Multimillion-rand facility expansions, the improvement of quality and service, and additional orders from new clients are key to the 18% sales growth registered this year by truck and trailer body building company Serco, states MD Clinton Holcroft.
This growth took place in local and neigh- bouring countries, “largely through Serco striving to deliver a high-quality product and tangible solutions,” he tells Engineering News, adding that this growth is driven by the company’s new factory.
The R40-million investment in new plant and buildings, in Phoenix Industrial Park, in Durban, KwaZulu-Natal, adds another 6 000 m2 to the existing premises. The construction started in the third quarter of 2014 and was completed in September 2015.
Additionally, Serco aims to commission a new press in December using the injection-panel manufacturing process, which Holcroft believes will be a first in Southern Africa in terms of refrigerated vehicle building.
“It will set a new benchmark for us in terms of panel strength and thermal efficiency,” he states.
When the new manufacturing line is fully commissioned, Serco will double its capacity, providing significant scope for growth over the next few years, Holcroft says. The company is targeting to improve efficiency by 15% in the short term and 50% in the next three years.
While Holcroft is concerned about a general lack of growth in South Africa’s economy, Serco’s sales growth is partly attributable to new developments for transporters, such as the company’s new specially designed trailers to accommodate maximum volumetric capacity. This particular delivery, for logistics provider Simulus Logistix, in Harare, Zimbabwe, has resulted in the placement of additional orders for dry-freight vehicles, which can carry lightweight products cost effectively.
Serco supplied four new ‘step-decked’ trailers – with double axles and a carrying capacity of 123 m3 and a 13 t payload – as opposed to the standard 106 m3 for the same payload. Two interlink trailers designed with ‘well decks’ and a carrying capacity of 138 m3 and a 32 t payload, compared with the standard 124 m3 and the equivalent payload, were also supplied.
Simulus placed the first orders in late 2014 for delivery in March 2015, after which it placed an additional order for nine trailers to be delivered later this year.
The trailers were a first for the company. “The fibre-glass construction provides good waterproofing and the double doors on both sides make for easy access,” explains Holcroft, pointing out that low-profile tyres and an underslung suspension were used to reduce the trailers’ chassis height and increase body height and loading volume.
The average age of trailers in use is increasing yearly and, therefore, they are becoming increasingly costly to run as reliability reduces and maintenance costs climb. Hence, Holcroft emphasises the incentive for transporters to upgrade to new equipment.
“Included in this incentive should be the use of aerodynamic accessories to reduce carbon emissions, for example,” Holcroft adds.
In line with this, Serco has introduced various roof-mounted diffusers and side-mounted aerokits for its semitrailers. “These have been proven to save more than 2.5% in fuel, based on road tests done locally. [L]ighter trailers also reduce rolling resistance,” he explains.
Complementing the company’s objective to reduce carbon emissions for transporters, Serco introduced a new design – a solar-powered system for truck trailers to eliminate truck idling. Previously, a driver had to keep the truck idling to provide sufficient power for the rear-mounted tail lift used for offloading.
This year, Serco delivered more than 50 new trailers and replacement bodies fitted with the new solar panels to food retailer Shoprite.
The solar-panel system eliminates about two to four hours a day of idling for each trailer, thereby saving about 1 600 ℓ/y of fuel.
The company has supplied about 150 solar power units to the general industry in the last 18 months.