If you're transporting a $5,000 horse, do you buy a trailer on price, or do you spend a little more for peace of mind?
Ronald and Kay Jackson banked on peace of mind. Since founding Contract Manufacturer, Inc. - best known as CM Trailers - in Madill, Oklahoma 10 years ago, their company has grown from six people to 285 and produced about 60,000 trailers.
And it has been listed four times as a member of the INC 500 fastest growing privately held U.S. companies started with less than $1,000.
"Peace of mind and good cosmetics are some key components to strong trailer sales," says Marketing Manager Donnie McKee. "We produce a high quality, all-steel trailer at a reasonable price. People feel comfortable knowing that their valuable cargo will arrive safely as they tow their new CM Trailers down the highway."
Vice President Jeff Jackson says that he now exclusively buys Miller Electric's CP-302 power sources, S-60 wire feeders and OXO's APX30 guns for the same reasons: cosmetics and peace of mind.
Jeff Jackson loves the OXO tip design for its ability to handle more heat and extend tip life.
"The CP-302 helps us produce better looking welds with less clean-up," he says. "Also, it seems that people with Miller power sources and OXO guns have fewer maintenance hassles. Our main goal is to flip on the power switch and weld for eight hours without problems. In June 1999, we purchased 25 systems, and we haven't had a single problem. Even better, we reduced contact tip use by 60 percent and haven't had to change a single gun liner."
King of the Road
CM Trailers began by capitalizing on the need for rugged, all-steel trailers in the $3,000 to $6,000 price range. It soon upgraded its offering by adding steel frame, aluminum exterior models for horses, cargo and autos. Today, the company also produces high-end, all-aluminum gooseneck horse and stock trailers.
Three manufacturing lines at the Madill facility produce up to 40 steel trailers daily. Most of the trailer frame bases use 2 x 3 in. steel tubing, angle and channel in thicknesses of 3/16 and 1/4 in. The sides and top frames use 1 in. tubing made from 14 ga. steel. The doors and sides use 16 Ga. sheet, while 20 Ga. sheet is used for the top.
To meet growing demand, Contract Manufacturer built a new 243,735 sq.-ft. facility last June. The manufacturing lines needed 46 welding systems and the fabrication area - which builds doors, dividers, tongues and other sub-assemblies - needed 16 systems. Since the company's existing Deltaweld® 300 power sources, S-52 feeders and assorted brands of guns only met the needs of the fabrication area and line 1, Jackson contacted his welding distributor, George Bland, Sales Manager for the Madill branch of Rite-Weld Supply, Inc.
Bland demonstrated the CP-302 paired with the S-60 wire feeder and OXO gun, Miller's Deltaweld 302 with the same feeder and gun, and a competitive 400 amp DC power source, feeder and gun. Bland also recommended .035 in. diameter AWS ER70S-4 wire and 90/10 argon/CO2 shielding gas.
"The operators liked the CP-302's hand-cranked amperage adjustment and pre-settable voltage control because they get good control over the weld procedures," says Bland. "With the inductance linked on the lower of its two settings, the CP-302 creates a soft arc with a wide cone. The soft arc provides good wetting at the toes of the weld and a smooth bead, while the wider cone helps catch gaps if fit-up is less than optimal."
"The CP-302 is quite a bit better than competitive machines," states Jackson. "It provides better heat consistency, steadier wire feed speed, crisper starts and lower spatter. This helps the welds come out smoother, so we have less cleanup"
The type of wire and shielding gas selected also contribute significantly to weld quality. Bland notes that while an S-3 wire costs less, the slightly higher silicon content of the S-4 wire gives more fluidity to the weld puddle and flattens the weld bead. The 90/10 gas mixture also costs more than 75/25 argon/CO2 or straight CO2, but it, too, improves cosmetics.
"The higher argon content adds a little more heat for good wet out, and it adds more purification to the weld puddle," Bland explains. He further notes that "In the short circuit transfer mode - which is used for thinner metals - the high argon content minimizes spatter and reduces the need for post-weld grinding or polishing. It also lets them weld in the spray transfer mode for thicker metals. A 75/25 mix doesn't support the spray transfer process, but a 90/10 mix does, letting operators weld at approximately 180 amps/24 volts. Thus, Contract Manufacturer's operators can weld steel from 20 Ga. to 1/4 in. with a single wire and gas."
McKee comments that spending a little more on the front end of manufacturing to save on the back end is a company trait. "Our painting process follows the same philosophy as our welding processes. We spend a little more for Akzo Nobel's Sikkens self-etching primer and three coats of acrylic urethane enamel. However, these products result in a smoother surface, reduced painting time and increased product life."
Take a Tip
Because trailers range from 8 to 40 ft. long, Jeff Jackson helped design a boom-mounted "swing arc" wire feed system that, coupled with a 20-ft. gun cable, lets the operators reach any part of a trailer. A 3/32 in. gun liner runs through a tube attached to the boom; this ensures that the wire feeds smoothly and shields it from dust. The system locates the wire drive rolls at the end of the boom and places the wire spool at shoulder level; a disconnect system remotes wire feed speed control for easy operator access.
Jackson credits the OXO gun design with providing outstanding durability. An external wire spring supports the gun cable at the drive rolls, and a steel monocoil built into the cable offers more strength and better feedability. This construction "keeps the gun from being pulled out of the feeder connection, which was a major problem for us on the guns we used previously," he states. "We've had no problems with the OXO guns, which is why they're now on every machine in here. Plus, we get tremendous life from the contact tips. We cut contact tip use by 60 percent just by going to the OXO guns. The design transfers heat better, and that extends tip life."
With lower tip costs, reliable welding machines and smoother weld beads from his Miller and OXO products, no wonder Jackson states that "We've tried other brands of machines in the past. We no longer have those machines."