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The fusion generation

Kögel has been developing positively since its acquisition by Ulrich Humbaur in 2009. The trailer manufacturer has hired more than 270 new employees in Burtenbach since 2009. Sales and revenue have more than tripled since then.

Humbaur GmbH and Kögel Trailer GmbH are autonomous companies and separate brands. However, they share one important thing in common, and that is the owner, Ulrich Humbaur. As the owner of both companies, he has a passion for all trailers, from 750 kg to 50,000 kg. Together, the two companies produce over 70,500 commercial vehicles annually. Around 1,800 employees develop and produce large and small trailers for both private and commercial customers, boasting an annual turnover of 667 million euros.

Global Trailer met with Ulrich Humbaur to learn more.

An interview with Ulrich Humbaur

Q: In March 2019, the Bavarian Minister for Construction and Transport, Dr Hans Reichart, visited the main Kögel plant in Burtenbach. She emphasised the importance of Kögel trailers for the construction and transport industry. How does your vision for the future of infrastructure and road transport align with local government? Is this an important consideration for Kögel?

A: In Germany, Kögel has been ‘fighting’ for its 1.3-metre elongated trailers to be permitted for use in all German states and throughout Europe in transnational transport since 2006. We believe that sooner or later, the elongated trailer will become the standard vehicle, not only in Germany but throughout Europe, as no other concept will allow us to meet our climate goals as quickly and effectively. Until it is permitted, demand will continue to rise.

Q: Are there any new developments in the works regarding trailing equipment that is optimised for the construction industry? At the last Bauma trade show we saw the user friendly and increased payload Kögel Trucker Tipper (KTT). What was the market/industry feedback like at the show, and how is the KTT being received in general?

A: Kögel has offered its tipper trailer since 2011. Since then, the finer details have been optimised through our continuous improvement process. In 2018, Kögel sold almost 100 per cent more tipper trailers than the previous year. Kögel currently offers steel troughs in a modular design, in various tipper-body-thickness and wall-thickness combinations. The body is available in a thickness of four, five or six millimetres and the side walls in a thickness of three-to-five millimetres.
Kögel customers usually opt for the combination with a five-millimetre-thick body and four-millimetre-thick walls. Since 2018, Kögel has offered a clever material mix for even more payload: The floor is made of tempered Hardox 450 steel in the above-mentioned thicknesses, the side walls made of extremely hard-wearing five-millimetre-thick aluminium sheet, and the back wall made of extremely hard-wearing seven-millimetre-thick aluminium sheet.

Compared to a Kögel tipper trailer with four-millimetre-thick steel side walls and a five-millimetre-thick steel back wall, the new aluminium drop sides and back wall enable a saving of up to 430 kilograms in tare weight. The KTT has been designed with a focus on user-friendliness. When designing the Kögel Trucker Tipper, the company focussed on achieving maximum user-friendliness through a combination of parts fitted as standard and an extensive range of accessory equipment. The KTT was extremely well-received by Bauma visitors. In the construction sector, there is a stable economy and rising demand for Kögel tipper trailers. We also expect to make a lot of investments in road and rail infrastructure. There continues to be pent-up demand for building construction too.

Q: How is Kögel’s operations in Europe and around the world? Romania, for example, saw a sales restructure at the beginning of 2019. Can you tell us more about the status of Kögel’s global presence? What is the company’s vision for the future?

A: The success of Kögel in recent years is down to both tried-and-tested Kögel quality, as well as expanded Kögel activities in Europe. Kögel has considerably expanded its sales network for new and used semi-trailers as well as its spare parts and workshop network. For example, we acquired a new dealer, Olmosdon, in Moldova in early 2019, and have appointed new sales managers for Germany, France, Spain, Benelux, Scandinavia and UK, the Balkans and for Poland, Czech Republic, Romania and the Baltics in the past few years.

Kögel is therefore optimally equipped from a sales and after-market perspective, and is able to cope with country-specific crises, as seen in Russia in recent years. There is still unmet demand, for example, in Scandinavia. These are very large markets, of which Kögel still has a very low share, but we want to and plan to change that. At least, we have already made a start. We adapt the sales structure to the respective market conditions. Kögel is now represented on every sales market in Europe. In countries like Italy, Benelux and Russia and soon in France und Spain, we are represented by our own sales branch. In other countries, we work with sales managers and/or dealers. This ensures the optimum organisation for each country. Decisive factors are the size and sales traditions of the respective market.

