, not only as an opportunity to build the Group’s position on the international market but also as a unique experience that pays off in subsequent transactions of this kind. At the same time, we meticulously prepare for each of them and analyse potential opportunities and risks. This allows us to operate efficiently and safely from a business perspective. We made our last acquisition in December 2021. We currently focus on synergies between the new company and the Wielton Group, mainly on the line: the Spanish Guillén and the French Fruehauf, in the production and sales areas. Of course, we are also at the stage of purchasing synergies with the entire Group, integrating production processes, and implementing a reporting system.
“Achieving synergies and the integration of new companies into the Group allows us to maintain a federated management model for the companies. An important aspect of every acquisition we have made has been to keep the team of specialists and experts in each company with us because they are the ones who know the local circumstances, customers, and suppliers best. We rely on local teams, respect their culture and retain local branding – I think this is what most distinguishes our Group from other semi-trailer and trailer manufacturers.”
The elephant in the room – Schmitz Cargobull
Andreas Schmitz, the CEO of Schmitz Cargobull, said the trailer business has always been subject to strong economic fluctuations.
“The current up and down is something that we know how to manage quiet well,” he said, reflecting on the past decade. “What is new in Germany is the lack of fiscal austerity and the resulting inflation. Furthermore, the extreme supply chain disruptions caused by Covid, climate-related natural disasters, the Ukraine war and the sanctions, which resulted in supply chains being cut of overnight by decree. For Schmitz Cargobull our brand promise of ‘Reliable and Innovative’ has been a guiding principle not only for our products and services, but also for our relationships with customers and suppliers. Therefore, we had modularised our product and set up dual sourcing and created a flexible production network, that allows us to react quickly. While our entire team has adjusted well to the given conditions and we managed better than most of our competitors – as proven by our increase in production and market shares, we nevertheless wish we could have been even more reliable.
“The other change of the decade is the challenge to become even more sustainable and reducing our environmental footprint. As a company that has been family-run for generations, sustainable management is at the core of our values. However, especially in the last decade, sustainability and digitalization have become important drivers of innovation.
“We have been the leaders in producing smart trailers helping our customers to digitalise their logistic business. We not only modularised our electrical and electronic systems, but we also opened up the data and introduced an open API to make logistics processes more efficient through controlled data management. Our Trailer Connect Data Management Center (DMC) allows our customers to selectively share their data with customers and partners. Our smart trailers and the DMC allow our customers to shape new digital logistic processes and to benefit from digitalisation. That provides our customers a key edge to increase their profitability.”
Even though Schmitz Cargobull has achieved many milestones over the years, the most important, according to Andreas Schmitz, is the fact that the OEM created a digital product system including its own cooling unit and flexible production network.
“Both are key to our strategy,” he said. “Of course, there have been many product innovations as well. Just to name a few:
The Schmitz Cargobull cooling unit S.CU with a common rail diesel to cut emission.
Smart S.KO incl. Digital Temperature Writer and 2way Communication for Remote Set Point Control and FOTA (Firmware-Over-The-Air) Updates for cooling units to further increase efficiency even for older, existing units.
The electric semi-trailer S.KOe equipped with an electrical cooling unit and a recuperation axle.
S.KO – Reefer trailer with new FERROPLAST walls and a dramatically improved insulation value.
The Curtainsider S.CS GENIOS Chassis generation, which due to reduced welding and galvanisation lasts significantly longer even under the toughest conditions.
The POWER CURTAIN for faster opening and closing of the curtains.
The aerodynamic trailers of the EcoGeneration to significantly reduce wind resistance which leads to more than 5.0 per cent reduction of fuel costs and CO2 emissions while allowing full internal height when needed.
Innovative low-tare tippers, S.KI with high payload and an integrated scale for weight and theft control, obviously also controllable via telematics.
The new S.BO dry freight box body trailers with a stable and lightweight body made from STRUKTOPLAST, comprising honeycomb-shaped panels.
Trailer Connect Data Management Center to connect all types of telematic systems with an open API structure and putting our customer in charge of his data.
In terms of manufacturing and logistics trends a decade from now, Andreas Schmitz said digitalisation will continue to advance and the topic of sustainability will be increasingly in focus.
“Electric tractors and refrigeration units will increasingly take over food distribution in city centres,” he said. “Some major cities are already setting up so-called ‘zero emission zones’ for this purpose.
“Autonomous Driving and electrification of trucks will place further requirements on trailers. The general rate of inflation is also a major concern, as is the issue of a shortage of skilled workers. In the short term, we must pay attention to how inflation develops.
“Finally, we must continue to work on practical solutions for low-emission freight transport. The CO2 tax, and therefore the cost of fossil fuel, will increase every year. This calls for solutions that help the industry reduce CO2 emissions, preferably without requiring expensive investments to do so. Hopefully, market forces and an increasing CO2 price are allowed to work rather than innovation stifling regulation.”
Andreas Schmitz agrees we have all had some extremely difficult years without the possibility to communicate in person.
“At Schmitz Cargobull we have worked very hard on bringing TCO reducing innovations to market, and we feel the need to show and explain those Innovations,” he said. “Because of these innovations Schmitz Cargobull and its customers are well positioned to master the challenges. We at Schmitz Cargobull are looking forward to seeing our business partners at IAA Transportation 2022 in Hanover and Bauma in Munich not only to explain our products, but also to enjoy the human interaction over a drink.”
A few words from Sebastian Grote, co-founder and former Editor of Global Trailer (2011-2018)
“Why don’t we just try?” John looked at me in excitement and folded down the narrow tray table in front of him. He tore a page from the Cathay Pacific brochure in the seat pocket and started scribbling on the edges. “If we get it right, it might just add up. Are you in?”
