Stoughton Trailers makes use of robotic welding to construct chassis amid labor woes

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Stoughton Trailers debuted robotic welding capabilities this yr on a chassis manufacturing line at its manufacturing plant in Evansville, Wisconsin, turning to the tech to assist deal with staffing challenges.

The transfer displays the rising labor points the OEM faces because it struggles to satisfy pent-up tools demand, David Giesen, vice chairman of gross sales and advertising, mentioned throughout remarks on the FTR Transportation Convention 2022 this month.

“We spent some huge cash placing in an automatic, robotic welding line to construct chassis,” Giesen mentioned. “Previously, the return on funding was a unique mannequin than it’s immediately. The rationale it’s a unique mannequin is we can’t get the employees.”

Whereas the welding line was pricey, hiring 5 employees to carry out a producing activity is way harder than it was, Giesen mentioned. The OEM has been happy with the automated tech’s outcomes to this point, its vice chairman added.

“Fairly spectacular to look at these robots weld,” he mentioned. “And so long as every part’s arrange proper, it’s all nice.”

Stoughton, the fifth-largest dry van producer in North America, is on tempo to be the most important home producer of chassis by the tip of the yr. The corporate is hiring for a plant it added this yr in Waco, Texas, and it signed a take care of a producing companion in Mississippi, because it tasks sturdy demand for chassis and trailers to proceed by way of 2023.

The corporate plans to rent as much as 125 new workers at its Waco facility.

A Stoughton spokesperson didn’t reply to a query concerning the variety of employees at every web site, the identify of the Mississippi companion, or the variety of open positions in Evansville the robotic welding line will permit it to eradicate.

“We might fill our backlog most likely two or 3 times over for 2023 with the demand that’s sitting there,” Giesen informed convention attendees.

The corporate has begun inserting orders for subsequent yr, however is hesitant to e book enterprise too far prematurely due to provide constraints on elements, Giesen mentioned.

“I’m not going to e book all that enterprise out as a result of I don’t know what number of [pieces of equipment] per week I’m going to supply,” he mentioned. “I don’t know what elements per week I’m going to get.”

Chassis and trailers are made with most of the similar components, and Stoughton is working to stability elevated chassis manufacturing with the capability required for its trailer prospects. The corporate has scaled up its home chassis manufacturing and plans to quickly supply 20-foot and 40-foot chassis along with its present 53-foot intermodal items.

The corporate has a mixed 1.3 million sq. ft of producing house in 9 services within the Wisconsin cities of Stoughton, Evansville and Brodhead, in keeping with its web site.

David Taube contributed to this story.

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