Q: Kögel brought its comprehensive portfolio of innovative freight transport equipment to the 2018 IAA Commercial Vehicles Show in Hanover. The company aimed to make the road transport industry of tomorrow safer, simpler and more environmentally friendly. How is Kögel tracking with this ideal?

A: At Kögel, we are constantly working on improving the user-friendliness, added value and payload of our trailers. This is demonstrated by our new NOVUM trailer generation, which was launched at IAA and will gradually be extended to the Cargo, Mega and Light platform trailers. NOVUM not only introduces the new external frame and body but also the new, optimally designed Kögel modular system with optimised, uniform new modules, assemblies, and components. This enables an extremely high level of individualisation for the NOVUM generation trailers, with Kögel addressing the wide-ranging requirements of the market. When it comes to protecting the environment, Kögel keeps on delivering innovative ideas like the Kögel Lightplus and the Kögel Euro trailer with 1.3-metre elongation.

The payload-optimised Kögel Lightplus reduces CO2 emissions by up to eight per cent compared with a Kögel standard trailer. With a low tare weight, starting at 4,798 kilograms with individual equipment, and 5,175 kilograms in its standard version, it is exceptionally cost-effective to drive. For example, the approx. 1,000kg-lighter Lightplus can save up to 0.6 litres of diesel per 100km. In addition, fewer trips are needed with a specified annual tonnage. Fewer trips mean lower fuel consumption and fewer CO2 emissions. In addition, the Kögel Lightplus offers ahigh degree of customisation to individual customer requirements compared to competitor vehicles.

In 2018, the Mega Rail Euro Trailer even won the European Transport Award for Sustainability in the semi-trailer category. The independent jury of experts, consisting of well-known figures from the world of economy and science as well as industry associations and media, recognised the outstanding potential of the volume semi-trailer, which has been extended by 1.3 metres: up to ten per cent fuel savings, up to ten per cent lower CO2 emissions, multimodality and public acceptance.

Q: Are there any new developments you can discuss regarding the NOVUM generation of trailers?

A: Kögel is gradually introducing the new and reliable external frame and body already known from the Kögel Lightplus for its Cargo, Mega, and Light platform trailers. The Kögel tarpaulin semi-trailers are also receiving further optimisations as part of the new NOVUM generation. NOVUM not only introduces the new external frame and body but also the new, optimally designed Kögel modular system with optimised, uniform new modules, assemblies, and components. Only recently, we presented the Kögel Cargo Rail at transport logistic 2019 in Munich.

Q: Load restraint is an important aspect of freight forwarding. Kögel FastFix is a lightweight, user-friendly and rapid replacement for wood, aluminium and steel lattices. Is this option proving to be popular? Are there any other innovations from Kögel that promote improved OH&S and efficiency?

A: We are currently in the processing of convincing our customers of the benefits of the Kögel FastFix textile lattices. After experiencing them, drivers will not look back. A very important and positive secondary effect: the risk of personal injury and load damage caused by falling lattices is completely eliminated.

For a quicker, easier and safer handling during loading and unloading we provide the Kögel FastSlider sliding tarpaulin system. This quick opening and closing system is reinforced with mini stakes, which meets the DIN EN 12642 Code XL requirements for body stability. The system features a quick-opening lever at the front, enabling opening and closing in seconds, and a tried-and-tested Kögel expansion shaft and ratchet at the rear. The Kögel FastSlider system also features a Kögel Strong & Go integral roof tarpaulin. On the Kögel Mega, the expansion shaft and ratchet are used at the front and rear. This system is Kögel’s answer to the requirements of the automotive and beverage industries for short loading times, and grants drivers quicker, easier and safer handling when loading and unloading.

The new optional Kögel EasyFix sliding roof stopper is now available for all Kögel NOVUM generation platform trailers. So now it’s quick and easy to secure the open roof. And after completing the loading process, you can close the roof from above without having to unlock it again. The system therefore increases efficiency and safety during loading and unloading.

