Poland’s powerplay

The Wielton Group announced the acquisition of UK-based OEM, Lawrence David, at a press conference at the IAA Commercial Vehicles Show in Hanover last year. In the first stage of the transaction, valued at approximately €29.2 million, the Wielton Group acquired 75 percent of Lawrence David’s shares, with the remaining 25 percent within the next three years.

The key in implementing the Wielton Group’s development strategy through acquisitions is dubbed ‘multibranding’, according to Wielton Group CEO, Mariusz Golec. He clarifies that this is integral to building the Group’s strength on the basis of recognisable brands, such as Lawrence David, which has previously been applied to Germany’s Langendorf, France’s Fruehauf as well as Italy’s Viberti and Cardi.

Q: The acquisition announcement of Lawrence David at the 2018 IAA Commercial Vehicles Show was big news. How is the integration going?
A: The acquisition of the British company announced in September last year is another step towards strengthening and building the international position of Wielton Group, and, like previous acquisitions, is part of our development strategy for 2017–2020.
Currently, we are focusing on its integration under the common name of the Group, and in my opinion this process is progressing according to the plan. Ultimately, thanks to the integration, Lawrence David will be able to take full advantage of our purchasing power, as well as Wielton’s good practices, and, what is equally important, it will also expand its range of products to include semi-trailers, tippers and container vehicles.

Synergies will also be observed for the entire Group as Wielton gains a partner who brings to our portfolio last mile products, as well as special fast loading semi-trailers – the pillar-less curtainsiders. I should mention that as part of our plan, within a year Wielton will also take over part of the production of chassis for the British company, which will be manufactured in Poland.

Our experience clearly confirms that what performs well in building Wielton Group’s international position is its unique business model, which involves multi-branding. This means building the Group’s strength on powerful local brands with an established market position – such as Lawrence David and previously Langendorf, Fruehauf, Viberti and Cardi. All these companies undoubtedly have their own unique character, their know-how to date presents a great added value for the Group, but actually their individual full potential can only be observed through integration. This process is a priority for Wielton Group, because it enables the companies acquired by us to benefit from the economies of scale in purchasing, processes, production and finance. The examples of Langendorf and Fruehauf are the best proof that the Group’s focus on the development of the acquired companies brings them measurable results.

Closing the first year under the wing of Wielton Group, Langendorf saw an increase in its revenue by almost approximately 40 percent, while Fruehauf received support in financing investments in automation and robotization. On the other hand, companies operating within the Wielton Group add to its portfolio new product groups, which significantly affects its market power and position.

Lawrence David is a manufacturer with more than 45 years of experience in the industry. It is a strong, local brand, ranked third on the British market (total market share of 9.9 percent). The company will continue its operations under its current name, while Wielton plays a consolidating role. It will also continue to be managed by its current owner, Lawrence Marshall, who as Managing Director will be responsible for the unification with the Group.

Q: Why is multibrand power important for Wielton Group?
A: Wielton’s growth is based on strong local brands and their development within the Group. The acquired companies are partners for us, which in practice means that Langendorf, Fruehauf and Viberti Rimorchi, as well as Lawrence David who we are integrating with now – despite their inclusion in Wielton Group – retain a certain degree of autonomy. This means that their existing owners manage them – for example in Germany and France – and participate in the process of building the market position. As I mentioned earlier, Wielton is a consolidating brand. Such a model, based on close partnership, makes it possible to effectively lead the acquired company through the process of its integration into the Group’s structures in a way that is safe from the business point of view.

Q: What were your highlights from IAA? Were there any trends at IAA that interested you? What were they?
A: One of the leading trends observed at last year’s IAA was undoubtedly the presence of the largest manufacturers of trailers, semi-trailers and bodies of vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes, designed with the last mile segment in mind. It is worth noting that these solutions were presented in various configurations and among them were bodies intended for the courier service industry, as well as refrigeration solutions for the transport of slightly more sensitive products, including food products.

