Quality comes first

From the January 2019 issue.

Belgian tanker specialist, LAG Trailers, is focused on ramping up production but not at the expense of build quality. With the backing of parent company, CIMC, the OEM reflects on its legacy and outlines its ambitious future.

Founded in 1947, LAG Trailers has a rich manufacturing history that all started in Bree, Belgium. The tanker specialist celebrated its 70th anniversary last year and currently comprises a strong team of 430 experienced professionals at its head office and a total of 500 employees working across two additional service facilities in the Netherlands and Poland.

Proud of the Group’s achievements to date, Alan Zhang, CEO, is quite humble. He insists that he is just one of hundreds of staff, and this team culture permeates every level of the OEM’s operations. Zhang took up the CEO mantle for LAG Trailers in 2015, but has been working at the OEM’s headquarters since 2014 where he covered the Europe and Middle East markets. “With great support from my management team, currently I am managing the LAG Group. In 2018, we estimate Group revenue to reach €110 million.” He adds that LAG Trailers is a frontrunner in tanker designs. “We excel in aluminium tankers for silo goods and fuel-related products. Since we were the first European aluminium tanker builders, our knowledge in this field translates well to our other product group: aluminium silo containers.” 

In 2015, LAG Trailers’ aluminium fuel tanker was recognised as the ‘Best Tanker of the Year’ in the UK. This prestigious accolade, according to Zhang, demonstrated a combination of higher economical value, a reduction in fuel consumption and a low weight/strength ratio, making the tanker and obvious choice for the win (see breakout box).

Stainless steel tankers are also just as equally important to LAG Trailers. “We have over 50 years of experience in this range of products and the whole of Europe is our target market,” Zhang says. “Next to the tanker product range, LAG Trailers focuses on the intermodal branch. We produce tank container chassis, tipping container chassis and the aforementioned silo containers. It is our goal to deliver our clients a one-stop-shop in this market. We focus on user-friendly designs and are one of the only manufacturers that provides rotary valves on tipping chassis.”

Today’s European tanker market demands more than just reliable products, Zhang explains. He adds that fleet operators are looking for the most flexible trailer designs with the shortest lead times.

In October, LAG Trailers finalised a new production line for aluminium silo takers that boosted operational efficiency by 15 per cent. Zhang confirms that this investment allows for aluminium containers to be welded from start to finish in the same stroke line. This means that for the transport division with parent company, CIMC, the capacity for producing silo containers is now up to 600 units per year (see breakout box).

“LAG Trailers benefits greatly via strong funding from our shareholder, CIMC Vehicles,” Zhang says.

“We are investing heavily in our production line similar to first-tier truck manufacturers. This means we are committed to modular design, improved manufacturing processes and rapid delivery.

“This new manufacturing line follows the stroke line principle like the most recently created assembly lines at our production facility. But more important are the logistical improvements that accompany this new transition. We’ve divided the production line clearly in a transport hallway, a dedicated pre-assembly and the assembly line. These changes in our production philosophy mark a new start towards a higher efficiency.

This line is completed at the end with its own filling station water pressure test.”

In addition to focusing on in-house improvements to drive greater manufacturing efficiencies and shorter lead times for its customers, LAG Trailers also exhibited at the 2018 IAA Commercial Vehicles Show in Hanover.
“We had a very good show in Germany this year,’ Zhang says.

“The most important highlight was of course the introduction of our non-tipping silo trailer. This is a project we’re proud of since LAG Trailers has a long history with this product type.

“The premiere in Germany was not a coincidence. Germany is the biggest market in Europe and LAG  Trailers is on its way to be the best tanker trailer manufacturer in Europe.

Naturally, we start from Germany, and IAA gave us the opportunity to connect with existing customers and exciting prospects as well. The fair has boosted the lift off of our non-tipping silo in a strong way.”

Zhang says LAG Trailers is represented in almost all European countries and takes reliability and aftersales support very seriously. 

“That’s why we keep on working on expanding our service network without losing our focus on quality,” he says. “In Belgium, the Netherlands and Poland we operate service points under our own control.

“In other European markets we make sure that we are represented via a dedicated service provider with extensive knowledge on our product range. These partners are experienced  in tankers and are able to offer services that go beyond standard maintenance jobs.

“Most of our partners are able to execute major repairs, inspections, calibrations, handling of metering systems and discharge nodes and offer a mobile unit among other services.” 

Meanwhile, in France, LAG Trailers has unveiled its French fuel tanker, which Zhang explains has received accreditation with the country’s authorities.
“This is a recent project with great results,” Zhang says, “ Compared with the old design, we introduced our elliptic tank shape which offers transporters a lower centre of gravity, better stability, which is safer to drive and is also a better aerodynamic shape which results in improved manoeuvrability.”

As the Group CEO of LAG Trailers, Zhang has worked closely with other CIMC sister companies including Northern Irish OEM, SDC Trailers, and North America’s Vanguard National Trailer, which is fitting given CIMC Vehicles Group’s ethos: ‘Global operation, local knowledge’.
“It is my honour to sever as Board member of these two great companies of CIMC Vehicles Group,” he says.

“I’ve gained unique perspectives towards these very successful companies in UK and US markets. Both SDC and Vanguard are achieving  superior results under its current leadership team, what I would offer is the experiences from different roles I worked in China, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands and Poland, both at HQ at HQ admin levels as well as at factory operation level. 

“’Global operation, local knowledge’ is an easy philosophy to understand, but in daily life it takes tremendous effort and determination to realise. Over the past decade I have practised cross-continental synergy, and believe all my ups and downs could be valuable for both SDC and Vanguard of CIMC Vehicles Group.”

Fast Fact
LAG Trailers was awarded the ‘Tanker of the year’ award in the UK in 2015. The fuel semi-trailer was the result of four different companies working together to create an optimal fuel transport environment. The companies included LAG Trailers, Inver Energy, Turners Transport and Williams Tanker Service. According to LAG Trailers, what started out as a replacement acquisition turned into a wise business decision where Inver Energy received a huge economic advantage with this custom tanker build. The design was two tonnes lighter with an increased payload capacity of approximately 2,000 litres. The construction method utilised a proven baffle and vessel design that only requires three circumference weld, eliminating inter-compartment or external weld joints to ensure zero vessel leakage. Direct shock loading from the suspension was also eliminated via suspension and axle components mount on a self-supporting sub frame carried from the tank’s mounting cradles. This also optimised the suspension spring centre for roll stability and overall height. All suspension components were bolted for ease of maintenance and aftermarket supply. A key performance indicator, according to LAG Trailers, is the discharge ratio against product retention – an indicator that this award-winning design exceeded.

Fast Fact
Belgium-based OEM, LAG Trailers, is investigating in detail which steps in its production process can be further automated, following significant facility investments that have increased production efficiency of aluminium silo tankers by 15 per cent. The assembly line, for instance, has increased its capacity in one shift to 20 units per week, so that the total available annual capacity is 1,800 silo vehicles. The OEM said that this is all part of a strategy to increase total production of tankers with 25 per cent by 2020 to reach 2,500 vehicles on an annual basis.

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