Q: How is Kögel’s foray into axles going?

A: The Kögel KTA trailer axle has been the standard for many models of the Kögel Cargo, Kögel Lightplus, Kögel Cool – PurFerro quality, and Kögel Box product ranges, along with various chassis, since 2017. The KTA is performing very well economically, as expected. Our customers have accepted the KTA and have been won over by the high performance of the Kögel service network. Last year, around ten percent of all trailers sold were equipped with our own axle design. We are currently considering variants with different ride heights and brake disc diameters, as well as axles for combined transport.

Q: How has Kögel’s telematics technology changed over the years? There seems to be growing demand for smarter trailers featuring telematics support.

A: As a trailer manufacturer, we know our trailers best and Kögel Telematics is perfectly adapted to them. A telematics system installed ex-works often provides the added value that a retrofitted one cannot. For example, retrofitting a telematics system to a refrigerated trailer is very laborious. It should therefore always be ordered ex-works to enable access to all the essential data of the Kögel refrigerated trailer. Our web portal is at the centre: a user-friendly interface and comprehensive features make your job as a dispatcher and fleet manager easier. We are constantly working on the further development of evaluations and data processing methods, in order to simply work processes and meaningfully evaluate the recorded data.

Since 2019, the Kögel Telematics Connectivity database allows you not only to feed all the acquired data into the clear, self-explanatory and easy to use web portal and other fleet management systems, but also to import it – in real time – into existing processes and a host of software systems. And of course, the data is also easily to access via our free Kögel Telematics app for iOS and Android devices.

Digitalisation is increasingly growing in importance in the transport sector, which is why we too are working on providing our customers with a time and cost-saving solution. A trailer telematics system should deliver much more than just global positioning and monitoring. In the near future, trucks will also be able to communicate with trailer telematics systems. On the truck market, telematics are already the norm; trailers, however, have yet to catch up. Demand for trailer telematics system is rising, especially when it comes to trailers for rental and for the transport of valuable cargo, such as medications. For example, to meet the requirement of pharmaceutical logistics for continuous tracking of temperature profiles, a telematics system like Kögel Telematics is indispensable.

Q: Sister company, Humbaur, specialises in small trailer and truck body design, with an emphasis on new urban logistics solutions. Are there any new developments that you can discuss? How does Humbaur continue to complement Kögel’s product offering?

A: As you may already have noticed, the last mile is entirely in the hands of the sister company, Humbaur. We’re talking about the Humbaur FlexBox vehicles bodies. These have been developed in close cooperation with the automotive industry and leading European logistics service providers. Variable in length, width and height, they can be installed on any vehicle type. The result is optimised commercial vehicles and the corresponding trailers for distribution transport. Following the successful market launch on van chassis in 2016, the bodies can now also be installed on trucks. The FlexBox box bodies are divided into three series: Dry, Cool and Freeze. They all share in common a payload-optimised design and a wide variety of equipment and conversion options. The FlexBox programme now includes more than 230 series models, offering industry-specific solutions for every requirement. One new product is the Humbaur FlexBike. The FlexBike is based on the BAYK BRING delivery bicycle, extended with a FlexBox Dry in a lightweight GRP design. This offers space for 1.4 m3 load, and sufficient floor space for a Euro pallet. It has a capacity of up to 260 kg payload. Thanks to the single-panel rear doors, the cargo can quickly and easily be loaded and unloaded. A practical feature for everyday delivery work is the optional roll-up door on the right-hand side of the box body. This can be used, for example, to unload packages from all parts of the FlexBox body.
Humbaur also offers a heavy-duty range which is constantly being expanded and diversified: flat bed trailers ranging from turntable trailers to drop deck trailers between 24 and 50 tons.

Q: Are there any significant production milestones you can elaborate on?

A: 2018 was a very good year for us. This was Kögel’s best year since my acquisition in 2009:
• Incoming orders 2018: 18,500 trailers
• 2018 turnover: 530 million euros
• Employees 2018: 1,350

Based on these figures, Kögel claims the position of the third-biggest trailer manufacturer in Germany and in Europe. We are among the top ten trailer manufacturers worldwide. In future, we aim to close the distance with our two major competitors.

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