During the trade fair, each manufacturer also presented their new telematics solutions. These were primarily tools for fleet management and vehicle location analysis, as well as those supporting processes related to repairs and maintenance operations. Wielton was one of the exhibitors presenting such solutions. We continue to make all efforts to meet the needs of our customers and focus on the optimisation of transport and logistics, which resulted in the development of Wielton Digital Services.

In recommending Wielton Digital Services to our customers, we offer a comprehensive package of solutions including three building blocks: data collection, professional database system and easy integration of data with the customers’ systems. In the first building block, we provide a system of devices mounted on a semi-trailer in order to collect information about the location of the vehicle (GPS), technical data from the braking system (EBS), axle load (load weight) and tyre pressure. Our telematics system is based on the correct selection of existing and proven hardware solutions, which are distinguished by their reliability. In the second building block, we provide professional software necessary to collect, process and manage large data sets, which will facilitate fleet management. In the third building block, we provide solutions that enable connection to leading planning systems and thus easy exchange of important data, as well as their correct presentation and interpretation for business purposes.

Q: Are there any new developments in the last mile/home delivery line of products for Wielton and Lawrence David?
A: With the acquisition of Lawrence David, Wielton Group enters a stable and ready market with a total potential of about 23,000 vehicles per year. The acquisition also provides an opportunity to extend the range of products offered by the Group, because the British company offers last mile/home delivery products, which are widely used in the FMCG sector, as well as in the booming e-commerce sector.

One of the criteria of the acquisition strategy is the unique know-how of the acquired businesses, and in this case Lawrence David perfectly fits into our model of producing chassis in our factory in Poland, which allows us to improve our margin.

Q: At the IAA press conference you mentioned pillar-less curtainsiders that allow for more efficient loading and faster transport. Do you have anything else to add to this?
A: Lawrence David’s pillar-less curtainsider has been engineered to offer maximum loading and unloading access. The body follows the slope of the trailer so there is no increase in the overall height of the vehicle and because there are no pillars, it is easier, safer and quicker to load and unload along the full length of the trailer.

The trailers are built using ‘All Bolted Construction’ which is proven to increase the longevity of the body.  It makes the trailers easier to repair in the event they are damaged, which reduces the amount of time they are off the road.
Quality is paramount to Lawrence David.  All our trailers are designed and manufactured under a quality management system that conforms to ISO 9001:2015 and have been MTS tested to ensure they can withstand the rigours of any operation.

Q: You have previously mentioned a strategic objective to double the Group’s revenues from PLN 1.2 billion (€281 million) in 2016 to PLN 2.4 billion (€562 million) in 2020, and grow sales from 12,900 to 25,000 units during the same period. How is this goal tracking?
A: At the beginning of April 2017, Wielton Group announced its development strategy for the next four years. It is based on both organic growth and acquisitions. The Group’s strategic objectives are to double the Group’s revenues from PLN 1.2 billion in 2016 to PLN 2.4 billion in 2020, to grow sales from 12,900 to 25,000 vehicles and to maintain a high level of profitability.

We can say today with full conviction that we are implementing the strategy as planned and according to the adopted schedule. Pro forma consolidation with Lawrence David acquired in September 2018 would show that we have already achieved two key objectives, namely the revenue of PLN 2.4 billion and 25,000 of sold units.

Q: Is there a particular fleet or road transport operator that you work closely with? I am interested in learning more about major or specialised trailer orders.
A: Wielton’s mission is not only to offer reliable, safe and professional vehicles, but, what is equally important, to extend the range of offered products based on a comprehensive analysis of our clients’ needs. Close relationships with the clients, knowledge of the industry and the nature of our partners’ business often result in joint projects.

