Gearing up for growth

From the November 2018 issue.

The Gigant Group is an axle specialist in Germany that has serviced the commercial vehicle market for 65 years. Managing Director, Markus Gehle, sits down with Global Trailer to share his insights on a manufacturing niche that is about to diversify to benefit the end user.

Q: Why is serviceability, in particular, a major focus for Gigant?
A: Based on direct feedback from our customers, fleet operators expect a solid return on investment from their road transport equipment. To achieve this, they invest in durable, reliable components. As a result, our focus is addressing industry concerns about the service life of hardware by developing gear that is more serviceable and reliable. At Gigant, we are very proud of our new self-steering axle, which is the product of this line of thinking.

Q: There seems to be a misconception that durable running gear has to be heavy. How do you leverage the quality of a component while being mindful of gross combination mass?
A: The Inloader trailer manufacturer is always looking to reduce the weight of its components, which we achieved with our new axle setup. We used a maintenance-free compact bearing – with the drum in front of the hub (outbounded drum) – and we installed our new S-camshaft locking system. As well, the new lowbed trailer air suspension is lighter and we can achieve different connection installations, making it easy for the trailer builders.

Q: Is it important to ensure cross-compatibility for OEMs?
A: We make sure that the technical specification for the installations are the same, to avoid changes on the trailer builder side. This makes it easy to install new products, with the big changes being the weight savings.

Q: How has Gigant’s development of equipment changed since the last IAA Show?
A: The end user typically invests a lot of money in their equipment to ensure flexibility for their respective freight tasks. This is where reliability is key because trailers are often expected to perform, especially for long hauls. While lighter tare weights allow for greater payload gains, there is also a sustainability angle to reduce carbon emissions where possible. So, Gigant is more mindful of the environment and is working towards better sustainability goals, in line with the industry.

Q: Are there other trends influencing Gigant’s direction?
A: For sure. Electric drives, smart vehicles and aerodynamic designs seem to be the main talking points of the 2018 IAA Show. We did show a generator axle in 2014, and won a prize for it, but costs associated with it as well as ensuring efficient electricity storage is difficult. We still have this on our desk and are working on a cost-effective solution. Smart vehicles and trailers have our attention. We introduced the Intelligent Chassis Management (ICM) box during the last IAA show. In addition to providing preventative maintenance for axles, we would also include all maintenance required components of a trailer in it and have only one maintenance stop per year. The problem is that we do not have a standard interface between the different systems.

Q: Which trends do you think are overrated and will not affect the trailer sector in the near future?
A: In the future, I believe that the electric drive or generator axle will be a important component of trailers. The challenges that battery capacities currently pose need to be overcome before we a see more trailers with these energy axles on the road. The investment and the cost savings are not even close in balance for a breakthrough in the trailer market – yet.

Q: Do you see growth for Gigant beyond Germany?
A: Certainly Germany is the biggest market for us, which is mostly driven by the very positive development of Krone and the Krone axle. But we have considerable growth in heavy-duty axles and swing axles throughout Europe. The Russian market is still very interesting for us and we see potential for Asia in the near future.

Fast Fact
After three decades of cooperation between the two family businesses, German OEM Krone merged with swap body specialist, Brüggen, in December 2015. The two companies formed the Krone Commercial Vehicle Group, which also included existing Krone subsidiaries such as Gigant Axles, Krone Used, the company’s trailer factory in Turkey as well as various sales and distribution companies around the globe.

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