I was still waking up from a restless airplane doze and took a moment to collect my senses. We had just left Hong Kong after a two-week research trip to some of China’s largest heavy vehicle and equipment manufacturing sites, and I was still processing the experience.
It was my first international business trip as Editor of Trailer, a young and fiercely ambitious business publication serving Australia’s trailer manufacturing industry, and the first time I got to spent one-on-one time with John Murphy, CEO of Prime Creative Media and the very man who founded the title that was now in my care.
For the past two weeks, we had been travelling far and wide to learn about China’s rapidly emerging transport equipment market and met some of the most influential people in the industry. It was my first serious job out of university and I was already well outside my comfort zone.
Humbled, I looked up to John, who was still scribbling on the back of the page. He said: “If there’s anything we learned about the industry it’s that there is a real need for connection, a global marketplace. A global trailer magazine. What do you say – I’ll focus on sales, you take care of the content?”
I wasn’t sure how to respond, but what John was proposing did make sense. Only a few days ago, David Li, then-General Manager of CIMC Vehicles, one of the largest trailer manufacturers in the world, had publicly admonished that there was no professional forum for Asia’s burgeoning transport equipment industry.
In an attempt to rectify the situation, he had taken it upon himself to invite some of the industry’s leading managers to come to China and speak at an in-house conference. The event had been a great success, but it was David himself who concluded an annual CIMC symposium in China would not quite fill the gap. There was a vast, entirely disconnected industry out there that was aching for a platform to connect.
During a follow-up interview in his Shenzhen office, he admitted to being a long-standing fan of Trailer and jokingly challenged John to come up with a Chinese version to keep the conversation going. At the time, John had politely declined. A small, Melbourne-based family company would not have the capacity to do such a complex market justice, he said.
Up here in the sky, John’s opinion seemed to have changed: “I don’t think we have the bandwidth to launch national editions of Trailer. But if we go global, we might just find the commercial support to make something work.”
I was listening intently by now and couldn’t hide my excitement. There was so much innovation happening in the space that did not get any airtime, and so much knowledge that had to be shared – not only from a technology, but also from a management perspective. As Editor of Trailer I had always kept a keen eye on international news, but with a mandate to champion homegrown innovation, much of my time had been spent on local coverage.
I fumbled my notepad from my bag and flicked through the pages, each filled with barely legible notes and brusque drawings.
“The stories are just waiting to be told,” I said. “And it’s not just tech. Think of all the inspiring people we met at the conference. It’s time to get them into the spotlight.”
With the Cathay brochure now indecipherable from his scribblings, John grabbed my notebook and made a list. By the end of the flight, we had mapped out a year’s worth of content and the advertisers we thought might be interested in supporting our idea.
In the cab home, John made the first call. “David, I think we can do it. But we need you to commit – can you do that?”
A week or so went by, and CIMC Vehicles signed to a 24-month advertising contract to fund the venture.
I’m not sure how many times I’ve told Global Trailer’s origin story over the years, even long after I left Prime Creative Media to build my own company in the medical technology space. I didn’t know it at the time, but the magazine’s genesis was a masterclass in entrepreneurship, a lesson in resourcefulness, resilience and, most of all, trust, and I am still grateful to John for offering me a front row seat.
The beginning was tough. Our vision was to create a decidedly collectable, high-quality print product augmented by a website and newsletter service, as well as a bi-annual in-person event. Long before it became a buzzword, we wanted to create a global community, a tight-knit tribe of entrepreneurs and innovators who had so much to say, so much knowledge to share, but no platform to be heard.
To get it off the ground, we needed ‘venture capital’ in the form of advertising. John and his wonderful wife, Tanya, worked tirelessly to convince the big players in the space to buy into our vision, often until deep in the night due to the time difference between Australia, Europe and the US. It was a lecture in business strategy – any product is only ever as good as people’s willingness to pay for it, and John and Tanya were committed to find a business case.
Inspired by the Murphy family’s seemingly unwavering ambition, my days looked much the same. To tell the stories I really wanted to tell, I needed to go right to the source and talk to the chief executives of some of the largest manufacturing businesses in the world.
I don’t know how many hours I spent on the phone, or how many emails I wrote, but I still recall the constant stream of rejection. I didn’t have a name in the industry and apart from a pitch deck there was no product or website I could reference. I never made it past the front office. But with Tanya and John forging ahead with such passion, giving up was not an option.
So I started to write about what I learned in China that February, and my conversations with David Li, one of the most powerful, yet mysterious people in the industry. I wrote about the CIMC conference and started emailing the people I had met for comment. Slowly, I built a portfolio.
By June, we had a draft magazine to show. Laid out by the brilliant Michelle Weston and Joel Parke, it felt unlike anything the transport equipment community had ever seen. Lean and sophisticated, it broke with the ‘automotive’ tradition and entirely leaned into the industry’s smart and innovative side. Until today, I believe it’s in large part due to Michelle and Joel’s superb design the magazine has become such a runaway success.
Meanwhile, John and Tanya had not only secured enough funding to warrant a print run, but also built an impressive list of pre-orders from Asia, Europe and even the US. In September 2011, we shipped the first issue.
It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since John Murphy convinced one of the most powerful people in the trailer manufacturing space to take a bet on a journalism graduate from Germany to build a global media brand, and I can’t thank him and his wife Tanya enough for the trust they placed in me and our small internal start-up.
Global Trailer became the title that defined my journalistic career in the heavy vehicle space and, in many ways, prepared me for the challenges that came with starting my own venture five years down the line.
I feel privileged to have been part of the Global Trailer journey, and so proud of Ashley Blachford, Luke Applebee and their team for building on our humble legacy with such drive and dedication. It’s been an honour serving such an innovative, yet largely overlooked industry, and I can’t wait to see what it has in store to shape the future of global logistics.
Here’s to the next decade.