One example of such solutions are Wielton’s semi-trailers designed to transport coils and sheets. Purchasers of such vehicles include Regesta, a company specialising in the transport of goods using coil-mulda type semi-trailers. Regesta has been our client for many years. Its key partners include mainly manufacturing and trading companies, as well as companies operating in the construction and steel industries. Bearing in mind the nature of the industry and business needs, we offered Regesta a jointly developed new model of Coil Curtain Master semi-trailer, which is one of the tailor-made flagship solutions in our portfolio.

Another excellent example of customisation being a result of close relationships with our business partners is a project completed for a large fleet company which, as one of the first representatives of the transport industry, implemented the ‘trucks on rails’ concept for the Polish market. We are talking about a semi-trailer to transport home appliances. Together with our client, we have developed an innovative solution which, thanks to its functionality and ease of use, quickly became one of the leading solutions on the market. Bearing in mind excellent outcomes of this project, we wanted to go one step further and decided to continue our cooperation – this time to adapt this solution to logistics services provided using railway wagons. Thanks to this decision, as well as the intensive work of our engineers, the range of products from Poland has been extended to include another unique solution – curtain semi-trailers for intermodal transport, which are certified to be used in transport by rail and roll-on/roll-off ferries. Their unique features include suspension dedicated to vertical loading, movable rear bumper and special fasteners, which make it possible to load semi-trailers onto a wagon or ferry.

Q: How is the Langendorf business going? Are there any new innovations to discuss?
A: From our point of view an overall performance of Langendorf is very optimistic as the company have strengthened their position in the inloader market and it developed its role as manufacturer of tippers for niche markets. Mainly with their tippers for special purposes they became an important complement in the portfolio of our group. Langendorf presented about a year ago a combination between a very special glass-inloader and a general cargo trailer. This was a development between the forwarder, the haulier and the manufacturer. A typical example for a dedicated solution. They were awarded for this so called Trans-Loader-project.

Q: Are there any new developments with Fruehauf?
A: Due to the dynamic development of the French market, we are currently investing in order to increase the production capacity of Fruehauf. Recently, we have put into service a modern automated chassis production line there. This technology has also been used in our Poland plants for several years. Its transfer to Auxerre plant is the result of integration processes, as well as the search for synergies and the exchange of good practices between all entities operating within the Group.

Q: Are there any new in-house facility developments across the Group worth noting?
A: Among the investments that we consider crucial from the Group’s point of view, we should mention the cataphoresis coating line built and put into service, as well as two painting lines. We have also completed an automated assembly line in Poland, which we use for the installation of pneumatic and electric elements, as well as for axle assembly, thanks to the use of the bottom transport system. We have put into service a new welding shop with three chassis production lines and one line for steel tipper bodies – automated thanks to the top transport system. Recently, we have also completed work on the opening of a high-bay warehouse and a new hall for packaging semi-finished products and products for our subsidiaries and assembly plants.

We have a lot of new plans with the aim to steadily build the Group’s production potential and increase the efficiency and flexibility of logistics services for the companies operating under the Group’s name. At the same time, we strive to increase the capacity and implement new solutions in our plants. The modern welding and sheet metal forming technology, on which we are currently hard at work, may serve as an example.

Fast Fact
Langendorf, with headquarters in Waltrop, was incorporated into the Wielton Group in 2017. It is a family company, one of the oldest in Europe, with over 70 years of trailer manufacturing history. Currently, it is one of Europe’s leading vehicle manufacturers, offering a wide range of products: semi-trailers, tippers, prefabricated conveyors, low-loaders, two-level trailers, transporters of technical glass and special vehicles. The company is an undisputed leader in glass transport vehicles.

Incorporating Langendorf into the Wielton Group benefits both parties. Wielton gained a partner with excellent knowledge of the local German market. The transaction also expanded Wielton’s portfolio to include specialised vehicles for the transportation of glass and prefabricated elements, as well as insulated tippers.

The Wielton Group acquired 80 percent of shares in Langendorf in May 2017. The transaction value amounted to €5.3 million. The Group plans to acquire the remaining 20 percent before the end of 2022.

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